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New Zealand Industry Challenged over Welfare

by 5m Editor
20 July 2009, at 12:38pm

NEW ZEALAND - Consumers have genuine concerns about the way their food is produced, and the New Zealand pig meat industry needs to pay attention to their concerns.

This was the message from Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Biosecurity, David Carter to the New Zealand Pork Industry Board Conference today (Monday).

Mr Carter was making his comments following a television programme in New Zealand that had sparked concern among the public and government officials about the way food is produced and the treatment of animals for food.

Mr Carter said that although investigation raised questions about the way the news was gathered by the campaign groups, there was still a fundamental issue about the concerns that consumers have over welfare issues.

"The fundamental issue still remains that consumers, particularly the discerning consumers that buy your product, have genuine concerns around the integrity of production of the food they buy, and this definitely includes animal welfare," he told the conference.

"These consumers are completely rational people whose conscience affects their purchasing decisions. This is their right and as an industry you ignore them at your peril. Proof of this was the decline in pork purchases in New Zealand immediately following the TV programme."

Mr Carter also said that the pig meat industry had another challenge about the way it responds to animal rights activists.

He said that these groups will use every means - legal and illegal - to discredit the industry and the industry has to know how to respond.

In quoting a previous agriculture minister, Jim Sutton, Mr Carter said: "You have a real opportunity here to take the initiative, to take the high ground. Stop letting other people lecture you about your industry and demonstrate your ability to lead."

He warned the pig industry not to be complacent because there was a long lead in time for the new NAWAC welfare code to be introduced in 2015.

And he added that he has called on NAWAC to review the animal welfare code, particularly concerning the use of dry sow crates an their eventual elimination.

"I would hope this work is completed by the end of the year," he said.

"I am not going to preempt this review but I have made it clear that I personally feel that the 2015 date needs to come forward significantly.

"Your industry can treat these welfare issues as an opportunity or as a challenge. I suggest opportunity.

"Because one thing is for sure: this issue ‘ain’t going away any time soon’."

You can read the full speech by clicking here.