Seven months after the EU introduced a ban on keeping sows in stalls half of the member states have failed to clamp down on pig farms, where sows are illegally confined for most of their lives.
So retailers and food manufacturers must continue to be vigilant, warns the National Pig Association.
It argues that British consumers expect all imported pork and pork products to be traceable back to farms that comply with the EU's ban of last January on the full-time use of sow stalls.
According to new data from the European Commission only 13 member countries are fully compliant – Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Sow stalls have been banned outright in the United Kingdom since 1999.
The Commission started infringement proceedings against nine countries in February – Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland and Portugal. The Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Finland, and Slovenia are still being investigated.
The NPA has been praised by the Government for its Wall of Fame campaign to persuade retailers and food companies to pledge they will not import pork and pork products from non-compliant pig farms on the continent. The association is currently carrying out a number of spot checks, to ensure companies that made the Wall of Fame pledge are sticking to their word.
One hundred leading companies and brands have pledged total traceability for the imported pork and pork products they sell, including most major retailers and leading food service companies such as McDonald's, Costa, and Premier Inn.
"Sow stalls are narrow cages. They make life easier for pig farmers, but they are medieval in the eyes of British consumers because the sows spend most of their lives being able to do little more than stand up and lie down," said NPA general manager Dr Zoe Davies. "The response to our campaign for traceable higher-welfare pork for British consumers has been outstanding – far better than we ever envisaged."
The NPA is confident that the pledges on its Wall of Fame have helped reduce the flow of pork from illegally-operated farms. At the beginning of the year the NPA estimated as many as 40,000 pigs an hour were being delivered to continental processing plants from illegally-operated pig farms. As Britain imports around 60% of its processed pork it was feared that many British consumers were unwittingly supporting the trade in illegally-farmed pigs.