Thursday, August 11

UK supermarkets urged to stop selling Parma ham from EU caged sows | animal welfare

Animal welfare campaigners are calling on UK supermarkets to stop selling premium ham, including Parma, produced in “sow stalls” on EU farms.

An undercover investigation conducted by Compassion in World Farming (CWF), an animal welfare campaign group, found that sows are forced to spend many weeks in cages so small they can only stand up and lie down.

The campaign group’s footage from 16 farms across Italy, Spain, France and Poland shows the sows in cage systems, including those supplying premium Parma and Bayonne hams.

The cages have been banned in the UK since 1999 and in Sweden, but their limited use is still legal in the EU, allowing sows to be kept in cages from the weaning of the previous litter until the end of the sows’ first four weeks of pregnancy. Last June, the European Commission promised to phase out the use of cages in all animal farming across the EU by 2027.

CWF’s investigators alleged that sows on these farms were kept in the same extreme confinement as those on standard farms, and estimates that 85% of sows in the EU are kept in these conditions. Sows lie in their own excrement and urine, are unable to nurture their young, and resort to abnormal repetitive behavior such as bar biting and chewing the air, the report alleged.

Sarah Moyes, CWF’s senior campaigns manager, said: “Compassion in World Farming would like to see all retailers, producers and food companies, make cage-free commitments for food production.” The group is also sending its findings to agriculture ministers across Europe and urging them to introduce the EU ban on caged farming without delay.

CWF said 8m branded Parma hams are produced in Italy every year, 36% of which are exported. Just under half of all exported Parma is sold within the EU, but the UK is the top export market for pre-sliced ​​Parma ham.

The British Retail Consortium said UK retailers had led the way in requiring high animal welfare standards from all its farmers, in the UK or abroad, to reflect consumer demand, including in all areas of pork production.

However, Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “It is more challenging with specialty hams where the UK has a small share of a highly regulated product, and the focus is on production methods.”

Tesco could not be reached for comment, but its animal welfare policy states that sows must not be kept in stalls.

Waitrose said it was working to ensure all of its farms totally end the use of sow stalls by 2025. A Waitrose spokesperson said: “Animal welfare is key to our brand. We have led the way for pig welfare in the UK and now we want to ensure that sow stalls have no place in our supply chain by 2025.”

Sainsbury’s does not sell Bayonne ham. A spokesperson said: “All our suppliers have to meet strict welfare standards and be certified under one of our approved farm assurance schemes, in addition to complying with EU legislation.”

Asda said all of its meat was supplied according to the relevant EU and UK legislation.

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