Too close for comfort? The SPCA is calling upon Government health inspectors to up their game. *Photo supplied by SPCA
Too close for comfort? The SPCA is calling upon Government health inspectors to up their game. *Photo supplied by SPCA

The SPCA has accused health authorities of turning a blind eye to licensing and inspecting the island’s piggeries.

The animal charity says the Environmental Health Department has failed in its legal duty to check the piggeries.

The SPCA says it is concerned that poor living conditions could lead to human health issues. 

And it claims that despite bringing its concerns to the attention of the relevant Government departments more than two years ago, they have received little to no feedback from them.

A spokesperson for the SPCA said: “The Public Health Act 1949 provides for secondary legislation to be enacted to safeguard public health and as a result ensure animal welfare by putting in place requirements for those individuals breeding pigs for human consumption.

“It is a requirement for anyone keeping more than two pigs to be inspected and licensed by the Health Department.

“Yet despite numerous emails, personal visits and even pigs being seized by the SPCA for neglect, still no effective licensing is in place.”

The animal welfare group says it received reports of sub-standard conditions at a piggery in Pembroke which has since closed down.

A second piggery on Luke’s Pond Drive, owned by Terry Benevides, has also been a cause of concern, the SPCA told us. But Mr Benevides told the Sun: “My piggery has been here for the last 200 years and my animals are properly looked after.

“They are raised properly and are responsibly watered and fed.

Unrealistic

“The SPCA’s expectations are unrealistic and unreal. We have always been licensed and the Government is happy with the processes we have in place.”

The SPCA spokesperson told us: “There are only a few individuals keeping pigs in Bermuda so it should not be an onerous task [for Government inspectors] to visit those facilities... yet this is not happening.

“We are urging the Government Departments charged with licensing all animal operations to work with us to enforce the current legislation and improve animal welfare on the islands of Bermuda.”

The Department of Health told the Sun it was planning to convene a meeting with all pig keepers that require licensing in order to review the 1958 regulations and ‘ensure their continue relevance’ in Bermuda. And a committee has been formed consisting of various stake-holders with a view to completing a policy for pig keeping by June 30, 2013.

But authorities did not say why some the island’s piggeries had not been licensed.

A spokesperson added: “The Public Health (Keeping of Pigs) Regulations dates from the 1950s and an era when there were over a thousand pigs in Bermuda and the need to control smells, and flies was paramount.

A smelly business

“Pig keeping is smelly business and can lead to a public health nuisance when performed on a large scale with inadequate controls. Presently there are less than 70 pigs in Bermuda, distributed over four farms.

“A licence is needed if any person wishes to keep two or more pigs on one property.

“No licence is required if only one pig, or piglets are kept, as long as the piglets are less than 3 months old.

“Pigs are raised for meat - so sanitary conditions on a pig farm are important and may reflect in the quality of the meat.

“The Department of Health oversees the slaughter of all meat that is intended for human consumption at two authorized slaughterhouses; at Westover Farm in Sandy’s and at Wadson’s farm in Southampton.

 “For the last two decades a pig farm in Southampton has been the only pig farm operating in Bermuda and the number of animals has varied from approximately a half dozen to two dozen animals.

“Recently there has been a small resurgence in the interest in raising pigs and two other farmers now also keep a small number of animals each.

“One other applicant for pig keeping is being processed by the Department.” n