Pig antibiotic progress hindered by ‘clunky’ planning

The National Pig Association (NPA) has warned against ‘clunky’ planning that is delaying the reduction of antibiotic usage in livestock. 

It is urging the government to issue guidance in four areas: proportionate level of detail demand; rejection of all interference by animal rights and vegan organisations; no representation from third parties after the consultation period has ended and that strict timelines be observed.

“The recent O’Neill report on antimicrobial resistance stressed one of the most fundamental ways to reduce use of antibiotics is to break the chain of transmission of infections and that’s exactly what new pig housing does,” said Dr George Crayford of the NPA. “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 timescale unless government helps us overcome these growing planning obstacles.

“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,” he added. “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 growing disconnect between consumers and food producers was also raised as an issue.

“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,” said NPA policy services officer Lizzie Wilson. “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.”

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