Pig farmers deliberately breaking law

New Zealand prides itself on its animal welfare reputation, yet evidence shows the minimum legal standards for care are not even being met in some circumstances, with the New Zealand pork industry refusing to give sows nesting material before they give birth. They are ignoring government advice that they need to do so.

Sows are confined in farrowing crates before they give birth and while nursing. The crates are so small the sows are unable to turn around. The only legal requirements for size are that crates cannot be so small that the pigs touch opposite bars at the same time, and the top bars when standing. Sows have a strong nesting instinct just before giving birth. Without nesting material, they can injure themselves trying to make nests on the concrete or metal floors.

Minutes from a government animal welfare committee meeting show they were informed that pork producers were failing to comply with the law. The industry warned the committee to “not go there”. It appears there is little the committee can do to ensure animal welfare legislation is enforced. 

“This shocking evidence of pig farmers wilfully ignoring the law shows the pork industry just does what it wants, not even providing animals with the absolute minimum in law,” says Stephen Manson, campaigns and policy officer.

The New Zealand pig industry has its own animal welfare labelling system called ‘PigCare’ that it gives to accredited farms. This label is meant to give an indication of welfare standards but the level required to be accredited is simply compliance with minimum standards.

“This ‘PigCare’ label is just a marketing gimmick, and tricks people into thinking pigs have actually been well cared for. Nothing is further from the truth. The standard is so low that all it represents is farmers not breaking the law. If even a basic legal requirement to provide nesting material is not met, labels such as ‘PigCare’ become meaningless.

“How have we ended up with an industry doing whatever it wants, breaking the law and blatantly telling the government to “not go there”? What is the point of laws if they are not able to be enforced?” says Mr Manson.

The New Zealand pig industry has been under fire for years over the appalling conditions pigs are kept in. Repeated investigations and media exposés caused the public outrage that led to the government phasing out sow stalls in 2015. Farrowing crates are still currently allowed in New Zealand, but these crates do not meet sows’ welfare needs.


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4 January 2017