New report finds farrowing crates unnecessary and illegalJune 7th, 2018
A new report, released today, shows the use of farrowing crates are unnecessary, illegal and harmful to New Zealand pigs. SAFE is presenting Parliament with copies of the report, as part of an ongoing campaign to ban farrowing crates, used in pig factory farming.
The report, authored by Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics, Andrew Knight is part of SAFE’s submission to the Primary Production Select Committee who are reviewing a 112,844 signature petition to Parliament, handed in in March. It was the largest petition received by Parliament in five years.
“We hope the select committee review our submission seriously and with consideration for scientific knowledge, good practice and public opinion,” says SAFE’s campaigns director Mandy Carter. “There is a legal – and ethical – obligation in New Zealand for all animals to be able to express their natural behaviour, which is currently being denied to many mother pigs.”
A farrowing crate is a cage used to house a mother pig (called a sow) when she gives birth and while she nurses her piglets. “They are the epitome of cruelty,” says Carter. “These pigs aren’t even able to turn around, they can barely take a step forward and backwards. Because of the vast size of pigs, they often rub against the crates which can cause sores.”
Green Party MP Gareth Hughes will accept a copy of the submission in his office. As the Green Party spokesperson for animal welfare, Hughes states “Factory farming practices, like farrowing crates, are unnecessarily inhumane and cruel and should not be part of our modern agricultural practices.”
Pig farmers have justified the use of farrowing crates in the past, arguing that they are necessary to “protect” piglets. Knights report reviews the current studies and literature reviews of piglet mortality. He concludes that the science does “not prove that piglet mortality is necessarily improved by farrowing crates.” Some of the largest studies show “no significant differences in piglet mortality” between farrowing crates and more humane alternatives.
Leading pig welfare scientist Dr Emma Baxter states: “in conventional crated systems there is a greater prevalence of stillbirths and starvation-related deaths, whereas in systems where the sow is kept loose crushing is the main cause of death.”
“Both Knight and Baxter show that piglet mortality is complicated,” says Carter. “SAFE’s submission shows that alternative housing systems for sows are able to provide for the welfare needs of sows and piglets. Farrowing crates are already banned in Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.”
Unlike its predecessor, this current Government revealed it would not support many factory-farming methods deemed cruel by most New Zealanders. Before the 2017 election, both the Labour Party and the Greens pledged to end the use of farrowing crates.
“The evidence is there to show that alternatives to farrowing crates are viable in New Zealand. The committee must make the right choice and ban them altogether or risk New Zealand’s reputation slipping,” says Carter.