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