1 Dec 2010

Sow stalls to be banned by 2015

8:45 pm on 1 December 2010

The use of sow stalls on New Zealand pig farms is to be banned by the end of 2015, Agriculture Minister David Carter has announced.

The changes are included in the Animal Welfare Code (Pigs) Code of Welfare 2010, which comes into effect on Friday.

By December 2012, pregnant sows will only be able to be kept in the stalls for four weeks after mating and they will be banned altogether by December 2015.

The pork industry predicts the phase-out will cost at least $20 million to implement.

Animal welfare groups have called for sow stalls to be banned because of the extremely cramped conditions imposed on pigs.

Mr Carter says the reality is there is increasing opposition worldwide to highly intensive pig farming and New Zealand has an opportunity to play a leading role in banning sow stalls.

He says a five-year time frame will give farmers time to change their practices and train staff accordingly.

The Animal Welfare Advisory Committee received 18,000 submissions on the issue and Mr Carter says is clear consumers are concerned about how pigs are farmed.

"There is now an opportunity for the industry to positively present itself with one of the highest welfare codes in the world and to signal that to New Zealand consumers of pork."

Mr Carter says while farrowing crates can still be used when sows have piglets, these too will be phased out eventually.

Industry supports phase-out

The New Zealand Pork Industry supports phasing out sow stalls by December 2015 and estimates this will cost farmers at least $20 million.

Chief executive Sam McIvor says there will be increased costs and producers will need more support from wholesalers, retailers and consumers.

"What we're asking them is don't buy any of that 700,000 kilos of imported pork that comes in each week, but support the local industry. Buy New Zealand pork, bacon and ham."

Farmers will also need to be paid higher prices for locally-produced products, the industry says.

The industry is collaborating with the Government, farmers and the National Animal Welfare Committee on the next step.

It says the collaboration places New Zealand's pork producers at the forefront of global animal welfare and provides an opportunity to differentiate itself against competitors who continue to use sow stalls.

SPCA welcomes new time frame

The SPCA says the new timetable for banning sow stalls is good for the industry and consumers.

SPCA chief executive Robyn Kippenberger says the industry initially fought the changes and a date of 2020 for a ban on sow stalls had been bandied about.

Ms Kippenberger says that was far too long, and the new time frame sends a message that the welfare of pigs is important.