Sir David Amess, Conservative MP for Southend West, has called on the Government to adopt his Bill banning farrowing crates from 2027.
Sir David, who is a patron of the Conservative Animal Welfare Foundation, put the legislation forward under the ten-minute rule, which allows backbench MPs to make their case for a Bill of their choice to be taken forward.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already said, in 2019 and just after the UK-EU trade deal was signed, that Brexit would allow sow farrowing crates to be banned.
But the National Pig Association (NPA) has warned introducing a ban over the next six years would ‘risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of baby pigs’.
“We cannot believe the public would support this move if they were aware of the reality,” said NPA chief executive Dr Zoe Davies.
“Farrowing crates are used to protect the welfare of piglets. Without them, the sow can very easily roll on to them.”
In his speech presenting the Bill to Parliament, Sir David said scientific research had shown piglet mortality in well-designed and well-managed free farrowing pens could be as low or even lower than in farrowing crates – a claim disputed by Dr Davies.
She said: “Welfare groups have ignored the growing body of evidence coming from farms trying free farrowing systems which show an unacceptable level of piglet deaths.”
The NPA also suggested many pig farmers would leave the industry if a ban on farrowing crates was brought in, as at the moment, they provide the best protection for both sows and piglets.
“This would only serve to export production to countries which have no intention of implementing a ban and produce pork to lower standards than British farmers,” said Dr Davies.
“The pig industry does, however, agree that working to find a better solution for the sow and her piglets is important and an increasing number of farmers have been trialling alternatives for some time.
“We would suggest welfare organisations’ time and resource would be far better spent working with us than trying to force this significant change too quickly, which would lead to a far worse welfare outcome for the sow, her piglets and the stock people who care for them.”