About 40,000 'illegal' pigs an hour will be entering the European food chain in January and bacon, ham and pizzas containing their meat is destined for Britain's supermarkets, corner shops and restaurants, according to Britain's National Pig Association (NPA).
The pigs will come from continental farms where sows are still confined in individual steel cages known as "stalls" — a practice outlawed by European Union animal welfare legislation from Jan. 1, 2013.
Stalls have not been used in the UK for many years, but figures released by Brussels this month show that with the continental ban only days away, 80 percent of European Union countries have not yet complied with the ban.
Even allowing for a last minute rush to remove sows from stalls and house them in new group pens, this indicates that nearly two million pigs a week from farms operating illegally will be delivered to Europe's processing plants, according to Britain's National Pig Association.
"It makes a mockery of Europe's animal welfare legislation," says NPA chairman Richard Longthorp. "As the United Kingdom imports around 60 percent of its pork — much of it as processed food such as ham and bacon — shoppers will need to be very careful about what they choose from supermarket shelves and when eating out in restaurants."
NPA is urging British shoppers who care about animal welfare not to buy imported pork or processed pork products such as bacon, until all European Union member countries have complied with the stalls ban.
"The major British supermarkets have promised they will not sell pork from continental farms operating illegally but our concern is that in many cases these farms will be difficult to identify and everybody admits that imported processed foods will be almost impossible to trace," said NPA general manager Dr. Zoe Davies.
"Our advice to shoppers is always to look for the independent Red Tractor logo on the pack, which is an absolute guarantee that the product comes from a British pig farm where keeping sows in stalls has been banned for over a decade."
The data published by Brussels this month shows France is only 33 percent compliant with the European stalls ban, Germany only 48 percent and Ireland only 57 percent. Other countries unable to hit the January 2013 deadline include Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.