Ireland gets approval from China to send live breeding pigs

Man with a pig masker and man with hat on holding signs against live animal export
Musician Neil Hannon holds a sign at the demonstration against the export of living pigs, Dublin, Ireland, photo: Reuters/Clodagh Kilcoyne

China has allowed imports of breeding pigs from Ireland, the country’s customs office said on Tuesday.

According to a notice published on the General Administration of Customs of China, the breeding pigs must be put under quarantine in Ireland for at least 30 days before flying to China.

Since Ireland’s agriculture minister, Charlie McConalogue, announced the export of high-quality breeding pigs to China as part of a broader trade deal, animal welfare organizations and politicians have heavily criticized the plan.

Caroline Rowley, founder of Ethical Farming Ireland, told The Animal Reader she’s not only concerned for the long flight, which will be extremely stressful for the pigs, but also the conditions in which the animals will live in China.

“Animal welfare standards in China are very poor. China is ranked G by the World Animal Protection Index for farm animal welfare, which is the lowest possible ranking,” she said.

Ethical Farming Ireland protested in Dublin on Tuesday against live animal export. “Born in a factory, packed into a crate, flown to China, what a cruel fate,” was written on the sign of Northern Irish musician Neil Hannon, who attended the protest.

Besides the new pig export plan, Ireland has been sending tens of thousands of calves, young bulls and sheep to Europe and Libya, Ethical Farming Ireland said.


100 million pigs killed
China has been importing breeding pigs to fill new farms in the country. During the 2018/2019 African swine fever virus outbreak in China, a third of the pig population was wiped out. More than 100 million pigs were killed.

Farmers killed their animals at extremely fast rates. And the way they did it was sometimes very inhumane; some farmers buried their pigs alive.

It’s not known when the first flight with live Irish pigs will leave for China.

“Flying pigs from Ireland to China is definitely not the way forward: neither for animal welfare nor for the climate,” said Tilly Metz, Member of the European Parliament and chair of the EU’s inquiry into animal transport violations.

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