Pig farmers say new Govt proposals could 'wipe out the industry'


29 April 2022

Alexa Cook

The pork industry is worried new proposed Government regulations for pig farmers will result in 60,000 piglet deaths a year.

Sows are kept in the crates for the final days of pregnancy and while the piglets are suckling. Pig farmer Jason Palmer says it's for their safety.

"It enables the sow to sit down gently and then lay down without crushing the piglets."

But SAFE's chief executive Debra Ashton says the crates are cruel.

"These systems don't allow them to display normal patterns of behaviour and allow a mother pig to raise her young in a way she would naturally want to do."

In 2020, a High Court found the use of farrowing crates for pigs unlawful and ordered new legislation to phase them out.

The proposed changes include banning farrowing crates or restricting their use for only 72 hours after birth; increasing the amount of space where young pigs live; and weaning piglets no earlier than 28 days old.

Animal welfare groups want the crates banned.

"We want to stick with option one, which is to phase out farrowing crates entirely," says Debra Ashton.

However, NZ Pork CEO Brent Kleiss says that's not what animal welfare science supports, and that more consultation on the new regulations is needed.

"We definitely don't feel that farmers who actually work in the industry and know how this works in practice have had a say at all in developing these, and that's very disappointing."

The pork industry claims the Government has failed to consider piglet welfare, and points out that the US, Australia and Canada use crates the way New Zealand does.

It says of the 600,000 pigs born here each year, 60,000 will die if farrowing crates are banned - that's one in 10.

"Piglets easily can be stood on or laid on, some mothers are better than others, and it just can end up in a fatality," says Palmer.

Animal Welfare Minister Meka Whaitiri wasn't available for an interview, but said in a statement she acknowledges the proposals could mean significant changes for the industry, and that she's committed to working with them.

"I've been open with NZ Pork and met them several times because I know this is very important," she told Newshub.

"I've let them know, I think it's important we find a way to balance high animal welfare standards with a productive primary sector, taking into account the thoughts of both those who work in the New Zealand pork industry, and consumers."

However, the sector worries farmers will quit and there'll be an increase in imported pork from countries with lower animal welfare standards.

"These changes, if implemented, could wipe out the industry," says Kleiss.

Consultation closes in eight weeks.