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Breeders oppose calls to take booming Old Spot off rare animals register

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 29, 2014

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Pig breeders have warned that it would be dangerous to remove the Gloucestershire Old Spot off the rare animals register – despite a resurgence in the species' numbers.

A growing demand from markets in the pig's meat has seen the breed's population surge skywards.

The rise has prompted calls to withdraw the animal from the list of rare animals set by the Rare Breeds Survival Trust.

But experts have suggested that would be wrong as it is the attention the pig has received due to its rare status that has given it a new lease of life.

David Overton, president of the Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders' Club, said there is a large increase in the population of the pig.

He explained, however, that taking the animal off the register for rare animals could cause another decline.

He said: "The number of Gloucestershire Old Spotted pigs have been greatly increasing over the last several years and it's not something that has only happened recently. The numbers are really big at the moment – there's a herd up in Yorkshire of about 600 – and that is having a real big impact.

"Obviously, the demand for these pigs means farmers are more likely to keep them and the fact that they are a rare pig means that they have been promoted more over the past few years.

"My personal feeling is that they shouldn't be taken off the rare species list because, if they do, the number could quite easily drop as quickly as it has grown and the species could then disappear."

The Gloucestershire Old Spots Pig Breeders' Club was founded in 1913. The breed is said to be the oldest pedigree spotted pig breed in the world and is one of the best-known breeds in Britain.

Jenny Powner-Jones, marketing assistant for Cotswold Farm, said: "They have always been a popular breed here and they are definitely one of the most visited.

"The breed is currently in the minority which means that, although they are not quite an endangered specie, there not many of them around. They are very popular for their meat which goes down very well on the market, so presumably the demand will drive up numbers."

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