Hampden farmer and New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter is on edge after recent bad publicity involving intensive indoor pig farms.
The national release of footage showing rat-infested facilities and questionable handling of pigs has again put factory farming and the welfare and rights of pigs in the spotlight.
According to Mr Carter, who farms 190 breeding sows, New Zealand Pork is not a regulatory body, meaning it has no power to prosecute and pig farmers are not legally obligated to be affiliated with it.
He said its role was to support producers and to generically market the New Zealand Pork brand.
However, PigCare, an independent welfare auditing programme administered by AsureQuality, checks that New Zealand pigs are being well cared for.
Mr Carter said commercial pig farmers were audited annually and the major New Zealand Pork wholesalers would only buy pork from PigCare accredited producers.
Like any audit system, it was only a snapshot of the business, Mr Carter said.
The Ministry of Primary Industries is the government body responsible for developing, implementing and enforcing animal welfare.
Mr Carter said activitists were mostly challenging animal rights, not animal welfare – a point of difference.
He said animal welfare was about meeting the needs of the animal, which in most cases was done “exceptionally well”, whereas animal rights activists believed animals were equal to humans and argued that killing, farming, owning or managing animals, other than how they would live in the wild, was morally wrong.
Mr Carter said activists were neither consumers of pork nor industry customers.
“NZ Pork is monitoring how the market place is responding (to these latest allegations),” he said.
“They recognise that it doesn’t represent the industry.”
Wholesalers had a role to play in stopping the ill-treatment of pigs and poor living conditions by refusing to purchase product, Mr Carter said.
He said about 1800-2000 tonne of protein (pig meat) was produced in North Otago per year, enough to feed about 90,000 people in any given year.
This was based on industry figures that in New Zealand each consumer eats around 20 kilograms of pork per year, he said.
The challenge was to balance sustainability with producing a product that consumers could afford, he said.
By LINDA MCCARTHY
PHOTO: LINDA MCCARTHY – Chairman of NZ Pork Ian Carter pictured with six-week-old piglets at his Hampden farm yesterday.