MAF investigation report released

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, July 3rd, 2009 - 15 comments
Categories: animal welfare - Tags:

MAF has released the final report of their investigation into the pig farm owned by former Pork Board Director Colin Kay, exposed on the Sunday programme in May.

As all those who knew anything about the Animal Welfare Act and subsidiary Codes of Welfare predicted, the farm in question has been found to be operating within the law. SAFE‘s reasoning for wanting to keep the focus on intensive pig farming in general rather than some sideshow about the supposed ‘rogue farm’ has been validated.

The veterinarian commissioned by MAF concludes in his report:

While the present tone of public sentiment maybe strongly disapproving of intensively housed and reared pigs, the fact is that I found no evidence on this property of non-compliance with or breaches of the Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare (2005)’ in it’s current form.

The Director of MAF Enforcement states in the Final Information Report:

A lot has been said recently through the media and the general community around the practice of farming pigs intensively. I make no comment as to the morality or otherwise for such a practice other than to state that where a code of welfare in the circumstances is being complied with then that it is the law and enforcement agencies would be foolhardy unless there are numerous other culpable practices occurring, to suggest any criminal liability could be attached to those who are at the time responsible for the animal’s care.

And concludes:

Given there were no breaches of the Act or the Code of Welfare (Pigs) 2005 identified when the Investigator and veterinarian inspected the premises on the 19 May 2009 there is no value or justification in progressing this matter further.

It is therefore my recommendation that the matter now be closed.

It would be unfair to attack MAF for their conclusions. They make no judgment about the ethics of intensively confining pigs, as that is not their job. They are law enforcers, not law makers, and must therefore simply uphold the law as it currently stands.

Both Minister of Agriculture David Carter, and Prime Minister John Key have publicly stated that the conditions on the farm were concerning, and that they would act if the practice was found to be widespread. MAF’s investigation report has a great analysis of the law as it currently stands and therefore why these practices are currently legal. It will be interesting to see the government’s response to this report.

The Minister has previously stated that his preferred option is to wait for NAWAC’s review which will most likely begin some time before the end of the year. There are a few concrete reasons why I disagree with him, the most important of which is that the Animal Welfare Act 1999 in its current form has loopholes that need to be tidied up. Those loopholes are what allow the current (Pigs) Code of Welfare to exist, despite breaching principles in the over-arching Act.

Animal Welfare should not be a partisan issue, and aside from regulation being inconsistent with a free-market ideology, I do not believe it is a left or right wing issue. From what I can gather, the majority of MP’s in both Labour and National are opposed to intensive factory farming. Unfortunately there is a minority of MP’s in both parties who seem to hold the balance of power on animal welfare issues. Perhaps those who put ethics above economics just don’t see animal welfare as enough of a priority to bother fighting for it. Someone needs to. Now.

15 comments on “MAF investigation report released”

  1. Given the demands here yesterday for Key to apologise or at least say he was wrong about “hip hop tours”, it’s not unreasonable to expect that you will be furiously writing a letter of apology to Mr Kay who has done nothing illegal.

    Mind you, you could ask the Treasury for advice on how to write a letter of apology.

    • rocky 1.1

      Read my previous posts on this issue and tell me what you consider warrants an apology. I don’t get it…

      • Daveski 1.1.1

        See below. In my view, Kay was painted as a villain as part of the activity. I understand the strategy but Kay was definitely hung up to dry. I’m supportive of your wider principle but it is an interesting approach to say you can target people who are doing legal things but a sector of society believes it is unethical. And felix thinks I’m asleep 🙂

        • Pascal's bookie

          Fairly standard approach though isn’t it?

          To use your example of the religious right, they try to paint their opponents as villains as a matter of course. “culture of death” “murder” “baby killers” etc.

          In this case I don’t think they personalised it all. They just showed footage of the farm.

          • Daveski

            I’ve just read what I think was the original post. I think I owe rocky an apology as it would seem reasonably clear that she hasn’t personalised the case. So apology offered.

            The media of course picked up the issue and I suppose that was how Kay got painted as the villain. (I’ve just scooted down and see that Rocky thinks he’s a villain so perhaps I need another cup of coffee to keep up).

            It was an incredibly successful campaign tho!

            • rocky

              Thanks Daveski. I consider Colin Kay a villain and think I have given fairly good reasons for that. But agree wholeheartedly that the biggest villain is the government (previous and current) for not doing anything.

            • Maynard J

              And recall SAFE did not want to tell anyone which farm it was, because of this likely outcome. They were almost defending Kay, and saying “we know this is probably legal, but it is wrong, so focus on the wrong, not the legal.”

