Sow stalls to be banned

The use of sow stalls on New Zealand pig farms is to be limited to four weeks after mating in 2012, and banned by the end of 2015, following controversy over the practice.

Agriculture Minister David Carter has today released the Animal Welfare (Pigs) Code of Welfare 2010, which will come into effect on Friday.

“The growing unease of many New Zealanders about the use of sow stalls, which I share, made it clear that change was necessary. The science also supports this,” Mr Carter said.

“The reality is, worldwide there is increasing opposition to highly intensive systems of pig farming and New Zealand has a role to play in leading the way.”

Dry sow stalls are currently in use in most countries, including USA, Canada and most of the European Union.

The Australian pork industry recently voted to pursue the voluntary phasing out of sow stalls by 2017.

The new code also places new limits on the use of farrowing crates.

“While the national animal welfare advisory committee believes that the use of farrowing crates should also be phased out, it recognises this can only happen when alternative management systems and technologies are in place,” Mr Carter said.

“These must take the welfare of sows and piglets into account, and must also allow our pork producers to remain competitive.

“A five-year time frame on phasing out sow stalls will allow farmers to change their production systems and train staff in new management skills so that the long-term sustainability of our pig industry is not put at risk,” Mr Carter said.

The move comes after the pork industry took a PR hammering when the former face of New Zealand Pork, comedian Mike King, joined a campaign by animal welfare group SAFE against sow stalls.

New Zealand Pork put out a statement today saying it supports the move to ban sow stalls.

“We recognise that this issue is no longer just a scientific argument of whether or not gestation stalls are better for sow welfare.

“Consumers prefer gestation stalls are not used – we have listened and we are making a change and removing them.”

In its message to stakeholders it said, “You will be aware, we have not had an easy run in recent times and we therefore also welcome your support for our position.”

New Zealand Pork will be “actively looking to the government for full support and possible concessions for farmers on this initiative given the significance of the cost.”

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