Thank you for contacting me about the Pig Husbandry (Farrowing) Bill and welfare of pigs in farms.
As somebody who is passionate about ensuring the highest standards of welfare for all animals, I was very pleased to see the Government publish a new code of practice for the welfare of pigs. This new code sets out the highest standards on how to keep pigs, using the latest scientific and veterinary advice to safeguard and enhance existing welfare standards. I would urge all farmers and those within the industry to take full heed of it.
I was pleased to see that the Bill went through its formal introduction to Parliament unopposed for a Second Reading, which then gives MPs more scope to debate and give further scrutiny to it. However due to Parliament being prorogued on 29th April 2021, all un-concluded business falls at this point and would have to be re-introduced following the Queen’s formal opening of Parliament on the 11th May by Sir David Amess. It is not clear what his plans are at this stage.
However, the Government have confirmed their commitment to maintaining our world-leading farm animal welfare standards and my understanding is that this will be implemented through regulatory requirements for all livestock farms to abide by, of which they already must comply with existing comprehensive legislation.
Regarding the Pig Husbandry (Farrowing Bill), whilst I listened with great interest to what my colleague, Sir David Amess MP, had to say on this subject when he brought forward his recent 10 Minute Rule Bill, I understand Ministers have stated that it is already their ambition for farrowing crates to no longer be used for sows. The new pig welfare code mentioned above additionally makes clear that: “the aim is for farrowing crates to no longer be necessary and for any new system to protect the welfare of the sow, as well as her piglets.”
I would stress that the most effective way to ensure the above requirement on pig welfare is adhered to as widely as possible is if we move towards a system that both works commercially for farms whilst safeguarding the welfare of the sow and her piglets. Whilst it is of course incredibly important that we make progress on this system as quickly as possible, I am very encouraged by the UK already being ahead of most pig producing countries in terms of non-confinement farrowing, with around 40% of our pigs housed outside and not farrowed with crates.
Finally, I would make clear that post-Brexit, no new trade deals will be at the expense of lowering our world-leading animal welfare standards. I was proud to stand on a manifesto in 2019 which was unequivocal in its commitment that in all trade negotiations, our high environmental protections, animal welfare and food standards will not be compromised.
Thank you again for contacting me on these important issues. I trust this response will go some way to address your concerns and provide you with the confidence that our Government is continuing to protect the welfare standards for pigs and has no intention whatsoever of lowering these. Meanwhile, I will continue to monitor the situation for any updates.