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Animal welfare implications are significant

Animal welfare implications are significant

The NZ Veterinary Association (NZVA) says the bold decision by the Minister of Agriculture to reduce and then phase out the use of sow stalls is a timely reminder to New Zealand that consumer perceptions of animal welfare potentially will have a growing impact on animal husbandry practices, and not just in the pork industry.

“This shift in how we care for our animals will come at a cost, and New Zealanders might well be asked to pay for it through increased prices – whether it be for pork, eggs or even lamb,” Wayne Ricketts, NZVA spokesperson said.

“New Zealand farmers, by and large, provide appropriate and humane care for their animals. Improvements in animal husbandry and productivity have had a strong scientific basis in the past. However, in today's society increasingly public perceptions have to be considered in how we farm animals. This will require careful management if farming is to provide a reasonable living for our farmers and export earnings for the country,” he said.

We are pleased that there is now a clear direction for industry as to how sows are to be housed in the future, and veterinarians will have a key role in assisting farmers to change their farming practices to accommodate this.

NZVA is pleased there is a phased approach to reducing and then eliminating sow stall use as this time should allow the industry to manage the transition and for those farmers still using stalls to remain economically viable during the phase out period.

This decision is really an extension of changes in the industry in its recognition of consumer concerns. The industry had already committed to a reduction in the use of stalls, Mr Ricketts said.

“That said, we do need to recognise that sows can be aggressive, especially during and after mating. Therefore, as stalls are phased out good stockmanship will become even more important in ensuring that aggression towards other pigs is controlled,” Dr Ricketts said.

NZVA acknowledges the pork industry is very committed to good welfare and also congratulates it on being the first industry to introduce an audit programme based on the code of welfare.

“We should also be mindful that the considerable imports of pork into New Zealand are not necessarily subjected to the same animal welfare standards. It would be disappointing to see the pork industry’s endeavours to implement sound animal welfare principles, and the government’s support through improved animal welfare standards, go unsupported by the consumer.” Dr Ricketts said.

ENDS

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