Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Rules make sow’s ear out of silk purse

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We are imposing ridiculous restrictions on our pig farmers, restrictions more stringent than anywhere else in the world, Alan Emerson says.
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Every now and again something happens that strikes me as crazy, counter-productive and idiotic and that’s currently the case with the bureaucratic nonsense over our pork industry.

Years ago I had an advisory role in the industry and was impressed with the management and focus of the pig farmers I dealt with. 

They farmed on a knife edge. 

One mistake and they’re out of business.

New Zealand can be proud of its pig industry. 

Its PigCare welfare assurance program illustrates how NZ farmers are world leaders when it comes to providing high pig welfare standards. 

They take animal welfare extremely seriously. 

Our pig herd has one of the highest health statuses in the world. 

With biosecurity, NZ Pork was the first animal-based industry to enter into a government-industry agreement (GIA). 

When travelling I’ve seen pig farms in some of the countries we import from and their operations would be illegal here. 

Hygiene and welfare can be non-existent, yet we import pork from those countries and we’re generally in blissful ignorance of the fact we could be eating it.

Manufactured in NZ doesn’t mean a lot if the pork comes from, for example, the Philippines.

Today in the local pig industry it isn’t management mistakes that could put them out of business, the Government and bureaucracy are doing everything they can to achieve just that.

NAWAC, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, has released a draft code of practice for pigs that bears little resemblance to practicality. Looking at the NAWAC make up I can see why.

What surprised me is that a member of NAWAC has been portrayed as honorary patron of the NZ Animal Law Association. 

Surely that is a conflict of interest and a major one at that.

For a start, NAWAC recommends the hardy annual of banning farrowing crates, which the industry believes will result in the deaths of up to 60,000 piglets. 

I thought that was conservative. 

Farrowing crates are used internationally to protect piglets and why we’re wearing a hair shirt in NZ is beyond me.

I know that both SAFE and the NZ Animal Law Association went to court to have them banned but cowering to both those groups is inexcusable. SAFE doesn’t want animals farmed full stop. 

I also wonder what a bunch of city lawyers would know about the practicalities of pig farming or if they cared about the deaths of 60,000 piglets.

It is, in a phrase, a bugger’s muddle. 

NZ Pork tells me that “NAWAC accepted very limited input from farmers and the industry’s technical advisors including NZ Pork’s animal welfare scientist when NAWAC itself has no experience at all of pig farming”.

Farrowing crates are one travesty, insisting a minimum weaning time of 28 days is ridiculously prescriptive. 

As any farmer knows weaning too early costs. 

They don’t do it. 

Also, piglets have different growth rates as do different breeds so one size doesn’t fit all. 

Finally, have the bureaucrats floating the ridiculous idea figured how they’re going to police it?

NZ Pork tells me the “draft code lacks scientific credibility and justification” and it “imposes unachievable minimum standards”. 

The draft code will put prices up more than 18% so why are we doing it?

It also makes imported pork so much cheaper, putting local farmers out of business, which is crazy.

We import pork from many countries including China, Poland, Spain, Croatia, Thailand, the Philippines and Ireland. 

I’ve seen pig farming in some of those countries where I’d describe the practices as barbaric. 

They bear no remote resemblance to farming in New Zealand, yet we import their pork with impunity.

Just think of the logic of that. 

We impose ridiculous restrictions on our pig farmers, restrictions more stringent than anywhere else in the world. 

That puts the price of our pork up, opening the way for cheap imported pork from countries who in many cases use third world production techniques.

We stop ethical pig farming in NZ to allow rough imports. 

Why would you?

We propose putting local, ethical pig farmers out of business so we can import pork from countries with little or no animal welfare regulations.

As I said at the start it is just plain crazy and another example of idiocy in government-sponsored organisations that have little if any practical knowledge of the sharp end of farming.

What I want to see with NAWAC and other such organisations is much more transparency. 

I want to know if a person judging animal welfare standards is or has been part of an anti-farming pressure group, has fixed anti-animal views such as many vegans and what hands-on farming experience they have.

The current system isn’t working. 

It’s hitting an ethical, welfare oriented, professional food production system on all sides. 

It’s putting farmers through absolute hell trying to reach ridiculous standards that don’t apply to imports. 

They should.

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