Pig farmers fear animal welfare proposals could doom industry

Source: 1News

Pig farmers fear they could be put out of business if new animal welfare proposals are approved.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) have proposed around a 100 new changes, but farmers are most concerned about new rules for pig spacing limits, farrowing crates and the weaning age for piglets.

These proposals only apply to local pork, so imported pork goods don't need to meet the same standards, farmers here say it would give overseas competitors a huge advantage.

Pig farmer Sean Molloy said the changes could be the end for his family farm that’s been operating for 41 years.

"I feel like a stunned mullet, still trying to process it all because the changes are so crazy, it’s going to be hard to survive after this, there's definitely going to be people drop out of the industry."

Chief executive of SAFE Debra Ashton supports the changes.

"Farrowing crates are cruel, they do not provide for the health and physical health of mother pigs they only give a mother pig the ability to stand up or lay down, she can’t turn around she's completely confined in these crates,” she said.

“New Zealand has a really good opportunity here to take a strong position and lead in animal welfare show the rest of the world that we do care about our animals.”

NZ Pork says implementing the changes could cost the average farm more than $2.5 million and increase local pork prices by nearly 20%.

NZ Pork’s chief executive Brent Kleiss said the committee is out of touch with the industry.

"They have just gone way another level above where anything is happening internationally at this stage," he said.

“As an industry are prepared to change and have demonstrated we have done before, we have removed gestation crates since 2015, we have a pig care welfare programme and we want to keep moving.

“Where we disagree is the share magnitude with this code which puts our producers at a sever disadvantage internationally, there is a double standard with what’s coming into the country.”

The review of the industry follows a high court victory for campaigners two years ago.

NAWAC chair Dr Gwyneth Verkerk said the changes will be hard for farmers.

“We are strongly mandated to only look at the animal welfare issues, we can consider we can take into account economics and other issues, but we have to provide standards that meet the act, that’s our bottom line," she said.

“It's hard because you know that the impact of what is being proposed is going to cause some significant pain so it goes back to a plea to New Zealanders to buy New Zealand pork products, if the industry can do the transformation required and had the good strong local base to support it, that would be awesome.”

The Government has extended consultation on the proposals to July 8.