Thank you to all those who recently contacted me about the Pig Husbandry (Farrowing) Bill and raised the issue of the welfare of farm animals.
I would like to start by assuring you that I care very much about the welfare of all animals and I know this is an issue that many of my constituents feel strongly about. I am pleased to tell you that my Ministerial colleagues are examining the evidence around the use of cages for farm animals and are considering the options. They have also committed to continuing to focus on maintaining world-leading farm animal welfare standards through both regulatory requirements and statutory codes.
Ministers have been clear that it is their ambition for farrowing crates to no longer be used for sows. Indeed, the new pig welfare code clearly states that “the aim is for farrowing crates to no longer be necessary and for any new system to protect the welfare of the sow, as well as her piglets.” It is important that we make progress towards a system that both works commercially and safeguards the welfare of the sow and her piglets, and that we do so as quickly as possible. I am pleased to confirm the UK is already ahead of most pig producing countries in terms of non-confinement farrowing, with around 40 per cent of our pigs housed outside and not farrowed with crates. This being said, I will of course listen closely to what my colleague, Sir David Amess MP, has to say on this subject when he brings forward his 10 Minute Rule Bill in March.
I know that this Government has set itself a challenging agenda of animal welfare issues that it will tackle and is taking action on many fronts to improve the health and wellbeing of farm animals. A major example is the commitment to end excessively long journeys for live animals going for slaughter and for fattening – becoming the first country in Europe to do so.
I do hope this reassures my constituents that we are committed to a high level of animal welfare and thank you again to all those who took the time to contact me about this.