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PM Needs to be Prime Mover on Sow Welfare

by 5m Editor
26 May 2009, at 9:58am

NEW ZEALAND - The Green Party is calling on the Prime Minister John Key to intervene on the issue of sow crates.

This afternoon, the Prime Minister in response to a question from Green MP Sue Kedgley during Parliament's Question Time, hoped there would be changes to the way pigs are treated if the images he saw on TVNZ's Sunday programme were the reality of the pork industry.

At present a review of sow crates is underway. Agriculture Minister David Carter last week asked the agency that monitors farm animals' welfare - the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) - to push pig welfare up its priority list.

However, Ms Kedgley is deeply concerned at NAWAC's ability to make fair and impartial recommendations following recent comments by NAWAC's independent chairperson, retired veterinarian Dr Peter O'Hara.

Asked by a reporter, on a follow up to the initial Sunday programme, if pigs are happy in sow stalls, Dr O'Hara stated "There's no reason to think they're not." Dr O'Hara also told Sunday that for some farmers phasing out sow crates would be "a pretty substantial expense."

"Dr O'Hara seems to have made up his mind on the issue already and appears to have more concern for factory farmers pocket books than the welfare of the animals he is charged with looking out for," Ms Kedgley said.

Ms Kedgley tabled documents in Parliament today which reveal that Agriculture Minister David Carter was briefed on sow crates when he was National's agriculture spokesperson in 2005. Last week Mr Carter, when viewing images of factory farming on the initial Sunday expose, said he was unaware that sow crates were widespread in the pig industry.

Ms Kedgley also tabled a letter from the Campaign against Factory Farming lobby group which confirmed that they had briefed Mr Carter about sow crates in 2005 and sent him a copy of a peer reviewed, scientific study which concluded that the severe confinement of sows was "unacceptable" from a welfare perspective.