SPCA New Zealand

Have your say for pigs: help end the use of farrowing crates in NZ

30 May 2022

The Code of Welfare for pigs is being updated, and submissions are open until 8 July 2022.

Have your say for pigs: help end the use of farrowing crates in NZ

The Government is calling on New Zealanders for feedback on new welfare standards for pigs. This includes a proposal to ban farrowing crates following a successful legal challenge by the New Zealand Animal Law Association and SAFE.

Now we need you to speak up for pigs so that New Zealand pig farmers are supported to move away from the use of farrowing crates forever.

This is a chance for you to have your say on how pigs in the industry are treated, and we encourage you to make a submission.

What needs to improve for pigs?

SPCA works with Government and industry on a number of issues to improve the welfare of pigs.

Our key concerns include:

  • Farrowing crates – A farrowing crate is a stall that the sow is kept in for up to five weeks around the time of giving birth (farrowing). Farrowing crates prevent the sow from moving freely, including turning around. They are currently used on approximately 55% of New Zealand pig farms as they make animal management easier for the stockperson.

However, the use of farrowing crates causes significant animal welfare problems. For piglets, their use is associated with stillbirths, risk of mis-mothering, and a lack of enrichment and sow-piglet interaction. For sows, the crate restricts the expression of almost all normal behaviour, including nesting behaviour, and is associated with health problems such as pressure sores and lameness.

The draft Code of Welfare presents two options for phasing out farrowing crates over time: either a total ban on their use, or allowing use of farrowing crates for up to 72 hours. SPCA supports a total ban on the use of farrowing crates.

  • Pork imports – Approximately 60% of pork in New Zealand is imported. This includes imports from countries that do not have to meet our animal welfare standards - meaning that their production costs tend to be lower.

While cheap imports continue to flood the market, New Zealand farmers will struggle to make the investments needed to improve pig welfare. The production of pork using methods like farrowing crates may simply move overseas.

SPCA advocates that animal products for sale in New Zealand must be produced to welfare standards that meet or exceed New Zealand law, and must be labelled with consistent and clear labelling that enables consumers to make informed decisions.

Won't more piglets die if farrowing crates are banned?

Pork industry representatives have been using the emotive issue of piglet mortality to claim that tens of thousands more piglets may die in New Zealand each year if farrowing crates are banned.

However, large studies in countries that have already phased out the use of farrowing crates (such as Norway and Switzerland) found the mortality rate for piglets is similar to the levels achieved in indoor farms here.

Internationally, there has been significant investment and research into alternatives to the farrowing crate, such as using pens with nesting material such as straw - which protects both the piglets and the sow. You can read more about these systems here: https://www.freefarrowing.org/

Nearly half of New Zealand pig farmers already farm successfully without the use of farrowing crates.

SPCA advocates for support for New Zealand indoor pig farmers, including investment into research and training, to ensure that the move away from farrowing crates protects animal welfare and equips farmers to succeed with modern farrowing systems.

What can I do?

Email your feedback to animal.consult@mpi.govt.nz by 5pm on 24 June 2022.

We have provided a sample email below with some key points. We encourage you to amend it, add to it and make it your own – a polite personal letter has more impact.

Tēnā koe,

I am writing to make a submission on the Code of Welfare: Pigs.

As acknowledged by the Animal Welfare Act 1999, pigs are sentient animals who can feel pain and distress. We must protect their welfare. I believe that it matters how they are treated.

Farrowing crates have a significant negative impact on both sow and piglet welfare. I support Option A (Free Farrowing) in the draft code of welfare. This option phases out the use of farrowing crates and requires a farrowing area with nesting material, support for the sow when lying down, and an area for the piglets to retreat to.

I support the development of proposed regulations to set a phase-out of farrowing crates; to require nesting material for pregnant sows; and to require more space for grower pigs.

In addition, I believe that the New Zealand Government must support farmers to move away from the use of farrowing crates. Investment should be made into research and training to ensure that farmers are equipped to make the changes in time. Imports of pork should be restricted so that products that do not meet our own laws do not end up on our supermarket shelves, undermining New Zealand standards and farmers.

With other places such as the European Union banning the use of cages in farming, it is important that New Zealand protects our international reputation for high animal welfare standards, and supports our farmers to meet the standards expected by consumers.

I look forward to seeing the implementation of strong animal welfare standards for the pigs of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Ngā mihi,

Access the draft standards

All of the standards for pig welfare are being reviewed, including standards around the stocking density of grower pigs, the practice of routine tail docking, and the use of enrichment items in pens.

There may be more topics that you wish to submit on. For more detail, you can access the entire draft Code of Welfare for pigs here: https://www.mpi.govt.nz/consultations/changes-to-the-code-of-welfare-for-pigs-and-associated-regulations/

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