The SPCA affirms it: “free-range” does not mean your poultry had a happy time down on the farm

February 23, 2012

The chooks that were cannibalised in the Wairarapa will never know it, probably, but they have died in a good cause.

They have demonstrated that “free range” on food labels has nothing much to do with animal welfare.

Alf always knew as much.

But his constituents have had this affirmed on the good authority of the SPCA, which has issued a statement on the matter in the aftermath of a free-range layer hen farm in Martinborough being abandoned by the farmers.

As was recorded here two days ago, many hens were left neglected, to fend for themselves, and they set about eating each other, but not – presumably – with fries as an accompaniment.

The SPCA got in on the act yesterday with a media statement to explain that “free range” on your food label does not necessarily show the poultry is the product of good animal welfare practices.

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And this little piggie roamed the range

May 21, 2009

The Soil & Health Association of NZ seems to be pushing things too far, in saying pig farmers who are practising humane free-range animal management deserve the benefit of Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (McoOL), and inhumane farmers need further “outing”.

“Good clear labelling on animal products including pork that shows the country of origin and farming style, should be available to New Zealand consumers who wish to choose their food ethically,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“The New Zealand pork industry which has been very disadvantaged by the lack of Country of Origin Labelling, with up to one million kg of pork imported weekly, must not let that disadvantage be used as an excuse for cruel farming practices here, but implement a labelling code of practice that supports its free-range farmers.”

But what exactly is stopping these farmers from appropriately labelling their goods themselves?

How about: “BONZER BACON – made from pigs that were born and bred in NZ, ran free, were never locked in sow crates and were happy right up until the moment the butcher cut their throats?”

If there’s a marketing advantage, as the organic buffs contend, the farmers will do nicely from this initiative.

Likewise, there’s nothing to stop them blowing the whistle to the authorites if they know of producers who are breaking the animal welfare regulations. More than that, they have a duty – surely – to do so.

So why must they press for more regulation?

Browning seems chuffed with SAFE’s (Save Animals from Exploitation) work in exposing the cruelty of battery type pig farming this week along with comedian Mike King, who – we are reminded – had previously promoted NZ Pork in advertising.

“SAFE has shown up farming practices that are often hidden by poor retail labelling that disadvantages the farmers that show responsibility with animal welfare,” said Mr Browning.

“Ambiguous and misleading labelling that hides the Country of Origin of often cruelly raised imported pork combined with little effort by retailers to source humanely raised pork has encouraged cheap and cruel farming methods.”

“Clear labelling will support consumer choice of sustainable and ethically produced foods and encourage demand for products from the better farmers. Why should those that produce with humanity and environmental care be disadvantaged by poor labelling regulations.”

Soil & Health is pressing for the “urgent implementation” of Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling in New Zealand, as happened a few months ago in the United States, along with a pork industry labelling code of practice that differentiates between free range and battery intensive raised pork.

Good on ’em.

But the Government is somewhat busy doing all sorts of other things at the moment and MCooL isn’t too high in priorities.