Pig farming changes: Pacific community may struggle to afford pork for cultural events

NZ Herald

6 July 2022

A pig's head or a whole pig is usually the main delicacy provided at cultural events in the Pacific community. Photo Dean Purcell

A Tongan community leader says proposed changes to pig farming could result in many Pacific families struggling to afford whole pigs for cultural events.

Auckland-based Pasifika leader Melino Maka said the Government's new draft code of welfare for pigs would markedly reduce the availability of pork raised in New Zealand and therefore impact consumers.

The changes being proposed include a ban or significant limitation on the traditional use of farrowing crates, changes to the minimum space allowance for grower pigs and having the minimum weaning age of 28 days for piglets.

Farrowing systems see a sow's (mother pig) movement restricted - even turning around. Welfare groups say it is a cruel practice.

But farming experts say it significantly reduces the main cause of piglet deaths including hypothermia, starvation and being accidentally crushed by their mother.

Those in the industry have expressed that many farmers would be forced out of business or would have to markedly reduce the number of sows they can care for in a bid to stick with the rules - meaning less pigs or people choosing to buy imported pork instead.

Maka said the changes would also mean that many families would simply be unable to afford whole pigs; which are widely used for traditional cultural and family events such as weddings, funerals, birthdays and over Christmas.

"Having a whole pig for significant events is an intrinsic part of Pasifika culture.

Concerns about backyard pig sellers

"We are worried these higher costs and reduced numbers of New Zealand-born and raised pigs will make it difficult to source whole pigs."

Maka, also the chair of the Tongan Advisory Council, said he was concerned that an independent report commissioned by the Government showed people would need to pay at least 18.8 per cent more for their Kiwi-sourced pork in order to cover pig farmers' costs, if the changes went ahead.

There was also a worry that because of those high prices, members of the community may look to other means to find cheaper whole pigs.

"We are concerned it could result in community members sourcing whole pigs more cheaply and easily from unregulated backyard sellers - with associated health risks and no assurances around the pig's welfare," he said.

"It is illegal to sell or trade home kill meat in New Zealand. We urge the Government to consider the impact of these proposals on our community."

Pig farmers have set up a website calling on the public to support them.

"New Zealand pig farmers are facing unprecedented changes to the way they farm," the website reads.

"These changes could result in the deaths of thousands of additional piglets, pig farms shutting down and force Kiwis to rely on even more imported pork."

People are being urged to get behind Kiwi pig farmers by emailing the Ministry for Primary Industries directly to show their support for the pork industry.

Consultation on the proposed changes ends on Friday.