East Anglia's farm boss has scooped a prestigious national accolade from the pig industry for her work in the sector.

Dr Zoe Leach left her role as chief executive of the National Pig Association (NPA) in July to lead East Anglia's farmers as regional director of the National Farmers' Union (NFU) East.

She said she was "deeply moved" as she was awarded the David Black Award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the industry.

Mark Spencer, Minister of State at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) presented the award - given to high-profile advocates of the pig sector - at the National Pig Awards in London on Tuesday, November 22. 

East Anglian Daily Times:

"To join this impressive list, which contains many people that I admire greatly, means so much, especially as I only ever considered that I was simply doing my best for an industry that I love," she said.

Dr Leach - who previously used her maiden name of Davies - was with the NPA for 14 years. She was chief executive during her final eight years before joining the NFU regional office in Newmarket in July this year.

She became a figurehead and led the sector on major issues to affect it over the last decade - including during the latest pig crisis - one of the UK industry's most challenging periods.

"Her skills in representing the concerns of her members meant that she had the ear of key decision-makers in government, who subsequently convened roundtables and implemented measures to support the sector," said farmers' levy payer group the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

"As the public face of the pig industry, she was able to use her high profile with the media to generate public sympathy for the challenges facing it."

Dr Leach gained a PhD in pig welfare from the University of Reading in 1998 and went on to spend three years as farms and trials manager for BQP - including running a pig farm in Suffolk. She was on the front line during the 2000 classical swine fever outbreak and  joined DEFRA in 2002 where she led the livestock science unit as senior scientific officer.

When she left to join the NPA she was credited with building good working relationships with DEFRA, AHDB and retailers while lobbying on behalf of the industry.

She helped organise campaigns including "Save our Bacon" and "Put Pork On Your Fork" aimed at encouraging consumers to buy British pork.

Mike Sheldon, chairman of the AHDB Pork Sector Council, said: "This year’s recipient of the David Black Award, Dr Zoe Davies, is an extremely worthy winner having done so much for the industry during her tenure with the NPA. 

"Whether it was welfare, environment, disease, trade or any of the other range of issues that might impact the industry, Zoe was at the forefront and gave NPA members a strong voice.

"Furthermore, her work to support producers who have been victims of animal rights groups has been instrumental in pushing back on anti-farming rhetoric in the media.

"More importantly, she always went the extra mile to give those producers the help they needed to get through those challenging times."

She also recognised the need to nurture young farmers by developing the Young NPA group, he said.

"She received numerous nominations for the David Black award, and her extraordinary contribution is justly recognised with this accolade," he said.