Minister of Agriculture misled the public

Written By: - Date published: 5:59 pm, May 26th, 2009 - 16 comments
Categories: animal welfare - Tags:

It seems the Minister of Agriculture David Carter misled the public regarding his knowledge of the use of sow crates in pig farming, when he stated on the Sunday Programme on May 17th, “No I didn’t know to the extent to which they were confined other than for farrowing purposes”

During question time in the house today, Green MP Sue Kedgley tabled a letter sent to David Carter in 2005 while he was the opposition spokesperson for agriculture. The letter was from Dr Michael Morris, and detailed a meeting they had had regarding the factory farming of pigs and chickens. Attached to this letter was a scientific peer-reviewed New Zealand publication “reviewing sow welfare and concluding that severe confinement of sows is unacceptable from a welfare perspective”.

Sue Kedgley also tabled eight emails sent to David Carter by constituents before the Sunday Programme, outlining their concerns regarding the intensive confinement of sows in crates. Four of these emails were sent while David Carter was opposition spokesperson on agriculture, and four were sent after he became Minister. At best he was negligent in not following up concerns from constituents, some of whom live in his electorate. The alternative is that he was lying.

Prime Minister John Key also showed his ignorance in the house today. The following is from transcripts of question time today:

Sue Kedgley: Does he have confidence in his Minister of Agriculture, who told the nation on television last week that he had no idea sow crates were widely used in New Zealand, when in fact he was briefed on the issue of sow crates by representatives from the Campaign Against Factory Farming in 2005, provided with a scientific publication concluding that the severe confinement of sows in crates was unacceptable from a welfare perspective, and received numerous e-cards from members of the public pointing out that thousands of pregnant sows are cruelly confined in sow crates; if so, why?

Hon JOHN KEY: Notwithstanding that that question went on just about longer than the documentary on Sunday, the answer is yes, I have complete confidence in the Minister of Agriculture.

Sue Kedgley: Further to his comments that he found the images screened on the Sunday programme very, very disturbing, does he find it even more disturbing to discover that this is in fact a legal and normal practice in the pig industry, and will he be advising his Minister of Agriculture to ban sow crates as soon as possible, on the grounds that they are cruel?

Hon JOHN KEY: As the member will know, the Minister of Agriculture is looking at that issue. It is also important to note that a pig code was established in 2005 and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee is considering that issue at the moment. Those who sit on that board include members from the SPCA and Federated Farmers. If the images that were displayed on the Sunday programme are in any way a reflection of the industry in New Zealand, then I will expect changes to be made to that code and to the industry.

Exactly what further evidence does the Prime Minister need that the use of sow crates is widespread in pig farming? He needs look no further than the current Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare, or the National Animal Welfare Advisory committee (NAWAC).

The Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare says the minimum area for pregnant sows in individual stalls is 1.20m2 (0.6m x 2.0m), and that sows must be able to “stand comfortably in their natural stance and be able to lie comfortably on their sides”. Apparently it isn’t necessary for them to be able to turn around, walk, or do anything else.

On the most recent Sunday Programme the current Chair of NAWAC Peter O’Hara said, “It could be that what you saw represented pretty old-style systems, um but um the more modern ones of that style um are of a similar type.”

NAWAC is the organisation responsible for the current Code of Welfare, and the review to take place later this year. That combined with the ignorant comments from both the Minister of Agriculture and the Prime Minister, can we really have any hope of significant change?

– Rochelle Rees

16 comments on “Minister of Agriculture misled the public”

  1. Look. Enough of this.

    NO- ONE with a passing interest in the national zeitgeist could NOT KNOW about the hideous industrial intensive farming. Of pigs. Of chix. Of any damn deli on legs.
    Mike KIng is a man about town with some smart friends.

    He has always known.

    All politicians have known.

    Proving it is one thing but with risk of making an ass of an assumption: WE ALL KNOW.
    Out of sight out of mind (off the headlines) is how we function.

