Petition to apply equal animal welfare standards to pork fails


17 June 2023

Imported pork is not always farmed at the same standards as locally farmed pork

A petition presented to Parliament calling for imported pork to be required to meet the same welfare standards as locally produced meat has failed.

In May last year, NZ Pork policy adviser Frances Clement presented a petition to the Primary Production Committee asking for the same rules to be applied to all pork.

The petition failed this week when the committee said New Zealand could not impose welfare standards on other countries because it would breach trade agreements.

“While we understand the petitioner’s view, we accept that it would not be appropriate to impose domestic animal welfare standards on imported products. To do so would be contrary to New Zealand’s international obligations,” the committee said.

New Zealand’s approach in negotiations for free-trade agreements (FTAs) was that animal welfare standards needed to be viewed within the relevant domestic contexts.

Out of New Zealand’s 12 FTAs, only two included provisions on animal welfare. These focused on co-operation and information-sharing, rather than prescribing particular outcomes or approaches, the committee said.

Clement said she was not a pig farmer but worked closely with farmers through the development and update of four iterations of codes of welfare for pigs over almost 20 years.

“All of these code iterations have required change and investment for New Zealand pig farmers with no similar standards ever required for imported pork,” she said.

She said it was disappointing that the committee was not recommending an investigation of all avenues to address the “unfair playing field”.

“At the very least I think the committee could have provided a strong recommendation directly to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, who are responsible for the Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations 2021, to ensure that New Zealand pork can be clearly differentiated from imported pork,” Clement said.

NZPork’s chief executive Brent Kleiss the result was not completely unexpected, but the industry body was disappointed.

Kleiss said New Zealand pork farmers needed recognition for the standards they maintained.

In March Kleiss said it was hard to sell New Zealand pork to local consumers, especially during a cost of living crisis, despite NZPork’s efforts to educate the public that imported pork was cheaper in part because overseas farmers did not have to meet the same welfare standards.

“We see consumers voice their opinion that they want better animal welfare and good environmental practices, but it isn't reflected in their buying behaviour,” he said.

About 60% of pork imported into New Zealand was from countries with poorer animal welfare standards than New Zealand, he said.

Consumers had to “vote with their pockets and buy locally produced pork,” he said.