You may recall that campaigning organisation The Pig Idea launched a bid in June this year to change European law to allow smallholders and hobby pig-keepers to feed kitchen waste to their animals.

The idea met with resistance from major players in the pig industry but, following discussions at Westminster, there now seems to be common ground emerging.

The Pig Idea is calling for a revision to EU regulations to allow for the inclusion of animal by-products and catering waste in feed for omnivorous non-ruminants. The campaign argues that, to ensure food safety, the revised law would need to require all catering waste to be sufficiently heat-treated through centralised feed plants.

Since the last foot and mouth epidemic in 2001 there has been a ban on feeding catering waste to the UK’s nine million pigs, even though there is no scientific evidence that feeding pigs on scraps is harmful. The Pig Idea also claim that feeding catering waste could reduce pig rearing costs by up to 70 per cent.

Members of the British pig industry have supported feeding pigs waste food – but recently told MPs that feeding swill was a “risk too far”.

Lizzie Press, regions manager for the National Pig Association (NPA), said: “There will never be a market for pig swill, unless producers themselves think it is a good idea – and they remain to be convinced”. She told the All-Party Parliamentary Group on agro-ecology that calls from campaign groups such as The Pig Idea to bring back swill-feeding sent “the wrong signals”, even if the swill was treated following tight regulation.

“Foot-and-mouth, classical swine fever and African swine fever are almost inevitably here in Britain already, in meat brought in by visitors,” she said. “The only way to prevent major outbreaks, such as occurred in 2001, is to maintain uncompromisingly strict bio-security to keep it away from farms.”

But despite marginal disagreements between the NPA and Pig Idea, the NPA’s chairman Richard Longthorp identified the debate as an opportunity for the two organisations to work together .

Following the meeting Charlotte Jarman from The Pig Idea told meat trade website “We agree that more research is needed to establish how we could develop a safe system for processing catering waste to be used as pig feed (as already happens in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and some US states). But when 37 per cent of the global food basket is used to feed livestock (including around 97 per cent of all soy), a billion people go to bed hungry every night, and we face the challenge of feeding a growing population, we feel that there is a moral imperative to investigate that possibility.”

“We are not pro-return to back yard swill-feeding, we are proposing a thorough investigation to set up a safe system that is rigorous all along the supply chain,” she added. “They [the NPA] have concerns and there is a significant amount of common ground, much of that is in reducing waste.”

Meanwhile The Pig Idea staged a free public meal in Trafalgar Square yesterday to demonstrate the ability of pigs to efficiently recycle food waste – and for visitors to enjoy the tasty result of this natural process.