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.
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.