PIG PRODUCTION in Scotland is a far cry from the coverage shown in the BBC’s recent meat documentary – according to chief executive of the Scottish Pig Producers Andy McGowan, who was keen to establish some truths around the sector on this side of the pond.

“Around 99% of the documentary was focused on industries in other parts of the world and although I don’t condone a lot of the footage which was shown, I am also not going to advise other countries on their environmental regulations.”

Some of the footage captured vast areas of American farmland swamped by lagoons of manure produced by the surrounding pig farms and allegations were made regarding run-off into nearby water sources and the potential biosecurity issues which could arise.

Mr McGowan was keen to set the record straight over what pig farmers in Scotland are doing differently: “Our pig producers abide by strict environmental regulations and our slurry, ammonia levels and water use are regularly monitored and tested. We are very comfortable about our environmental record and Nitrogen Vulnerable Zones (NVZ) rules cover everything.

“Welfare is paramount in our production and producers receive yearly visits from the RSPCA and we take their word that our standards are up to scratch.

The programme shed light on the impact of monoculture cropping and the impact it is having on wildlife diversity.

Mr McGowan continued: "The meat sector cannot be solely blamed for issues regarding monoculture as the programme alludes. This is a much wider agricultural issue and as far as I’m aware many vegetarians are eating crops.

“No one is going to defend cutting down the Amazon but this cannot be blamed on the Scottish pig industry and other livestock sectors. Almost everyone in our industry is growing their own grain to feed their pigs and using by-products where they can. We are not reliant on soya like depicted on the programme but it was pretty broad brush in its claim so the damage will already have been done.

“It would have been very helpful if the BBC had used examples which didn’t showcase one extreme to another, such as going from an intensive US pig farm to a welsh small holding with 50 chickens which isn’t commercial farming. If they had finished with showing the way people can make a business and a living in a way that meets with everyone’s approval that might have given a more balanced and accurate programme.”

Commenting on the impact the programme could have on consumer behaviour and pork sales he said: “On a broader scale we are not as concerned about vegans or vegetarians who still make up such a small part of the population. Our concern lies with the number of people who are having one or two less meals a week with meat – this could take a big chunk out of our market.