UK: Anti-pig units lobby ‘on rise’, warns National Pig Association

Some home-grown Suffolk pigs.The National Pig Association is seeking to turn the spotlight on import

Some home-grown Suffolk pigs.The National Pig Association is seeking to turn the spotlight on imported pork

PIG producers have expressed concerns about growing opposition to new and replacement pig units in the UK.

The National Pig Association says Britain imports around 60% of its pork and warns this will rise unless farmers are encouraged to invest in efficient and environmentally-friendly buildings but says opposition to planning applications is a growing trend. “They are being targeted by aggressive single-issue organisations with no local connections. We have even heard of pig farmers who have received threatening phone calls and emails from the other side of the world accusing them of being factory farmers which they most certainly are not,” said the NPA’s Zoe Davies.

“In the past, pig farmers who wanted to build a new pig unit, usually to replace inefficient old buildings, could work constructively with local residents to address any concerns they might have,” she said.

“But now they are being targeted by aggressive single-issue organisations with no local connections. We have even heard of pig farmers who have received threatening phone calls and emails from the other side of the world, accusing them of being ‘factory farmers’, which they most certainly are not.”

Since the attempt to build a US-style “super dairy” at Nocton in Lincolnshire three years ago, vegan groups have pounced on all proposed livestock housing developments, describing them as “mega farms” and “factory farms”, says the NPA.


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But there are no “mega” pig farms in Britain and no applications to build any, it says. Most pig applications are for modest-sized pig units which will be part of a traditional mixed farm, where the pigs eat the grain grown on the farm and provide organic manure for the crops, in place of chemical fertilisers.

Even applications for larger pig units which will operate as stand-alone businesses bear no comparison to the large pig units being constructed in the United States, says the NPA. And unlike most of Europe’s key pig-producing countries, Britain has a very small pig population, so the problem of local pig density does not arise.

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The NPA plans to produce a leaflet for planning authorities and local residents, putting the size of new developments in perspective.

It will point out, for example, that a building for 1,500 finisher pigs falls far short of being a “mega farm”, being a modest venture that will not provide a living income on its own, but will add a small extra income to a farm business that might otherwise struggle to be sustainable.

In contrast the average commercial finisher unit in the United States will have 12 or more such buildings.

“I would urge all planning authorities to recognise that investment in farming is essential to keep the countryside alive,” said NPA chairman Richard Longthorp.

“And people who live in villages but drive into towns and cities every day to work, should consider the needs of those who work in the rural economy and keep the countryside alive whilst they are away during the day.

“They should remember that pig farms employ a huge number of people indirectly, including hauliers, millers, meat plants, electricians, plumbers and builders.”

The NPA argues that for many people, a modern pig unit makes a far better neighbour than, for example, a new housing estate. New pig buildings are far more neighbour-friendly than the older buildings they replace, being quieter and usually screened. Smell is far less of a problem these days, and with sensitive management can be eliminated altogether, it says.

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