Bid to Free Caged Pigs and Chickens Slammed

NEW ZEALAND - The Government is opposing a bill which aims to free chickens and pigs from constraining cages.
calendar icon 14 September 2010
clock icon 4 minute read

"We shouldn't be treating these animals as mere egg producing and meat producing machines"
Hans Kriek, SAFE campaign director

Citing NZPA, reports that Green Party MP Sue Kedgley's Animal Welfare Amendment (Treatment of Animals) Bill focuses on tightening the Animal Welfare Act and eliminating loopholes that allow practices such as sow crates and battery hen cages.

Agriculture Minister David Carter told NZPA the Government would not be supporting the bill, as it would mean challenges for New Zealand farmers.

"The way the bill has been written is problematic and would probably stop the transportation of any group of animals from a farm to a meat processing company, for example," he said.

"You've got to decide whether you want a pork industry and a chicken industry in New Zealand. If we make it so difficult for farmers to farm chickens and pork, then New Zealand will ultimately rely entirely on imported pork. And we will have no control on the way that pork is farmed in other countries. It's a matter of being very balanced."

The lack of support will come as a blow to animal welfare advocates who today, alongside comedian Mike King and actress Rose McIver, appealed to all MPs to back the bill.

Representatives from the Royal New Zealand SPCA, SAFE, and World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), held a press conference this afternoon, hoping the bill will pass its first reading on September 22, and head to a select committee.

"What we've ended up with is an Act that pretends to protect the interest of animals, but really it protects for the most part the interest of farmers. That's why my bill is so important. It's strengthening the Animal Welfare Act. It's removing the loopholes in the Act," Ms Kedgley said.

Her bill would also give the Minister of Agriculture power to amend any Code of Animal Welfare to prevent the suffering of animals, and include an animal's freedom of movement as a physical need.

It has the support of the Labour Party, the Maori Party and United Future.

SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek said it would be a disgrace if the bill were not allowed to be debated at the select committee.

The bill has the power to help more than 20,000 crated sows and three million caged hens, which are denied the opportunity to express their normal patterns of behaviour such as walking, foraging, nest building and mothering their young, he said.

"I think it's appalling that we keep animals like this," he said. "We shouldn't be treating these animals as mere egg producing and meat producing machines."

Freedom Farms co-founder Gregor Fyfe, who also was at the press conference today, said that though stopping the use of cages would be challenging for farmers, it could be done.

"Times are changing. Cheap is something of the past. Consumers are willing to pay a little bit more to have animals farm more naturally and there are ways of doing it," he said.

Mr Carter said free range was certainly an option, but it was considerably more expensive.

"I believe we should encourage free range farming, but the consumers have to be prepared to pay the additional cost."

Mr Carter said the Government has an Animal Welfare Act review scheduled for next year.

In March, National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (Nawac) released a draft welfare code for pigs, which proposes to limit pig farmers to use 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.

Mr Carter is expected to receive the final report soon.

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