SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) met with European Commissioner Tonio Borg in Strasbourg to press the Commission on pig meat and compulsory labelling of meat products, and to invite him to Scotland to come and see our world-leading standards for himself.
In a wide ranging discussion, the Commissioner confirmed that formal legal proceedings have begun against nine Member States which are still a considerable way from compliance with higher pig welfare standards, and that the legal proceedings will be progressed urgently, if need be resulting in substantial fines against the Member States concerned.
He was not minded to support Alyn's call for Member States to close their borders to those states who have not yet complied, stating that he preferred to use legal pressure to encourage progress.
On labelling, Alyn updated the Commissioner on developments in the "value burger" debacle, and reiterated his call for tougher standards on labelling for all meat products, on the model of the current beef regulations, so that consumers have as much information as possible to make an informed choice about what to eat. The Commissioner reported that the Commission is working on a study into the implications of new rules and that this would be published early next year.
Speaking after the meeting, Alyn said:
"This was a good round-the-houses with the Commissioner, I was glad to chat him through how things are going in Scotland. The vexed question of a perceived lack of equity in how we apply animal welfare standards troubles me. The Parliament is great at passing legislation but too often we see Member States dragging their feet and whilst there are sanctions, they're slow, and I think we need to be tougher.
"I'm disappointed that the Commission is not willing to support a trade ban, but I do understand the reasons, and perhaps a softly-softly approach will ultimately get us there faster. I hae ma'doots, but if that is his decision then it is his to make. We have seen progress on the battery hens issue, with more and more Member States now complying and I'm confident the other states will get there on the sow stalls ban. My issue is and remains that they need more of a prod to get them moving fast and the infractions proceedings are insufficient. I've already undertaken to organise a meeting with the Commissioner's officials in Brussels and the industry from Scotland, we agreed we'll take that forward to monitor how this is progressing.
"I'm delighted he accepted my invitation to Scotland to see our world-leading produce for himself, and I look forward to taking the practical arrangements of that forward with his officials in due course."