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NPA was formed as the British pig industry's single voice in a turbulent era of market failure, rampant disease, retailer duplicity, political infamy and a dysfunctional levy-board. It had a faltering first year, but these days a top-flight management team is in place and NPA continues to change the face of the British pig industry for the better.
Angry pig farmers joined blockades staged across the country in protests to highlight the worsening plight of the industry.
Police moved protesters on from peaceful demonstrations outside supermarket distribution depots in Merseyside, Cambridgeshire and Somerset early yesterday morning.
The blockades, organised by the British Pig Industry Support Group, which accuses supermarkets of selling foreign meat labelled as British, prevented lorries going in or out.
Richard Longthorp, a pig farmer in Howden, East Yorkshire, joined about 50 farmers who blocked the Somerfield regional distribution centre in St Helens, Merseyside, for about five hours until 2am yesterday.
He said: "It was a very peaceful demonstration, with farmers' wives and girlfriends there. We moved voluntarily because we were told in no uncertain terms that we would be moved by riot police."
More farmers staged a blockade outside a Somerfield depot in Somerset. Organisers claimed 300 farmers and their families took part, but Avon and Somerset Police put the number at about 100.
A further 30 pig farmers protested outside the Somerfield supermarket in Cambridgeshire.
The British Pig Industry Support Group said the demonstrations were part of ongoing efforts highlighting claims supermarkets sometimes passed off meat as British when it in fact originated abroad.
Winnie-the-Pig at Yorkshire Show
Labour Party Conference, Bournemouth, September 1999.
High Court approves BPISG's application for
Yorkshire Post report
Pig farmers fighting to save their businesses are to haul agriculture minister Nick Brown before a judicial review to prove the Government has illegally discriminated against their industry.
An application by British Pig Industry Support Group lawyers has been granted by the High Court on a "fast track" basis. The matter could now be resolved within weeks, rather than months.
The pig industry has been in financial crisis for the past two years and says it requires aid to deal with continuing losses incurred as a result of the BSE crisis; even though pigs were-never involved in the scare.
Pig farmers are pressing for an emergency aid package to compensate the industry for the £270m it has had to spend as a knock-on effect of the disease.
The European Commission has already recognised that the BSE crisis is an "exceptional occurrence", justifying state aid which has been granted to the beef and sheep industries on that basis.
BPISG, formed in 1998 to campaign against Government discrimination against the British pig industry, also points out that other countries, such as Belgium, have supported their producers with state aid and yet none has been forthcoming from the United Kingdom Government
As highlighted by the Yorkshire Post Save Our Farmers Campaign the situation has been aggravated by supermarkets and caterers purchasing cheap imported pigmeat from the continent.
The High Court decision was yesterday welcomed by BPISG chairman,
Lonely-heart stunt highlights plight of
Yorkshire Post, July 1999
Some people had deeper pockets, but everyone's in debt now
"We decided to start fattening our pigs for bacon, but by the time the first ones were coming up for sale the price had almost totally collapsed. For a four-month period at the end of 1998, bacon pigs which had cost £63 to produce were selling for £30. We lost something like £100,000 in four months.
"Since then, we've lumbered from one crisis to another. We kept returning to the bank for more funds, expecting that prices would improve, but we've reached the end of the road. With no working capital left, we had no option but to call in the receiver.
"We invested £330,000 over four years to meet new welfare standards, including the loose-housing of sows, and since then seen a rising tide of cheap imports produced under methods illegal in Britain.
"We were convinced that the way to survive was to embrace the move to higher welfare standards, traceability and assurance schemes demanded by the supermarkets. We even invested more money than we needed to.
"But as soon as the work was done, as soon as they realised they could buy pigmeat much cheaper from the continent, they left us in the lurch. It's really a question of your personal circumstances as to how long you can hold on. We had nothing but pigs, no other resources to call on. Some people had deeper pockets, but everyone's in debt now."
— Producer, 800-sow unit, South Cave near Hull.
Supermarket labelling trickery misleads shoppers
Yorkshire Post, September 1999
Angry pig farmers claim a sleight-of-hand trick used by retailers and processors to get more foreign bacon on their shelves without alienating shoppers and animal welfare groups has been exposed by latest import statistics.
The British pig industry, which has £80m a year extra costs loaded on it by the Government, says it is facing extinction because supermarkets are selling increased amounts of foreign pigmeat dressed up as British Bacon or British Ham.
Pig farmers are also incensed at being excluded from last week's £150m Government aid package which was aimed at sheep and beef producers, even though they have suffered more than any other section of British agriculture.
