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Industry Supports Investigation of TV Pig Farm

by 5m Editor
18 May 2009, at 11:09am

NEW ZEALAND - A TV programme aired yesterday showing sows in stalls has caused a great deal of controversy.

The New Zealand Pork Industry says the TV programme yesterday on pig farming is not representative of the pork industry as a whole and supports the investigation of the farm at the heart of the story, according to TVNZ.

TVNZ's Sunday programme aired a story in which comedian, Mike King, along with animal activists from SAFE, broke into an intensive crate pig farm.

The images have surprised many with a message board on the issue being swamped with people expressing their shock at the practices uncovered.

Agriculture Minister, David Carter, is urging animal welfare group, SAFE, to reveal the location of the farm used in the programme 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," he says.

In a statement released today, the NZ Pork Industry says they support the Minister's call for an investigation and say the practices on the farm where the hidden camera investigation was carried out, are not standard.

"The pork industry is phasing out long-term use of sow stalls. We are more than half way there as an industry. The process will see the time reduced to four weeks, which is in the interests of the sow. This is supported by scientific research," the statement says.

But for the Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), a complete ban on sow stalls cannot come soon enough and that farmers who use the stalls and farrowing crates are "behaving in a totally inhumane and unacceptable way".

SPCA National Chief Executive, Robyn Kippenberger says the government needs to alter the Animal Welfare code to ban the practices.

"It is total nonsense for a code that is meant to reflect the humane principles of the 1999 Animal Welfare Act, to allow pigs to be kept for most of their lives in such tight conditions that they can't even turn round," Mr Kippenberger told TVNZ.

The use of sow stalls is banned in the UK and many EU countries.

The SPCA says the only way to avoid eating pork or bacon produced from these conditions is to purchase meat labelled 'free farmed' or 'free range'.

In a later development, Chris Trengrove (chairman of the New Zealand Pork Board) has offered to take the industry's former advertising frontman, Mr King to check on more pig farms.

Mr Trengrove agreed to an invitation by Close Up presenter, Mark Sainsbury, to accompany the programme on random checks of other pig farms on 19 May.

Animal rights activist, Hans Kriek, of SAFE says he will go along as well.

Mr Trengrove commented to TVNZ that he has not been on a pig farm in that condition and he supports the Minister of Agriculture investigating that farm.

He added that over half the sows in New Zealand are free-range outdoors or stall-free. He says the industry has been moving away from the use sow stalls for some years down to a point where they will be used for four weeks, for the safety of the sow.

He says when sows are confined in buildings after they have been weaned, they can be very aggressive to each other and stalls are the safest place for them.

Meanwhile in Wellington today, protesters set up outside the Pork Board. And in Christchurch, animal rights campaigners targeted the office of Agriculture Minister, David Carter, who yesterday admitted he did not know it was happening.

Dr Peter O'Hara of the National Animal Welfare Committee who advises the minister on how pigs should be treated commented that pigs need to be contained for their own safety.

In another twist, the Pork Board has postponed the long awaited Best Bacon Awards – due to take place on 20 May – while the debate rages, concludes the TVNZ report.