Shabby grandstanding on animal welfare

Just as you can’t make a silk purse from a pig’s ear, nor can you make a federal case from a sow crate.

But tell that to Sue Kedgley, who boasts the title Green Animal Welfare Spokesperson.

Earlier this week Kedgley was kicking up a hullabaloo and calling on the Minister of Agriculture to visit a typical intensive pig farm to see for himself “the cruelty sows endure when they are locked into crates for months on end.”

Ms Kedgley’s call follows the Minister’s admission on television last night that he did not know sow crates were widely used in pig farming in New Zealand. Last night on TV1’s Sunday programme, Mr Carter was shown video footage of hundreds of sows locked in crates or cages on a North Island pig farm.

The Sunday programme featured secretly filmed footage of a pig farm by a bunch of animal rights zealots, Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE).

Ms Kedgley said the pig code is being reviewed this year, and “it was vital that the Minister, who will make a final decision about the code, was familiar with the conditions pigs endure on intensively reared pig farms.”

She said she was certain one visit to a typical intensive pig farm would convince the Minister that sow crates should now be prohibited.”

“This is not a one-off situation of animal cruelty. If you visit an intensive pig farm, as I have, and see for yourself the misery sows endure when they are locked in cages for months at a time, it is quite obvious that sow crates are cruel,” Ms Kedgley said.

“You don’t need scientific studies to reach this conclusion; You just need common sense and a sense of humanity.”

Ms Kedgley said sow crates had been allowed to continue in New Zealand only because most New Zealanders, including the Minister of Agriculture, had not seen first hand the conditions that pigs are forced to endure. Sue Kedgley received a 75,000 signature petition in 2000 that called for better animal welfare of sows, but the call fell on deaf ears.

But Carter doesn’t have to inspect the farm – he commands an army of officials who can do that sort of thing for him.

He smartly said animal welfare investigators would inspect the pig farm at the centre of the fuss.

But the campaigners weren’t rushing to help.

The Ministry has the power to prosecute owners and those in charge of animals found to be in breach of our animal welfare legislation.

But it needed to know where the pigs were.

It is a measure of SAFE’s concern for the welfare of the pigs that they played funny buggers with this information.

Carter urged SAFE to reveal the location of the property so it can be inspected by Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry animal welfare investigators.

“The television images were disturbing. It is essential we find out if this intensive pig farming operation is in breach of the Animal Welfare Act.

“If SAFE has the welfare of these animals at heart, it needs to provide details of the property today so the authorities can the take appropriate action. I have asked MAF to undertake an inspection as soon as we know the farm’s location,” Mr Carter said.

He later confirmed that animal welfare investigators were carrying out the inspection. But not with SAFE’s help.

“SAFE has not contacted my office and has instead speculated on the property involved through media channels. From various sources, MAF has identified the farm and is now carrying out an investigation,” said Mr Carter.

“I am very concerned about animal welfare and no one wants to see animals suffer. This is why I urged SAFE to provide details of the property yesterday so the authorities could take the appropriate action immediately.

“In fact, SAFE could have revealed details of the property when it first received the recorded footage.

“Instead, the organisation seems more intent on playing publicity games than assisting the animals on this farm. I trust that SAFE will cooperate fully with the MAF investigation and provide them with any further evidence they may need.

“As an investigation is now underway, I will not be commenting further on the details of this case,” Mr Carter said.

Alf learns today that the MAF investigators say the piggery is not breaking animal welfare laws.

MAF investigations manager Greg Reid told Newstalk ZB the ministry could only take action if specific animals were suffering unnecessarily or if the pigs had untreated diseases.

He expected the case to trigger a review of regulations for operating pig farms.

The farm had also been investigated three years ago, and cleared of any wrong-doing.

Later today, National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee members would discuss the future of sow crates, used in pig farms.

The piggery, owned by Colin Kay, is at Ohau, near Levin.

Mr Kay, a former NZ Pork Industry Board chairman, said a Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry inspector and an independent veterinarian yesterday found “no issues whatsoever”.

“It complies with the [animal] welfare code so I’m quite happy,” he said.

Mr Kay, whose Kuku Beach Rd plant was investigated in 2005, said he was “very upset” by the break-in to his plant.

Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) national director Anthony Terry said the lack of immediate findings from MAF’s investigation was not surprising but upsetting “because the conditions in there are grossly inadequate”.

NZ Pork chairman Chris Trengrove said the Sunday footage was emotive and while “not a good look” for Mr Kay’s pig farm was an unfair portrayal of the industry.

He said while locally produced free-range pork made up about 45 per cent of the market, for intensive pig farmers making the change was not easy. It would cost about $5000 per sow to start from a green-field site, he said.

“So you can understand that when you are flooded with imported pork it is pretty hard for farmers to make that change.”

Kay told Radio New Zealand this morning he is actually planning to set up a new pig farm without the need for sow crates.

Pork industry Sam McIvor says the industry is phasing out long-term use of sow crates – and is halfway to achieving that. He says the plan will see the time pigs spend in crates reduced to four weeks.

Maybe the animal welfare laws regarding pigs need revisiting.

But SAFE’s antics in this affairs have been deplorable.

It used the pigs to promote their cause rather than rush to alert the authorities. Exploitation of animals, in other words.

3 Responses to Shabby grandstanding on animal welfare

  1. If we treated our pets the way factory farmed animals are treated you would be breaking the law. In other words one law for pets. Another for farm animals.

    You might be interested in my book ON THE MENU:ANIMAL WELFARE (website ame name!) – which tells, for the most part, a horror story, NOT imagined, but something that is happening every moment of every day. It draws attention to the animals on factory farms that never see natural light; or the seasons change; or feel the earth beneath their feet. Incarcerated in vast barns their lives are automated, unnatural, controlled as they are treated as nothing more than any other farm product and become grotesque parodies of their natural selves.

    This book describes the whole production process – from before conception to the way the animals we use for food are presented on the supermarket shelves: the chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese; the laying hens, quail and the pheasants reared for sport; the pigs and lambs; the dairy cattle, beef cattle and veal calves; and also the rabbits as well as the fish and shellfish.

    Published by Pen Press and available from Amazon at £8.99; from public libraries in the UK and Ireland; and also Ingrams (in the USA).

  2. Vernon Tava says:

    You refer to an ‘army of inspectors’ available to do the Minister’s bidding. Actually there are five for the entire country.
    The vast majority of prosecutions are actually carried out by the RSPCA, funded entirely by private donations. The withholding of the location of the farm – for an entire day! – was an important part of the media strategy adopted by SAFE. They knew the standard response would be to say that these conditions were out of the ordinary.
    It had a significant impact on public opinion when it was revealed that the farm in fact belonged to a former Director of the Pork Industry Board and one of the country’s major pig farmers, Colin Kay. Not only this, the same property had been twice before inspected by MAF and found to be within the welfare codes on both occasions.
    So this wasn’t just strategy on the part of SAFE, they also knew that divulging the location of the farm to the ministry would make no difference whatsoever to the welfare of the animals kept there.
    Of course this is easy to say with 20-20 hindsight but the recent ban on sow crates would simply not have happened were it not for the media campaign run by SAFE. The majority of the New Zealand public had no idea the conditions in which pigs are kept and once it was exposed a very large number found it completely unacceptable.

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