Farmers ‘frustrated’ with animal welfare claims fired at pork industry

Rural Exchange 14/07/2018

Animal activist group Farmwatch recently released video footage of farrowing crates on a South Island pig farm, claiming that the illegal practice continues.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Primary Industries told Newshub they were looking into the contents of the video, but have not found any welfare breach in their preliminary review of the material.

NZ Pork spokesperson Ian Carter told RadioLIVE it’s “concerning” that the activists trespassed onto the property in the first place, particularly at a time when biosecurity concerns are at an all-time high. 

But SAFE spokesperson Marianne Macdonald said such a comment is Mr Carter’s way to “deflect from the real issues”.

“Would anyone really want to be eating pork from animals that are raised in these appalling surroundings?” she asked.  

The NZ Pork spokesperson explained that the Farmwatch video footage shows misleading material, where mating stalls are insinuated to be compromising animal welfare.

“The images that we’ve been provided are mating stalls, which we’ve been very transparent on the use of those. They actually demonstrate to enhance welfare,” Mr Carter said.

But Ms Macdonald told RadioLIVE that it’s “ridiculous” to suggest the video shows mating stalls.

“Farmwatch photos show one the specific pigs who was in the illegal stall, was two weeks later found with her babies in a farrowing crate. If she had only just been mated, this would suggest, bizarrely, that she had a gestation period of two weeks, rather than the actual sixteen week pregnancy of pigs.

“If the pork industry thinks it’s acceptable for this farmer to break the law by using sow stalls, it certainly begs the question whether all NZ Pork’s PigCare accredited farms are also keeping their pigs in cruel and illegal conditions,” Ms Macdonald asserted.

NZ Pork says practices are intended to help animal welfare.

Mating stalls are used when sows are in heat to stop them from hurting each other. They are legally allowed to be used for up to seven days, according to MPI’s Animal Welfare Regulations. In 2015, New Zealand banned gestating stalls (or dry sow stalls) which were used during pregnancy.

Mr Carter maintained that the legal practices being used are intended to improve the wellbeing of animals.

“It’s becoming frustrating from a farmer’s perspective because a lot of our practices actually enhance welfare, not compromise it,” he said.

Gestation stalls are still legal and common overseas, explained Mr Carter, with up to 60 percent of imported pork comes from farms allowed to use the practice.

SAFE stands by its statement that caging pigs is “cruel” and “unnecessary”.

“That’s why we are calling on the Labour party to honour their pre-election promise and enact a ban on farrowing crates.”

Watch the full interview with Ian Carter above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.

RadioLIVE.