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New report finds farrowing crates unnecessary and illegal

June 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.

 

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