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Pig Welfare Code Released; Defiance Shown

by 5m Editor
3 March 2010, at 8:46am

NEW ZEALAND - Agriculture Minister David Carter is inviting public discussion on a draft code of welfare for pigs released for consultation today.

“I am aware of the level of concern over the issue of pig welfare and this draft code is an opportunity for any person or organisation to have their say.

“Last year I asked the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) to review the code with urgency and I am pleased a draft is now out for consultation.”

Mr Carter thanked NAWAC for the priority given to the review of the code.

Animal welfare body defies farmers

Mr Carter's advisers have defied farmer opposition in the draft welfare code, reports Yahoo! Xtra News.

The draft code proposes limiting pig farmers to using farrowing crates for only four weeks after birth and limits the use of dry sow stalls after mating to four weeks from 2013, axing the use altogether by 2017.

In its original 2005 code, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (Nawac) limited the period that sows are kept in farrowing crates to six weeks and dry sow stalls to four weeks from 2015.

Mr Carter last year told a pork industry conference in Christchurch that the lead-in time to the 2015 constraint was too long.

After a TV broadcast of video taken by animal rights protesters during a break-in at a Levin piggery, Mr Carter said farmers had not done "well enough" to clean up their industry.

The new draft speeding up by three years a restriction on the use of dry stalls -- in which sows are closely confined for four weeks -- to take effect after December 2012 was supposed to have been released before Christmas.

But a threat of legal action from pig farmers delayed the release -- farmers said they would sue if the new welfare code was put out for public consultation before further talks were held with Nawac.

At the time, Mr Carter said he was "disappointed" as he had asked Nawac to review the code urgently.

Some commentators said in December the real sticking point was that the pig industry did not want a further proposal to ban the use of sow stalls altogether.

"The industry has so far indicated that it is strongly opposed to any future ban," Nawac chairman John Hellstrom said.

Today his committee said the use of dry sow stalls did not meet the obligations of the Animal Welfare Act, and the committee proposes cutting out dry sow stall use by the end of 2017.

"Use of dry sow stalls and farrowing crates should be eventually phased out," it said.

But this would require alternative management systems to be available, along with technologies delivering better animal welfare at a cost that kept NZ farmers competitive.

Some countries, such as Britain, Sweden and Finland had already banned dry sow stalls, while the Netherlands allowed them for only four days, and Switzerland for 10 days -- but all these countries imported pork from countries with lower welfare standards.

Computer modelling of the NZ industry by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry showed there was unlikely to be a significant or measurable economic impact from bringing forward the 2015 date to 2013.

Banning sow stalls will cause price rises of up to 4.7 per cent in pork, and there might be a drop in pig production of between 3.1 per cent and 6.7 per cent, with half a dozen farmers exiting the industry.

But MAF said the net cost of up to $3.9m will be borne by consumers through higher prices and reduced consumption of pork.

Some farms relying on sow stalls would be hurt and quit the industry, and the non-stall farms -- probably using group housing -- would earn higher prices for their meat.