‘It’s really not right’: Plans to export live pigs to China condemned

Protest held outside Leinster House after deal agreed to help country rebuild decimated numbers

The live export of pigs to China for breeding purposes was condemned as hideous, cruel and unnecessary during a protest outside Leinster House on Tuesday.

Musicians Cathy Davey and Neil Hannon and actor and author Pauline McLynn were among those who gathered to highlight what they described as the horror of live pig exports being given the green light by the Irish and Chinese governments.

China ramped up imports of breeding pigs last year to meet surging demand after the country’s pig herd was decimated by the deadly African swine fever.

“This is something that was announced very proudly by the Government but it’s something to be deeply ashamed of,” said Caroline Rowley of Ethical Farming Ireland. “The pigs are going to have to endure a 12-hour flight in cramped boxes, excessive noise and turbulence and remember these are sensitive, sentient beings that scare really easily.”


Ms Rowley noted an absence of animal welfare legislation in China which meant “these animals are going to have no protection whatsoever once they get there”.

She pointed to alternatives to live exports including the exportation of semen or frozen embryos. “There’s no need to fly animals halfway around the world.”

‘Not right’

Davey, who runs My Lovely Pig Rescue in Wicklow and cares for 65 rescue pigs, said it was wrong to send pigs to a country where their welfare was not protected.

“It’s really not right for a country who sees itself as empathetic, as a proud nation of farmers (to do so),” she said.

Hannon, front man of the Divine Comedy, said he attended the protest “to draw attention to the proposal. which he believed was as “outrageous” and a “disgrace”. He questioned how people could claim to be animal lovers and then stand for the live export of animals.

“There’s always been a kind of a disconnect in people’s brains when it comes to eating meat,” he said. “If you look at your Labrador or your cocker spaniel in front of you in the sitting room, there is no difference between them and a pig in terms of their emotions. They feel pain, they feel loyalty and love even. And we treat them despicably.”

Hannon said he had been “particularly saddened by the Green Party, who I campaigned for before the last election. They said lots of lovely things about animal welfare and are now agreeing to this.”

Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue last month confirmed that he and Ni Yuefeng of the General Administration of Customs of China had signed and exchanged formal protocols that will pave the way for the export of breeding pigs from Ireland to China.

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast