The pig industry has called on Defra to simplify its draft statutory animal welfare code and reduce it in length.
The National Pig Association (NPA) submitted its response to Defra’s consultation on a new draft ‘Code of Practice for the Welfare of Pigs’ this week.
The draft code, published at the end of January alongside similar documents for laying hens and meat chickens, sets out strengthened statutory guidance for pig keepers on how to meet the needs of their animals and enhance their welfare.
In its response, submitted following consultation with members, the NPA said it “appreciates” the desire to provide helpful guidance on both the interpretation of the legislation and the latest knowledge and advice.
The association said the old code was “severely out of date” and the new one includes the most up to date legislation and should therefore result in improved compliance from pig keepers.
However, the association added: “We feel that the code as currently presented is too lengthy and would benefit from some revision, particularly where repetition exists and where better use of cross-referencing could be employed.
“The codes as currently drafted will take a significant amount of time for stock people to read and digest. Members have expressed concern that if the codes are too long, they won’t be read properly or used properly.”
The NPA also highlights a number of specific areas of concern. For example, in parts of the document, basic stock keeping information was being communicated that would be better provided by recognised trainers or by sign posting to referenced information.
It said there were also several areas where the evidence for the advice given was “lacking” and “appeared to be more aspirational rather than proven.”
It also refuted the suggestions the new code, as currently drafted, will reduce the industry’s on-going cost with compliance.
“Some of the changes suggested will require a significant shift in current practice and as a result will have cost implications,” the NPA response said.
NPA chief executive Zoe Davies said: “We welcome the attempt to update the out-of-date guidance for pig keepers, which will help improve compliance.
“We hope the comments we have made will be viewed as helpful. We are trying to ensure the codes are well used and benefit staff and therefore mprove animal welfare as a consequence.”
What’s in the draft code?
Under the proposals, animal keepers will be expected to document evidence of measures implemented in order to avoid the need for tail docking.
The ‘user-friendly codes’ also provide detailed guidance to animal keepers on how to assess the welfare of their animals, as well as on contingency planning to help ensure the welfare of their animals during any emergencies.
The codes will be used by enforcement bodies, including Animal and Plant Health Agency inspectors and local authorities, when investigating allegations of poor welfare to look at whether animal welfare standards are being met.
The new guidance is expected to be available later this year.