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SPCA Calls for Urgent Review of Pig Code

Royal New Zealand Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals

for Release: 14 June 2006

SPCA Calls for Urgent Review of Pig Code

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New Zealand's leading animal welfare organisation has added its voice to calls for an urgent review of the government's Welfare Code for Pigs.

The Royal New Zealand SPCA says that Parliament's Regulations Review Committee should consider whether the code in its present form can be reconciled with the 1999 Animal Welfare Act, which requires animals to be treated humanely.

The code, announced in December 2004, puts-off any decision on phasing-out sow stalls till 2009 at the earliest. Used by some New Zealand pig farmers to constrain pregnant pigs, sow stalls are metal cages, so small that they prevent the animals walking or turning around.

The SPCA says an important precedent was set last month when the Regulations Review Committee referred the Layer Hen Code back to its drafting body, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), for reconsideration, citing the absence from the code of a clear date for phasing-out battery cages.

"There is an obvious case for treating the pig code in a similar manner to the Layer Hen Code, as these are very similar issues," says the SPCA's National Chief Executive, Robyn Kippenberger.

"Stalls prevent pigs from performing much of their normal behaviour. Instead, these intelligent and sensitive creatures experience all the anxiety, frustration and discomfort caused by an extreme form of confinement. As pregnancy follows pregnancy, many sows spend the greater part of their lives in these awful conditions," she says.

Both sow stalls and battery cages were permitted under their respective codes because of a provision of the 1999 Act, allowing animal welfare considerations to be waived in 'exceptional circumstances'. However, when considering the Layer Hen Code, the Regulations Review Committee did not accept that egg producers' financial reliance on battery production constituted an exceptional circumstance.

"There is even less reason to apply the 'exceptional circumstance' provision to sow stalls, as many New Zealand pig farmers manage to operate quite adequately, both from the financial and animal husbandry points of view, without recourse to this cruel form of confinement," says Robyn Kippenberger.

"We believe that it is in the long term economic interests of pig farmers and of our whole agricultural community for New Zealand to be in line with global best practice on animal welfare. Sow stalls are already banned in some countries and we need to phase them out here, if we are to stay up with the game.

"We need to remember that consumers across the globe are increasingly concerned over animal welfare issues. Our reputation as a humane and responsible country could be jeopardised if we fall behind this important international trend, with significant consequences for a very wide range of New Zealand exports," she says.

ENDS

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