At the NFU Fringe Event at the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham, Defra Secretary of State Elizabeth Truss acknowledged the importance of British poultry farming.
On the top table were Meurig Raymond, Guy Smith (Vice President), Liz Truss, Secretary of State and George Eustice, Minister of Agriculture. The panel was chaired by Alistair Driver of Farmers Guardian.
Gary Ford, NFU Chief Poultry Adviser, writes:
References to poultry included:
- In her opening comments Liz Truss mentioned the poultry industry 2-3 times and praised our ‘ultra-competitive poultry industry’ and that the ‘poultry sector is very competitive’;
- Meurig raised beak trimming in his opening comments. Liz Truss responded that I ‘completely agree with making the decision on sound science’;
- Liz Truss commented that she ‘wants to see more British food sold in Britain. Food security is vitally important’;
- Liz Truss commented that ‘food and farming is incredibly important’ and the industry is ‘bigger than the car and aerospace industries combined’;
- Liz Truss commented that the Chancellor is keen on GM technology;
- Liz Truss: ‘We need to get across how technological the industry is. Farming is not a ‘sunset’ industry – it uses the latest technology’;
- Alan Warrington, a Bowler producer from Staffordshire, raised the issue of beak trimming – appealing to the Minister to allow us to maintain the welfare of our hens by allowing us to keep this tool and at the same time allowing us to maintain productivity (one of the constant themes of the meeting was productivity, growth, self-sufficiency, more British food for the British consumer).
George Eustice (pictured above) responded by making reference to the trials, that the trail is not due to report until the early part of 2015 and that the Government will not make a decision until the trial concluded but will be studying the report and the evidence. He was aware that one flock had ‘quite a serious outbreak’ and had to be hot bladed which was far from ideal. Concerningly he added ‘others (flocks) have been ok so far’.
Along with Alan Warrington I spoke to George Eustice at the end of the meeting and pointed out that a total of three flocks had exceed Bristol’s threshold of 9% mortality and added that Bristol, in their study, have stated that mortality caused by injurious pecking over 9% was regarded as ‘unacceptable’.
The Minister acknowledged that he was aware of another flock that had problems. (BTAG are in the process of writing to the Minister to update him on the trial. Mortality rates for the twenty flocks will be included in the letter).
- Education/raising awareness in schools: Liz Truss commented that her previous role in Government was as Schools Minister and so she feels strongly about this and understands the issues. She commented that it is important that agriculture is seen by school children as a really important industry to our country and is seen alongside or on a par with the car and aero industry.
The farming industry needs to put across it’s positive image and its use of technology and must be seen as a ‘sunrise’ industry and not a ‘sunset’ industry. She added that there is a big role for role models in agriculture. ‘A really exciting industry, a ‘sunrise’ industry, that you should be getting involved in’.
- Halal was raised as a question from the floor. George Eustice responded that there is no universal definition of Halal. 80-90% of Halal meat is stunned. Potentially we could label as stunned or unstunned but it would have to be a pan European approach to labelling.
In principal he was in favour of giving consumer’s choice. The Commission are due to publish a report in December on the issue of labelling in the context of Halal and the Government will look at its findings before making any decisions.