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SAFE Op-Ed: Nadia Crighton - Snout it OUT!

Snout it OUT!

Op-Ed By Nadia Crighton
7 December 2007

From celebrities to MPs everyone is jumping on the barn-wagon to stand up for our pigs. Nadia Crighton investigates.

When most of us think of pigs we imagine Babe, the sweet-hearted farm pig who touched the hearts and souls of all who watched him bravely round up assertive sheep.

The truth is that many pigs do not live the wonderful farm life splashed on our television screens. In fact, the majority of pigs farmed in New Zealand are forced to endure squalid, horrendous conditions. This is why SAFE, New Zealand's most proactive animal advocacy organisation, is educating the community on the suffering of pigs with their Love Pigs campaign.

You may have seen the emotionally charged advertisement on TV3 and Sky Digital which shows images of a sad sow forced to live in inhumane conditions. These images have put the spotlight back on an industry in desperate need of change.

SAFE’s Love Pigs campaign is catching the attention of many celebrities worldwide. As a result many are passionately sticking their best snout forward in hope of changing the way pigs are farmed.

Fleur Saville from the cast of Shortland Street was heartbroken to read about the cruel way pigs are treated in this country. “This is despite the fact that New Zealanders are from a nation with a strong farming background. There is no need to treat pigs - or any animals - badly,” she says. “Factory farming is cruel and should not be tolerated.”

Ms Saville is not the only famous face that factory pig farming has angered. Well-known television personality and Dancing with the Stars winner, Suzanne Paul, is also outraged. “I feel absolutely dreadful thinking about those poor pigs. What a shameful way to be treated,” she tells SAFE. “Those people that treat these intelligent creatures this way should be ashamed of themselves. There’s nothing natural about factory farming.”

But many of you may be asking “What exactly is so bad about factory farmed pork products?” The facts are cold and hard!

Over 22,000 pregnant sows are forced to endure horrendous conditions inside sow stalls in New Zealand. These stalls typically measure 60 centimetres wide by two metres long — this is just a fraction bigger than the sow herself and how much space she has really depends on how large she gets during her 16 week pregnancy. This is, of course, if the stall is up to specifications, which in some cases they are not.

SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek was horrified when MAF recently ignored farmers who were breaking the law with regards to stall sizing. "Based on the reaction from the pig industry we expect that there are a large number of pig farms in New Zealand that use stalls less than 60 centimetres wide, which breaks the law," says Mr Kriek.

Instead of roaming the paddocks looking for a nice place to make a nest for her beloved piglets, the pregnant factory farmed sow is confined to her stall, struggling to lie down on the cold concrete floor. She’ll possibly exhibit bizarre behaviour such as biting the bars of her stall in frustration. As her pregnancy comes to an end the desperate sow will scratch and nuzzle the concrete in an attempt to of make a comfortable bed for her babies. She may spend all of her pregnancy inside one of these stalls or be moved late in her pregnancy to a farrowing crate where she will give birth. Sadly her piglets will be taken from her at four weeks of age, the grieving sow will be impregnated again and her life in the stall will begin over.

James Cromwell, who played Farmer Hoggett in the movie Babe, strongly advocates against the factory farming of pigs. “Making the movie Babe opened my eyes to the intelligence and the inquisitive personalities of pigs,” he says. “That’s why it’s so heartbreaking that pigs used for breeding spend day after day, month after month, inside concrete and steel ‘sow stalls’ and ‘farrowing crates’. Would you subject your dog or cat to similar conditions?”

Back on Kiwi turf, Ruban Nielson of the Mint Chicks was so outraged by the cold hard facts that he can no longer eat pork products. "I was shocked to find out that such a huge percentage of the pork on the market is treated in such a ridiculously cruel way. I can't eat it now."

Celebrity gossip columnist, author and television personality, David Hartnell, is also adding his distinguished name to helping the pigs. “I'm absolutely and utterly opposed to the factory farming of pigs,” he passionately tells SAFE. “Anyone involved with this style of farming should be ashamed of themselves. Animal cruelty in any shape or form is an absolute abomination, no matter what type of animal they are.”

He too, notes how smart pigs are and is horrified this practice continues to take place. “It's been proven time and time again that pigs are incredibly smart animals, one could be so bold to say – and I will – a lot smarter than the farmers who continue to abuse them.”

Singer and songwriter Flip Grater has also turned away from pork products because of farming practices. “Not eating pigs will make you happy. It's a more fulfilling and longer-lasting happiness than a bacon sandwich can ever bring!”

Even a Beatle is standing up for pigs! Sir Paul McCartney is jumping on the barn-wagon and ‘oinking’ out against pig cruelty. “I am strongly opposed to the factory farming of pigs,” he says.

New Zealand prides itself on being a leader when it comes to environmental and many other global issues. However this is one area in which the country is lagging behind. Sow stalls are banned in the United Kingdom and in Sweden. They are also being phased out in Finland, Switzerland, The Netherlands and Denmark. In America many major pork producers are banning crates because of public outcry, and with your help, this can be a reality for many of the pigs living in New Zealand. With so many celebrities and MPs behind this campaign it’s only a matter of time until the legislation is changed.

So how can you help? Log on to www.lovepigs.org.nz for more information and take a stand by refusing to purchase factory farmed products. By lobbying for improvements in pig welfare, supporting consumer boycotts and using your voice to inform more people of this continuing cruelty you can really help ‘raise the bars’ for our pigs. You’ve already done something just by reading this article. OINK!


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