Tomorrow evening SAFE is holding a pre-election debate on Factory Farming in Wellington. The participants are Shane Ardern (National), Trevor Mallard (Labour), Mojo Mathers (Greens), Richard Prosser (NZ First) and Miriam Pierard (Internet).
Factory farming has featured prominently in the news this year after repeated exposes by Farmwatch on New Zealand pig farms. SAFE has taken to social media to get input from the public on the questions to be asked. You can suggest your question on the Facebook event page and SAFE will compile the best ones
It is my view that all of our political parties have questions to answer on the issues. Here is the key question I would ask each candidate:
Last week Labour announced their “Protecting Animals’ Rights” policy. For the first time Labour have signaled that they are taking animal welfare issues seriously. They still have a lot of questions to answer however about exactly what their policy means. Does their definition of “intensive farming” include pig fattening pens, broiler chicken farming, enriched colony cages for layer-chickens and the smaller scale factory farming of dairy cows and ducks and turkeys? Or is it narrowly defined only as including sow crates, farrowing crates and battery hen farming? The big thing I want to see come out of this debate is a clear picture of where Labour stands on animal welfare issues and their policy to be articulated clearly, without ambiguity, so we can hold them to account for it post-election should there be a change of government.
Labour’s “Protecting Animals’ Rights” policy is available here and includes the following statement on intensive farming:
Labour will work to abolish inhumane intensive farming practices. We will aim to have legislation passed by the end of 2016, which phases out intensive farming.
The worst practices including sow and farrowing crates will end immediately but others such as chicken farming will take longer.
The Green Party has always been strong in their support for positive animal welfare policies. So much so that SAFE invited former Green Party spokesperson on animal welfare, Sue Kedgley, to MC the debate. As the current Green Party spokesperson on animal welfare Mojo Mathers has continued to strongly advocate on animal welfare issues in Parliament. The question I would like to see put to the Greens is how high up the priority list animal welfare policy will feature in any post-election coalition negotiations.
The current National government reluctantly agreed to phase out sow stalls after the issue gained traction in 2009 following Mike King’s appearance on the Sunday Program. 5 years on pigs are still suffering and groups like Farmwatch continue to expose the atrocities on factory farms. The Minister for Primary Industries, Nathan Guy, is still running the “rogue farm” line and refusing to acknowledge that there are any industry wide issues on pig farms. Nathan Guy is unavailable to attend the debate so the chair of the Primary Production Committee, Shane Ardern, is attending in his place. As chair of the Primary Production Committee Shane Ardern is well-versed on animal welfare and agricultural issues and therefore is well placed to speak for the National Party on these issues. The question for the National Party should be why they have introduced a new form of factory farming – Colony Cages for layer hens – at a time when an overwhelming majority of New Zealander’s want to see factory farming end.
New Zealand First has no specific policy on factory farming but suggested, in their response to the Animal’s Agenda campaign, that they have faith in NAWAC – The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee that continues to put forward Codes of Welfare that do not comply with the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act includes a requirement (as one of the five freedoms) for animals to have the opportunity to “display natural patterns of behaviour”. Battery hen cages were determined (by the Regulations Review Committee in 2005) to be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act. Other factory farming practices have the same issue – the basic inability for animals to display natural patterns of behaviour. The big question for NZ First is whether they would endorse a ban on practices that do not meet the minimum standards laid out in the Animal Welfare Act.
As the new player in New Zealand’s political scene the Internet Party has started strong on animal welfare, endorsing all ten of the policies advocated by the Animal Agenda campaign. My perception of Internet/Mana’s endorsement of key animal welfare policies will rest on how much their candidate, Miriam Pierard appears to have engaged with and come to understand the issues. Is their stance a convenient way to gain the support of issues groups or is there some real substance to their stance?
I hope to see many of you at the debate tomorrow night.
WHERE: St Andrew’s on The Terrace
WHEN: Wednesday 3rd September 6.30pm
Declaration: I have been helping SAFE to organise this debate however I do not speak for SAFE. The views expressed in this post are entirely my own and SAFE should not be held responsible for them.