Friday, April 19, 2024

Report warns of animal welfare ‘gap’ 

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NZ imports products from countries that have nowhere near the standards it has, report says.
In 2022 the pork sector shared its proposed code reforms, including no longer allowing sows to be housed in mating stalls.
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A new report has highlighted the vast amount of animal products entering New Zealand that are produced in ways that are illegal under New Zealand’s own animal welfare laws.

Titled Closing the Welfare Gap: Why New Zealand Must Apply Its Animal Protection Standards to Imports, it reveals that these imports include battery cages for egg-laying hens, sow stalls for pregnant pigs, and the mulesing of sheep.

All of these practices have been banned in NZ due to animal welfare concerns. It recommends that NZ extend its animal protection laws to cover all products placed on the NZ market, regardless of origin.

Not only is this supported by public expectations, it is permitted under World Trade Organisation rules to protect public morals, it says

The report was launched by Animal Policy International, the SPCA and the NZ Animal Law Association at an event in Parliament hosted by Green Party MP Steve Abel.

He said Kiwis have serious concerns about the welfare of farmed animals, with over 80% of people believing imports should respect NZ law.

 “In the longer term it is unsustainable not to apply welfare standards to all products placed on the market. Otherwise, instead of improving the welfare of animals, as demanded by New Zealanders, the production is simply shifting to countries where there are little or no standards.”

The report found:

• Over 90% of pork comes from countries that allow sow stalls and farrowing crates. NZ banned sow stalls in 2016, and the government has passed regulations phasing out farrowing crates by 2025.

• All of the wool imported in 2022 came from Australia, where mulesing remains common. In NZ performing mulesing can result in a criminal conviction.

• Over 80% of liquid egg imports in 2022 came from China and Australia, where egg-laying hens can be kept in battery cages. NZ’s ban came into force in 2023.

• Over 70% of imported fish comes from Thailand, China, Australia and Vietnam – all countries with no welfare standards around slaughter. NZ has a Code of Welfare that concerns aquatic animals at the time of slaughter.

NZ is importing animal products that undermine the standards that we are holding NZ farmers to and wanting them to aspire to. 

Extending animal welfare laws could level the playing field for NZ farmers, who are currently competing against cheaper imports produced to weaker standards, as seen with the NZ pork industry with already around 60% of pork imported.

Future free trade agreements, such as with India, may further open NZ’s market for low-welfare imports.
NZ Pork chief executive Brent Kleiss backed the report’s findings, saying they align with what his organisation has been advocating for some time.

While recognising that the government has a balancing act when it comes to trade talks, he believes more could be done to advocate for a higher standard of animal products coming into NZ. 

“The points in the report show there is a possible pathway to do it and maybe it should be more seriously considered.

“We import pork from 22 countries and those countries – they are providing pork that’s been raised to lower standards of care than what we expect of our own producers.”

There are few precedents around animal welfare standards being brought into trade agreements, but Kleiss believes this, along with public sentiment, has changed.

If the public wants farmers to succeed in the standards expected of food production, there has to be a level playing field when it comes to imports, he said.

SPCA chief scientific officer Arnja Dale called the findings “extremely concerning”.

“There’s a clear disconnect between our laws and imports. Animals overseas are being kept in conditions that New Zealanders have already clearly rejected, and yet products from those conditions continue to be sold to New Zealand consumers. 

“The new government has an opportunity to close the welfare gap by extending animal welfare regulations to imports.” 

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