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Pig farmers flout ban on cruel cages meaning families can't avoid meat from factory farms
The ban on sow stalls comes into force in EU todayOnly one third of French farms have removed cages
Half of German farms also still using sow stallsEU farmers given 11 years notice of deadline
British farmers banned cruel practice in 1999
Daily Mail Reporter
01:22 GMT, 1 January 2013
02:44 GMT, 1 January 2013
Farmers across Europe have ignored an EU ban on 'pig cages’, meaning UK families will continue to eat pork, ham and bacon from cruel factory farms.
British farmers stopped using the cages or sow stalls in 1999 because they were so small the huge animals did not even have enough room to turn around.
The EU finally agreed to outlaw the system across member states from today, but it has emerged that thousands across the continent have failed to meet the deadline.
Caged: Farmers across Europe have ignored the ban
Some 60 per cent of all pig meat sold in the high street and through restaurants is imported, suggesting at least some will be from illegal foreign factory farms.
In natural conditions, sows live in small groups with their young and will spend much of their day foraging and rooting for food.
Factory farming methods have brought the breeding of supersize pigs that find it difficult to move and bear little resemblance to their wild ancestors.
The pregnant sows turn out vast litters of piglets to be reared for meat
and farmers developed a system of cages to restrict their movement.
These are so narrow that the sows cannot turn around or move more than 18 inches forwards or backwards.
This system has been recognised as cruel for many years, not least because pigs are highly intelligent creatures and are denied any semblance of a natural existence.
The cramped conditions mean the animals suffer from severe psychological and physical harm.
Cruel: Farming minister David Heath said sow stalls are cruel and said shoppers want to know where their meat comes from
Farmers across the EU were given 11 years notice that the ban would come into effect in January 2013, however they and their governments have failed to meet the deadline.
Data published by the European Commission in December revealed that only one third of French farms have removed the cages.
At the same time around half of German farms still use them and some 43per cent of those in Ireland.
Other countries unable to meet the deadline include Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
British farmers are at a commercial disadvantage because it costs more to rear pigs without using the cages.
British farming minister, David Heath, said: ‘Sow stalls are cruel, they restrict the sow to such an extent that she can’t turn around for almost her entire life.
‘Shoppers care about where their meat comes from and what conditions the animals are reared in.’
He said responsibility for enforcing the ban is up to the European Commission, however this is unlikely to trigger any meaningful sanctions.
Sow stalls were banned in Britain in 1999 because they caused psychological and physical harm to pigs (file picture)
Britain’s National Pig Association estimates that around 40,000 ‘illegal’ pigs an hour will be entering the European food chain in January.
It predicted bacon, ham and pizzas containing their meat will reach our supermarkets, corner shops and restaurants.
NPA chairman, Richard Longthorp, said: ‘This makes a mockery of Europe’s animal welfare legislation.
‘Shoppers will need to be very careful about what they choose from supermarket shelves and when eating out in restaurants.’
The organisation is advising consumers to buy British bacon as the only guarantee of avoiding meat from the cage system.
Chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, Philip Lymbery, said there is ‘no excuse’ for the failure of farmers to miss the cage ban deadline.
He urged all British stores and producers to boycott pork from countries which fail to impose a total ban on the cages.
Jamie Oliver has slammed the sow stalls as worse that battery chicken cages.
He said: ‘In my view, it’s pretty inhumane. A pig can stand up, it can sit down, but it can’t turn around and it can’t scratch itself. And basically they’ll eat in one end and s— out the other, and they’ve got nothing to do.’