Local authority planners and “interfering” welfare groups are being blamed for delaying improvements to the health of the British pig herd.
According to the National Pig Association (NPA), new buildings dramatically reduce the need for veterinary interventions but pig farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to get planning permission to replace worn-out housing.
The pig industry is under increasing pressure to reduce its dependence on antibiotics but the NPA says that if Government and its regulatory agencies want to see improvements in the national herd they need to issue new guidance to planning authorities.
The Association is now calling for the level of detail demanded by planners to be proportionate to the scale of the application and for planners to reject all attempts at interference by animal rights and vegan organisations.
It adds: “Such organisations are opposed to all livestock farming on principle, and their arguments are irrelevant to the planning process.”
The NPA is also calling for planners to accept no representations from third parties after a consultation period has ended, as it adds cost and uncertainty for the planning applicant. And it states that strict timelines should be observed by statutory consultees such as the Environment Agency, to prevent unfeasible delays in the planning process.
Dr George Crayford, who leads the NPA Pig Industry Antibiotic Stewardship Programme said the recent O’Neill report on antimicrobial resistance stressed one of the fundamental ways of reducing antibiotics use was to break the chain of transmission of infections
“And that’s exactly what new pig housing does,” he said.
“Many pig farmers are prepared to invest in new housing, if only they can get planning approval in the face of intimidatory campaigns by animal rights groups, and dithering by statutory consultees.
“O’Neill is right to warn that animals living in non-hygienic conditions can act as a reservoir of antimicrobial resistance and can accelerate its spread, and he is right to cite the importance of reorganising the planning of production sites to help reduce disease. The pig industry is prepared to play its part, but we are going to find it difficult to significantly improve the health of the national pig herd in a reasonable time-scale unless Government helps us overcome these growing planning obstacles.”
The Association’s policy services officer, Lizzie Wilson said that one of the problems facing pig farmers wanting to build new or replacement pig units was the growing disconnect between consumers and food producers.
“For instance we’ve seen animal rights campaigners deliberately scaring local residents by telling them housing for 1,500 growing pigs will be a so-called mega-farm,” she said.
“In fact a building for 1,500 pigs a year would be no more than a part-time venture, incapable of supporting a full-time employee. However, such a building, or two such buildings, can make a useful addition to a family farm which might otherwise be unviable in today’s highly competitive food production environment.”