MPI whitewash leaves a dirty stain on NZ’s reputation

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has, yet again, let animals down by giving a green-light to the Timaru pig farm exposed last week for breaking the law.

Footage obtained by Farmwatch volunteer investigators, which caused outrage nationwide, shows that the farm was keeping pigs in illegal sow stalls - banned in 2015 after a campaign by SAFE - as well as in farrowing crates much too small to accommodate the large animals. Many of these mother pigs (sows) were unable to even lie down without having their faces wedged under their feeding troughs and the cage bars digging into their sides.

“When MPI visited the Timaru property and reportedly found two pregnant pigs in sow stalls, they claimed that didn’t breach animal welfare legislation and just asked the farmer to move the pigs. MPI also ignored the distress the sows were in from confinement in crates clearly too small for their bodies,” says Hans Kriek.

“MPI has shown again - as if we needed any more examples – that they sit firmly on the side of farmers, even if they break the law, rather than the animals who they are mandated to protect.”

We are concerned that in addition to MPI’s failure to uphold the law, pig industry advocates have tried to muddy the waters of this clear law-breaking by renaming the illegal sow stalls ‘mating stalls’.

NZ Pork claims that the cages the pregnant pigs were filmed in were so-called ‘mating stalls’. This is clearly false.

Farmwatch footage shows one of the specific pigs (with the ear tag #60), who was first filmed in an illegal sow stall, was three weeks later found with her piglets in a farrowing crate. If she had only just been mated, this would suggest, bizarrely, that she had a gestation period of three weeks, rather than the actual sixteen-week pregnancy of pigs.

If the pork industry thinks it’s acceptable for this farmer to break the law by using sow stalls, it certainly will make people question whether any other of NZ Pork’s PigCare accredited farms are also keeping pigs in cruel and illegal conditions. Law-breaking like this not only harms the animals, it is also a bad look for our international reputation.

Our Government must act urgently to ban farrowing crates, and set up a fully-resourced independent Commission for Animal Welfare, with the power to ensure our laws are enforced.


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18 July 2018