Figures on imports produced by the Meat and Livestock Commission show that pork shipments from the Netherlands were up 34 per cent in the first six months of this year.
Imports from Denmark were up by 21 percent and imports from Belgium, where there is a political crisis over dioxin-contaminated pigmeat, have risen by more than 50 percent.
A leader of the British Pig Industry Support Group, Richard Longthorp, who farms at Howden, near Goole, said the figures were startling.
"Supermarkets have become sensitive to criticisms that they are profiteering by selling foreign meat produced in conditions which would be illegal in the United Kingdom," he said.
"But the new figures make it clear that the retailers hope to escape the wrath of consumers, politicians, welfare groups and farmers by importing less clearly labelled processed meat, such as Dutch and Danish bacon, and more fresh meat which is then processed in this country and sold with a UK label."
The MLC says that foreign meat which is processed in Britain can legally be labelled "Produced in UK", "Packaged in UK" or even "British Bacon" and "British Ham". The only way that shoppers can tell if a product is genuinely British is to look for the British Quality Standard Mark.
According to BPISG the present laws on labelling are a "rogues' charter". The group is pressing for all meat products to show country of origin on the label.
Mr Longthorp said: "If our methods of production were the same the labelling issue wouldn't be so vital, but there are vitally important differences in the way British pigs are raised compared with most of their continental counterparts.
"Just as veal crates have been outlawed in Britain, so have sow stalls. But stalls are still legal and in daily use on most pig farms on the Continent.
"And some continental farms still feed meat-and-bonemeal to pigs and most still castrate young male pigs without even using an anaesthetic."
He said it was important that shoppers could identify genuine British pork, bacon and ham so that they could make a positive stand for food safety and animal welfare by buying British.
"Unfortunately manufacturers and supermarkets have a vested interest in palming the public off with as much foreign meat as possible — because it means bigger profit margins."
The MLC figures show imports from the continent in the first half of this year up 18 percent, at 85,000 tonnes, compared with 70,800 tonnes in the same period a year ago.
'We are dealing with
Press report, 1999
A leading London venue will be on the hit list today when angry pig farmers from North Yorkshire and East Anglia hold their biggest demonstration to date over the financial collapse of their industry.
Two coach loads of farmers, who have been handpicked for the operation because of their experience in "confrontational situations", will be travel down to London in the early hours of today to take part in the top-secret mission.
Even the farmers themselves do not know exactly where the protest is being held against "commercial and political policies that are driving them to the wall", except that they will be heading for somewhere in central London.
As the "wipeout" of Britain's world-leading pig industry continues to accelerate - 20 percent of the national herd has disappeared over the past 12 months — pig farmers are now getting embroiled in protests every week.
On their list up to now have been supermarkets, caterers and meat processors, most of whom continue to import large quantities of foreign pigmeat from farming regimes which would be illegal in this country.
In recent weeks the pig farmers have taken all night action against supermarket distribution centres and plants operated by Morrisons, Budgens, Asda, Somerfield, McDonalds and the pigmeat processing giant, Unigate.
With their latest protest they are hoping to bring their plight to the fore. A spokeswoman for the British Pig Industry Support Group, Meryl Ward, said: "Pig farmers are now absolutely desperate and many are counting the days to their extinction. It is essential they get to everyone who can influence the current prices.
"This will be one of the most important demonstrations farmers have made in their 10-month campaign. As usual we are hoping to stay within the law."
Leading supermarkets promised Government that their own label bacon, both British and imported, would meet British welfare and safety standards from January 1 this year.
'But audit visits in France, Denmark and Holland by British pig farmers have shown that despite their promises supermarkets are still selling imported pigmeat that does not comply with British standards.
The British Pig Industry Support Group says it accepts that the Danes are making a considerable effort, but only a third of the pigmeat they send to Britain complies with this country's standards — and no other country that sends pigmeat to Britain can match them.
North Lincolnshire pig farmer Ms Ward, one of the pig support group leaders, said: "Supermarkets are further sidestepping their commitments to the Government by stocking less own-label bacon and replacing it on the shelves with brand-name bacon, most of which is imported and does not comply with British standards.
"Supermarkets are conning the public by sleight of hand. Instead of taking suspect branded products from their shelves they are actually selling more of it because it is more profitable."
East Yorkshire pig farmer Richard Longthorp said: "We are dealing with natural bullies and we have found from experience that it is impossible to negotiate except from a position of strength.
"We would prefer to sit down with the retailers and caterers and talk constructively, but the truth is they only understand one language."
British farmers argue that in recent years they have invested over £300m in welfare measures alone in response to supermarkets, consumer and Government demands, and now they are being driven out of business by cheap imported pigmeat.