A call for more honesty in the marketing of pork and bacon, to safeguard the on-farm progress made in pig welfare, has been made by Nigel Woolfenden, the new president of the UK's Pig Veterinary Society.
Mr Woolfenden, a partner in the Bishopton Veterinary Group, Ripon, North Yorkshire, takes over from Wiltshire vet, Peter Bown. New vice-president is Mike Wijnberg of Tulip Ltd, Stradbroke, Suffolk.
“Transparency in the methods of farming should be obvious to all purchasers of pork products and requires honest labelling. Lack of transparency will undermine the impetus for further improvements in pig welfare. The labelling of some products such as 'Cumberland' sausage and 'Melton Mowbray' pork pies when they contain imported pork has been misleading,” he said.
“UK farm assured welfare standards are amongst the highest in the world, which is denoted by the Red Tractor logo on pork, ham and bacon. The UK has led the rest of the EU in sow welfare for over a decade and thus the voluntary adoption by the major supermarkets of a new code of practice is welcome. The code will give consumers confidence in the provenance of the pork in their purchases, and in turn consumer support will give UK pig farms the backing they need to invest in even higher pig health and welfare standards.”
His view is shared by other vets and welfare organisations. When the recent forum of the Animal Welfare Foundation of the British Veterinary Association voted on the issues they wanted the new Defra team to focus on, the need for consumers to be given impartial information through correct labelling of meat products came in the top three priorities.
“All buyers of meat have influence on the welfare standards of livestock farms through the purchasing decisions they make. I would ask all consumers, including the UK Government - which is a major purchaser of food via hospitals, schools, and prisons - to support welfare through the pig products they purchase.”
Mr Woolfenden qualified with honours from Liverpool University and first specialised in pig medicine 15 years ago. He is a member of the three-vet specialist pig division within the 15-vet mixed practice, Bishopton Veterinary Group. His specific interests are preventive medicine, training pig farmers and managing health to optimise growth. He is a past president of the Yorkshire Veterinary Society.