05/06/2013 03:32 BST

Pigs Should Be Fed Leftovers To Cut Waste, Say Campaigners

Leftovers should be put back on the menu for pigs to conserve food supplies, cut waste and farming costs and protect the environment, campaigners are urging.

The Pig Idea campaign wants to bring back the age-old practice of feeding waste food to pigs and aims to encourage more use of legally-allowed food, such as unsold bread, dairy, fruit and vegetables that are unfit for humans, as pig feed.

Feeding food waste to pigs was outlawed in the UK after the foot and mouth crisis of 2001

Campaigners also want a change to European law to allow food leftovers to be fed to pigs, backed by the introduction of a robust legal framework for its safe processing and use to avoid spreading animal diseases.

Using waste from catering and homes as pig "swill" was banned in the UK in 2001 in the wake of the foot and mouth crisis due to concerns the disease originated on a farm illegally feeding pigs unprocessed restaurant waste. The ban was then extended across Europe.

The "pig bins" that were once a familiar sight in schools and canteens vanished, and pig farmers increased their use of crops that people could otherwise eat, such as wheat, soy and maize, as animal feed.

But feeding food waste to pigs would reduce the costs of disposing of leftover food and the price farmers have to pay for animal feed, the campaigners argue.

It would protect important habitats such as tropical rainforest, which is under threat of clearance to provide more land to grow animal feed crops, and cut environmental impacts such as the greenhouse gases rotting food produces.

Crops such as cereals could be diverted away from feeding pigs to humans, improving food security, and jobs and revenue could be created in a new "eco-feed" industry for collecting, treating and distributing the waste so it could be fed to pigs.

The campaign is driven by chef Thomasina Miers and food waste expert from Feeding the 5,000 campaign Tristram Stuart.

Mr Stuart said: "Humans have been recycling food waste by feeding it to pigs for thousands of years.

"Reviving this tradition will help to protect forests that are being chopped down to grow the millions of tonnes of soya we import from South America every year to feed our livestock."

Ms Miers said: "Let's save all our delicious food waste and feed it to the pigs. Not only will we be saving the rainforest - and slowing down climate change - but we'll be bringing down the cost of pig feed and pork. Let them eat waste!"

The pair are kicking off the Pig Idea campaign on World Environment Day, by starting the process of rearing eight pigs at Stepney City Farm, London, on a menu of food waste from around the capital.

The pigs will be fed used brewers grains, whey and unsold vegetables and bread that would otherwise go to waste.

In November, the campaign will culminate with some of the UK's best known chefs cooking up pork dishes for thousands of people in Trafalgar Square using meat from the pigs reared on food waste.

The campaign aims to restore public confidence in the practice of feeding surplus food to pigs and raise awareness among supermarkets, food businesses, officials and pig farmers about using already legally-permissible food waste, as well as lobbying to change the law.

The bid to return to the traditional practice of feeding surplus waste food to pigs reared for meat is supported by high profile "ham-bassadors" including celebrity chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigella Lawson and John Torode.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall said: "Pigs can be a highly-effective recycling system, with the potential to turn a massive problem of food waste into a delicious solution. It's mad not to."

A number of other countries including Japan and South Korea allow recycling of properly treated food waste into livestock feed, with waste heated to kill pathogens such as foot and mouth.

But a spokeswoman for the Environment Department said: "Feeding farm animals catering waste, kitchen scraps or meat is prohibited to prevent introduction and spread of diseases, such as foot and mouth, swine fever and avian flu."