NZPork unveils alternative proposals to improve pig welfare - Most significant change in a generations

Media Release

16 August 2022

New Zealand’s pork sector has proposed significant changes to the way pigs are farmed as an alternative to unworkable plans proposed by the Government.

The proposals unveiled by NZPork represent the most significant changes to the industry in a generation.

They include reducing the maximum time farrowing crates can be used from the current 33 days to no more than seven, increasing the minimum space allowance for grower pigs and eliminating the use of mating stalls for housing sows.

The changes would place New Zealand’s standards beyond those required in the United Kingdom, European Union, United States, Canada, Australia and China- which collectively produce most of the world’s pork and supply most of the pork exported to New Zealand.

NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss said the industry supported the need for change but the proposals released by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) in its Draft Code of Welfare for pigs would have unintended negative animal welfare outcomes and drive many pig farmers out of business.

“While NAWAC is an expert committee, it has no expertise or understanding of pig farming.

“NZPork has worked with our technical advisors to develop alternative proposals, which are based on a rigorous in-depth review of contemporary pig welfare science and good practice. They are substantial, meaningful and collectively demonstrate welfare standards that go beyond all major pork-producing countries.”

The NZPork proposals include ensuring all sows are provided with nesting material before farrowing. To balance sow behavioural needs with piglet protection, the sows would remain in farrowing crates for up to seven days total (rather than up to 33 days as current standards allow) but no more than four days after giving birth.

The minimum space allowance for growing pigs would be increased by 13per cent.

NZPork seeks to retain an outcome-based approach to deciding when piglets should be weaned. This would better cater for the welfare needs of both sows and piglets, rather than adopting a prescribed and inflexible minimum weaning age as is proposed by NAWAC.

Mr Kleiss said NZPork’s alternatives to NAWAC’s  proposals would still be costly to implement, but they had the support of most commercial pig farmers.

“NAWAC has not considered the substantial cost to industry of its own proposals, which hasn’t been helped by their inability to agree on what represents minimum standard in some cases.

“NZPork believes the costs of NAWAC’s proposals are likely to be in the order of $10,000-$20,000 per sow on a standard farrow to finish operation, the equivalent of more than 20 years profit.

“Our own industry proposals will still need government support along with adequate time to implement change.”

NZPork is also urging the Government to require imported pork to be held to the same higher welfare standards.

“The alternatives we propose are based on sound animal welfare science and are more achievable to implement,” said Mr Kleiss.

“It would provide consumers with continued access to New Zealand-born pork, raised to high welfare standards.

“The draconian changes proposed by NAWAC are not supported by international pig welfare science. They would lead to additional piglet deaths, pig farms shutting down and force New Zealanders to rely on even greater volumes of imported pork produced using practices that are illegal in New Zealand.

“We urge the Government to work with the pig farming sector to confirm the industry-supported alternative standards and agree to an implementation plan that is achievable for pig farmers and ensure their farms remain financially viable.”

NZPork has outlined the proposed alternative approach in its submission on the Proposed Code of Welfare for Pigs and Associated Regulations. Consultation on the draft code has now closed.

The NZPork submission can be found here