Earlier this year Farmwatch investigated pig farming in New Zealand. We filmed horrific conditions and animal cruelty on several farms in Auckland and Christchurch. On one farm workers kicked and stomped on piglets. They beat a sow to death with a sledgehammer. It took more than an hour to kill her.
Sunday, TVNZ’s weekend current affairs show, ran two episodes with our footage. It resulted in public outcry and nationwide marches against factory farming. After this the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) contacted Farmwatch. They were eager to get a copy of our evidence and interview us about what we found. Publicly, the ministry and the Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, made it sound like they would prosecute the farms for the animal abuse we’d uncovered.
I was sceptical. I’ve been documenting appalling farm conditions for years. MPI have never been interested in our footage before. Six months later the ministry hasn’t prosecuted the farms. Even worse, MPI have effectively endorsed the cruel practices we uncovered, saying they could find no evidence of unnecessary cruelty.
Anything Nathan Guy and MPI say about cruelty on farms should be seen by the public for what it is: hot air. Not only do I believe they have been misleading the public on this I have proof they have been lying in order to attempt to discredit me.
The first Sunday expose dealt with a Christchurch farm Farmwatch had already investigated. Since our earlier investigation It was since cleared by MPI and the pork industry . Nathan Guy refused to talk to Sunday about this farm, when confronted whilst at another event Nathan Guy wouldn’t condemn the cruelty we documented. Instead he lashed out at Farmwatch saying:
“I’m disappointed that this information hasn’t gone to MPI straight away. As soon as I became aware of the property I said to MPI you need to go and inspect the property.”
The second Sunday expose used footage from a hidden camera we placed on the Auckland pig farm.
The footage showed workers kicking and stomping on piglets and beating the sow to death. For the second time, officials made it sound like a prosecution was likely. MPI director of compliance, Dean Baigent, said the footage was under investigation.
“[W]e’ve been out to the property in question and interviewed some of the key players under the Bills of Rights interview”.
Despite my concern about attempts to discredit us, another Farmwatch member and I agreed to sit down with MPI investigators to go through our footage.
In my first meeting I discussed the Christchurch footage. The investigator was thorough and I have a high degree of respect for his professionalism. But he quickly came to the conclusion that while the footage was disturbing, there was little which he could prosecute.
I wasn’t surprised in the slightest.
There is a reason people refer to factory farming as “legalised cruelty”. The industry basically wrote the pig farming “Codes of Welfare”. It allows farmers to treat pigs in ways which would result in a prison sentence if you did the same thing to your pet.
Several months after this investigation, MPI have released their findings.
“The Christchurch footage showed a rat infestation, dead piglets and a dead pig. There was no evidence of that when compliance officers investigated.
“Two independent vets viewed all the footage made available by the complainants and were unable to conclude that the rats had caused harm to the pigs, or establish how the adult pig and the piglets had died.
The Ministry for Primary Industries have also come out and decided not to press charges against the workers filmed deliberately abusing animals.
The footage of their cruelty is the most disturbing material I’ve ever seen from New Zealand. It helped spark nationwide protests against factory farming
MPI also commented on this footage saying.
“Two independent vets viewed the footage. They were unable to conclude that the pigs suffered unnecessary pain or distress or ill treatment. As a result the footage failed to provide enough evidence for a prosecution.”
This statement is bizarre. The footage shows workers hitting, kicking and beating animals. If this isn’t unnecessary pain or distress, then I have no idea what would be.
Not content to justify beating animals, they have accused me of refusing to co-operate and therefore being a barrier to any successful prosecution:
“The person who took the footage declined to provide a statement for continuity of evidence.”
My trust in MPI is so low I thought they might lie about the meeting. So I recorded our meeting. What follows is a small section of the interview:
MPI Inspector 1: What you want to confirm, you took all the footage at ******* farm, you placed and retrieved the cameras and that you hold further footage.
John Darroch: Yes.
MPI Inspector 1: Anything else that you want to say.
John Darroch: And that I am more than happy to appear in court regarding the footage.
MPI Inspector 1: Yeah, yeah.
John Darroch: And it’s authenticity.
MPI Inspector 1: Yeah.
MPI Inspector 2: This is all we really wanted to cover. That’s all.
MPI Inspector 1: What’s going to happen to this is that I’m not going to do a witness statement today, this will go into a jobsheet I will then probably draft a witness statement and send that to you and until you sign that witness statement it’s not a legal document. I will then say look there’s your witness statement if you’re happy with it sign it, if not send it back to me.
John Darroch: Yeah.
MPI Inspector 1: I think that’s pretty much (it?). Are you happy to give your full name address and details?
John Darroch: [Provides name, address and occupation].
This shows MPI are lying about this meeting. They know the public won’t be happy with their inaction and are looking for excuses.
Despite this, I will continue to co-operate with MPI in the future. I would like to stress that the law does nothing to protect animals on factory farms. It is only by outlawing factory farming that we will see an end to this legalised cruelty. Before the election Labour and the Greens agreed to phase out all factory farming – with Labour committing to have legislation in place by 2017. The cruelty we find on factory farms is therefore the responsibility of the National party. Nathan Guy must be held to account for the inaction of his ministry, and the failure of the government to end factory farming.
by John Darroch
Farmwatch New Zealand