Saturday, December 2, 2023

‘High volumes of imported pork fail NZ’s animal welfare standards’

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Hold all pork to our high standards, says NZPork.
The government is also to enforce a carbon certification scheme and has the pork sector as the first on the list in the primary sector, before rolling out to the country’s 6000 dairy farms.
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It is time for all imported pork to meet New Zealand’s high animal welfare standards, NZ Pork says.

In a presentation to Parliament’s Primary Production Select Committee, the industry body batted strongly to get a fair deal for local producers.  

“NZ pig farmers deserve a fair go,” NZPork chief executive Brent Kleiss said.   

“High volumes of imported pork are failing to meet NZ animal welfare standards, leaving local producers severely disadvantaged.”

Kleiss acknowledged the situation is not an easy fix but said he is encouraged with the engagement of the presentation.

“In terms of listening, a lot of questions were asked. In terms of action – time will tell.

“We know this is a complicated issue but we want to be part of the solution and work with policymakers and the wider supply chain to come up with a viable solution to address the problem and ensure that NZ-grown pork continues to be available,” Kleiss said.

“Exporting countries have a number of other advantages that we don’t, including subsidies, significantly lower costs of production, availability of more cost-effective feed supplies and a guaranteed minimum price for their product.

“Some have protected markets so they don’t have imports to compete with.

In some global trade agreements animal welfare regulations are coming in as a component of trade negotiations.   

“We want to get our NZ pork producers on a level playing field with their global counterparts and it’s not unprecedented [through trade negotiations].”  

Almost two-thirds of the pork consumed in NZ comes from overseas but there is no requirement for it to meet NZ animal welfare standards.

NZ’s pork sector has more stringent standards than most other countries, most of which have less rigorous welfare and environmental standards and enforcement regimes. 

More than 50,000t of overseas pork was imported into NZ during 2022, most of it from countries that allow pig farming practices that are illegal in NZ.

The highest volume of pork came from Spain, at 11,450t, a big increase on the 6328t of Spanish pork imported during 2021.

The second highest volume was from Germany with 11,158t, followed by Poland 5267t, Canada 4541t, Finland 4407t, US 3867t and Sweden 2976t.

Other countries that exported pork to NZ in 2022 included China, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, the Philippines, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK.

Of the countries supplying about 98% of imported pork last year, all except Sweden and Canada routinely confine sows in gestation stalls for the first four weeks of their pregnancy.

The US can confine sows in gestation stalls for their whole pregnancy.

Gestation stalls are banned in NZ.

Sweden, which accounted for 2976t of imported pork in 2022, is currently the only country with more stringent standards of pig welfare than NZ in some areas.

Australia, which exported 2807t of pork to NZ in 2022, comes close to NZ standards. 

Most Australian pig farmers are not using gestation stalls. This is by voluntary agreement rather than the legislated requirement it is in NZ. 

In Australia, castration without pain relief is also still permitted if piglets are less than three weeks old. That is illegal in NZ.

Piglets are routinely castrated in Europe, the US and Canada. Spain, Poland, and the US do not use pain relief when this is carried out. 

NZ farmers do not castrate piglets at all. 

The European Union countries and the US have no limit on the amount of time a sow may be confined in a farrowing crate, either before or after giving birth. Canada allows up to six weeks. 

NZ has a minimum standard and a regulation that places a limit on the length of confinement in a crate and regulates the spatial requirements of a farrowing crate. 

Sows are only housed in farrowing systems when it is time for them to give birth and care for their piglets, spending a maximum of 28 days in conventional indoor systems after giving birth, and up to five days pre-farrowing. 

“The EU is currently reviewing animal welfare standards that may bring them into line with NZ, eventually,” Kleiss said.

“However, this is not likely to be the case for Canada or the USA anytime soon.

“We believe it’s time that all imported pork is required to meet our high standards.”

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