CSR and Pig Business

British farmers are under threat from industrial scale farms which campaigners say will change the face of UK farming forever. An application for an industrial pig farm, currently under consideration, is the target of the Soil Association’s Not in My Banger campaign.

From a CSR perspective, should this development go through, it has serious implications for animal welfare, and for the food we consume.

The indoor pig factory will house 2,500 sows and around 20,000 piglets with 1,000 pigs slaughtered each week. The Soil Association says that housing such a large number of animals in one place increases the threat of disease and could pose a threat to the local community. It is also bad news for smaller farmers who are unlikely to be able to compete with the cheap prices such large-scale farms can offer.

If the industrial scale farm proposal is approved, the Soil Association estimates that it would produce more than 56 million sausages a year.

The Soil Association supports organic farming, so the reasons for its objections to such a move are clear. They are also sensible and valid. By farming pigs, or any animals, in such large numbers, we are moving further away from nature. Quite apart from the CSR implications for animal welfare, it doesn’t really take a wild leap to imagine the impact on health.

Following a joint campaign by the Soil Association and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WPSA), a similar proposal for a mega dairy has been withdrawn. Campaigners are hoping public pressure will have a similar impact on this proposal.

Some large UK supermarkets have made improving animal welfare standards a CSR priority. UK animal charity the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), has developed ‘Freedom Food’, an assurance and food labelling scheme. Food in supermarkets carrying the logo gives shoppers reassurance of higher animal welfare standards.

However, this only applies to UK produced food. Recently, in a blog for The Guardian newspaper’s website, celebrity chef and farmer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall urged the public to buy ‘Freedom Food’ as a minimum.

He described intensively reared pork as a ‘profoundly miserable business’ and gave a description of ‘salty liquid and sinister white goo’ that oozes from low quality bacon. This will certainly be familiar to anyone who has nipped to the corner shop for bacon (provenance unknown) at the last minute.

As someone who raises pigs himself, Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s objection to cramming pigs together indoors and pumping them full of high protein feed is based on experience. He knows that a pig raised in natural conditions, outdoors, is happier and, consequently, tastes better.

It is a CSR imperative that food producers and retailers support high animal welfare standards. It is good for the animals and it is good for human health.

It is also vital to ensure that we continue to support our farming community, which has faced such difficulties over recent years.

www.soilassociation.org/ Notinmybanger

Photo credit: Brent Moore