    I’ve joked that Mikes management needed a new gig and went for the free-range pitch….

    • Richard 1.1

      In saying that people knew about this does not mean that they agreed with it. John Key, in stating that the SPCA sits on the NAWAC board that established the code, insinuates that SPCA were okay with it!! Truth is that they have always campaigned against it. Just that the media didn’t seem interested. Shame that it took a minor celeb comedian to get some traction with this issue.
      That said, I cannot believe for a moment that David Carter, a farmer and agriculture minister, did not know how widespread the practice was.

  2. the sprout 2

    it was pretty obvious from the interview at the time that David Carter was caught unawares and incapable of dealing with the situation, out of his depth, talking out of both sides of his mouth, and as thick as, ah, pig shit.

    yet another weak link in the National chain for the Opposition to work away on. at this stage they’re getting spoilt for suitable targets. hopefully Safe can continue to exploit Carter’s ineptitude.

    • gingercrush 2.1

      What opposition? Mr. Anderton who acts as Labour’s spokesperson on Agriculture is absolutely quiet and hasn’t said a thing about this issue other than agreeing with someone on National Radio (The Panel).

      And you really shouldn’t go round calling other people thick as pig-shit. You yourself are so alienable you actually believe the lies you spout (or should that be sprout) out.

      • the sprout 2.1.1

        ouch gc, you are so very sharp 🙂

      • What opposition?

        Do you not include the Greens as being part of the opposition? But yes, Labour (and their non-Labour agriculture spokesperson) have been disappointingly silent on this issue. Do we not deserve to know their views?

        The only Labour MP as far as I am aware to have made any public comments on this issue is Grant Robertson on Backbenchers last week. Likewise David Shearer made comments against factory farming at the Quad debate last week. It would be good to know whether or not the party as a whole supports the views of Grant Robertson and David Shearer.

        • gingercrush 2.1.2.1

          Yes the Greens are part of the opposition. But I consider their role in the house to be different. They don’t act as a traditional opposition. While Labour and National when they’re in opposition will typically ask questions that are set to undermine the government. The Greens typically use questions to further their green causes. Animal Welfare is of course a very Green cause.

  3. toad 3

    Um, you came to the same conclusion I did “Guest Post”.

    Carter is bullshitting. Well done Dr MIchael Morris for exposing him Carter.

    • Nice, but I got in first 😉 I also support your second conclusion – if you want your vote to be about animal welfare, the only party to vote for is the Greens, as they are the only party in parliament with an animal welfare policy!

  4. Zaphod Beeblebrox 4

    You can hardly blame the current minister for the situation when it has been tolerated by government, industry and the public for years.
    Had he admitted he knew he would have been lynched by the pig producers and the NFF and probably quietly moved out of his job at the next reshuffle.
    Hopefully we can all grow up and admit the truth.

    • Had he admitted he knew he would have been lynched by the pig producers and the NFF and probably quietly moved out of his job at the next reshuffle.

      So it was right for him to lie?

      And no, I don’t blame the current government for the current situation, however I do blame them for their denial of the current situation, and for refusing to promise to change anything.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 4.1.1

        No it is never acceptable for a public official to lie. I was just explaining his motivations.
        If he did lie under Westminster convention he should resign.
        He is not the only one in denial.
        Check out the NZFSA (NZ Food authority), NZVA (Veterinary Association) and MAF websites- you won’t find any objective comments there.

  5. Chris g 5

    Typical, what a tosser. You know none of them care aswell regardless of what they say. too many federated farmers and too many ‘market should decide’rs rearing down their backs to change their ways.

  6. toad 6

    Good on you Rochelle! You’ve taken this issue much further than I managed.

    Guess I’m a bit of a lazy blogger, but still very committed to animal rights,

    And thanks for the cool stuff re Sue Kedgley’s efforts, which I’d also missed.

  7. lprent 7

    Ok Rochelle – you were right. It needed to go in without the break. I’ve removed it….

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