Imports of 'unethical' pork undercutting NZ animal welfare standards, NZ Pork says


11 May 2022

Jonathan Killick

More than 3000 people have signed a petition to Parliament to ban the import of pork from countries that do not have equivalent animal welfare standards to New Zealand.

The petition was started by Frances Clement, a policy advisor to statutory industry board NZ Pork, and was presented to parliament on Tuesday by Taranaki MP Barbara Kuriger.

According to NZ Pork, more than half of the pork imported to New Zealand comes from countries like the United States, Poland and Spain, which routinely castrate male pigs without pain relief.

In New Zealand, castration is not common and can only be undertaken by a veterinarian with pain relief.

NZ Pork chief executive Brent Kleiss said cheaper “unethical” pork being imported was “undercutting” New Zealand’s efforts to improve animal welfare.

“The industry understands that there is place for imported pork, but it should have to demonstrate that it meets the same animal welfare standards that Kiwis expect from their own farmers.”

Asked if the Government should outright ban pork from some countries or impose tariffs, Kleiss said it should at least be including animal welfare standards in trade agreements.

Other standards in New Zealand not upheld in some countries included the prohibiting of keeping sows in cages during pregnancy, known as a gestation stall. The New Zealand industry also did not use growth-promoting antibiotics, Kleiss said.

Westmere Butcher owner Glen McKendry said his customers seemed to prefer New Zealand pork over imported meat.

Taranaki MP Kuriger received the petition from Frances Clement and Brent Kleiss before presenting it to Parliament this week

He said nearly all of his pork was sourced from Auckland abattoirs and he imported only a small amount of speciality products from the United States.

However, he said some butchers within the industry had difficulty obtaining New Zealand pork because not enough was produced.

About 60% of pork or 70,000 tonnes is imported each year. Kleiss acknowledged the local industry did not produce enough pork to meet demand, but hoped it would be able to in time.

The issue of animal welfare among pigs has been highlighted by recently proposed standards by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

Farrowing crates which restrict a sow's movement after giving birth have come into contention recently

Kleiss said the committee initially signalled to the industry it was seeking to change standards around farrowing crates, which restrict a sow’s movement until piglets are weaned.

However, further-reaching standards that would require larger enclosures for pigs had also been proposed, “blind-siding” the industry, he said.

Having to reconstruct pig enclosures would drive up the price of Kiwi pork products by about 18%, further highlighting the need to regulate imports to provide “a level playing field”, he said.

Kleiss hoped the petition would be referred to a select committee to consider the issue.

Both Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Associate Agriculture Minister (Animal Welfare) Meka Whaitiri were contacted for comment.