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Proposed Pork Labelling Scheme is Misleading

by 5m Editor
22 June 2010, at 8:38am

NEW ZEALAND - The Royal New Zealand SPCA is concerned that the proposed new pork industry labelling system runs the risk of misleading consumers. Proposed 'Welfare Approved' wording is confusing and will not mean the meat inside the packaging is SPCA approved.

"The proposed new labelling, developed for the New Zealand Pork Industry Board (NZPIB), is expected to carry the designation "100% NZPork Welfare Approved". However, the label is not expected to clarify whether the meat described is derived from free-range sows or from those confined in sow crates or farrowing stalls.

"We want to make it absolutely clear that this label will not mean that the meat in the packet is SPCA approved or that it's been produced in conditions that meet our welfare standards or the needs of the many thousands of New Zealanders unwilling to purchase meat derived from cruel farming methods.

The only welfare approved pork or pork products on the New Zealand market are those carrying the SPCA 'Blue Tick'. This signifies an accreditation scheme that audits farms against welfare standards specifically banning the use of sow stalls and farrowing crates. The audit is independent of any financial gain and is a guarantee that the cruel confinement of breeding sows does not occur.

"We need greater clarity and transparency in our labelling of pork and pork products. Proposed labelling prepared by the NZPIB's marketing team is woefully inadequate. Their standards continue to allow sow stalls and farrowing crates. It appears that they are not prepared to be explicit about this on their labelling" said the Royal New Zealand SPCA's National Chief Executive, Robyn Kippenberger.

"The Royal New Zealand SPCA is frustrated that the pork industry continues to fudge the issue of how meat is produced and seems intent on confusing consumers over this matter, in a bid to prolong the use of methods that should have been outlawed years ago. Not only is this an animal welfare issue but a potential breach of the Fair Trading Act. Any attempts to "mislead", "withhold information" or "exaggerate" need investigation," she added.

Sow stalls are metal cages that are used for confining female pigs during pregnancy and are too tight to allow the pig to turn around. Farrowing crates, used when the mother pig is nursing her young, are just wide enough to allow the pig to lie down. Both of these extreme forms of confinement create high stress levels amongst the pigs subjected to them.

Sow stalls and crates have already been outlawed in the United Kingdom, some other European countries and parts of the United States.

"The pork industry is doing itself no favours by prolonging the use of these methods, which are being increasingly rejected by governments and by ethical, compassionate and responsible consumers across the globe," said Ms Kippenberger.
br> "Nor is the industry making a convincing case when it talks about reducing the length of time pigs spend in confinement, as the law in its current form provides no enforcement methods and it is virtually impossible to monitor the time that any particular sow spends in a stall or crate. Pork producers need to demonstrate that they can be trusted on this issue. Their past performance would suggest otherwise.

"Unless pork producers move rapidly to get rid of all sow stalls and farrowing crates, they will lose the confidence of consumers completely and jeopardise their entire industry," Ms Kippenberger added.