              At the time, the right attacked SAFE as uncaring because they would not say which farm it was. Go figure.

        • rocky

          So you can’t think of any examples in life generally where someone is acting lawfully but unethically? You can’t think of any cases where you would see that person as a villain? I can think of countless in worker/employment situations, parent/child situations, and more where I would absolutely see a party who is acting lawfully as a villain.

          As for supporting our wider principle but not the targeting, how exactly were we supposed to expose the conditions of pig farms without using any specific examples or footage?

          Also note that SAFE were quite happy to not make it about the individual farmer. It was for that reason they said they didn’t want to name the farm or give its location. They wanted the issue to stay focused on these practices in general. It was David Carter (the minister) who accused SAFE of being irresponsible for initially refusing to say where this “rogue farm” was.

          Perhaps try reading my previous posts before arguing points I have already covered?

        • rocky

          Forgot to mention too, Colin Kay was until last year a Director of the Pork Board. The Pork Board drafted the current (Pigs) Code of Welfare. He’s perhaps a little more responsible than just some poor pig farmer who doesn’t know better.

  2. felix 2

    Sorry Dave but you’ve missed it completely.

    The whole point of the complaints by rocky and others was that this farm was nothing out of the ordinary.

    The fact that the practices exposed on the Sunday program are legal is the point of the protest – the law needs changing.

    I know it’s not even noon yet but come on mate, wakey wakey.

  3. Felix

    I think you’re underestimating me which is always reassuring 🙂

    I understand that. In fact that is the issue – as rocky says it’s about ethics not the law. In fact, credit to rocky (two days in a row) she’s posted a decent summary which raises interesting issues.

    My point is that this is a dodgy place to be … what if the scary religious right decide something is ethically wrong and decides to take action based not on the law but their view of what is wrong or right?

    I actually agree with the point that rocky is making about the practice but Kay was painted as a the villain where in reality he’s been a victim. Unless, as I point out above, you believe ethics and morality is more important than the law. That is my point – Kay was painted as the villain.

    Mate, I’m on my second coffee so I suspect you might have slept in 😉

    PS Bet you didn’t expect my iPod to have PE either 🙂 See, don’t make assumptions.

    Anyway, according to Wendall, I’m a bore and you guys walk over me so I’d better assume the position.

    • Maynard J 3.1

      Maybe Key should take a few sow crates over with him through the Pacific on a pig-hop tour. They would pretty up the atmosphere on the plane and give him a good few thoughts on morality.

    • rocky 3.2

      1. Colin Kay is a villain. He may be acting within the law, that doesn’t make it acceptable.

      2. Sometimes ethics are above law, and in this case, the only reason a law was broken is that it was the only way to expose the issue. Pretty much every single time you have seen footage of pig farms or battery hen farms it has come from animal rights activists breaking the law to get it. Without it, the non-extreme public education type campaigns wouldn’t work.

      3. Factory farming is technically illegal, as it breaches principles of the Animal Welfare Act. Codes of Welfare set minimum standards under the Act for specific industries or practices. Section 73 of the AWA allows Codes of Welfare to breach the Act in exceptional circumstances, which is how NAWAC is justifying Sow Crates and Battery Hen Cages.

      The Regulations Review Committee of Parliament found that the way Section 73 is being interpreted is incorrect, as in the case of Battery Cages they couldn’t see any exceptional circumstances, but also they found that that clause should never be used indefinitely, and would have envisaged a transition period. They were ignored.

      So while Sow Crates and Battery Hen Cages are technically illegal, meeting the minimum standards in a Code of Welfare, even if that Code of Welfare is in breach of the law, is a defense under the law.

      Oh and that was without coffee and I did sleep in.

  4. felix 4

    Morning Dave, I never find you a bore. (You’re always wrong about everything but that’s another matter 🙂 )

    I guess what I meant to say is that if Kay has been painted as a villain it hasn’t been by rocky or SAFE or the activists involved as they never tried to say he was unique.

    If anyone accused him of breaking the law, then sure, an apology would be in order. I haven’t seen rocky make that accusation though.

    Righto, I’d better go get a coffee in me before I start jumping to conclusions. Fight the power.

    • Daveski 4.1

      Yep, I noted above that rocky, SAFE et al hadn’t targeted Kay by name but the media did it for them.

      Anyway, I’ll stop jumping to conclusions but listen for lessons I’m saying inside my posts that the critics are blasting me for.

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