Coronavirus: Government agreed to buy 12,000 pigs during lockdown over animal welfare concerns


Thomas Coughlan, Stuff (New Zealand) 

Jul 31 2020


Government officials recommended buying as many as 12,000 pigs to kill and distribute to food banks as Covid-19 led to a drop in demand for pork.


This meant farmers were sending fewer and fewer pigs to abattoirs for slaughter, leading to, “a massive oversupply” of pigs, according to a briefing from the Ministry of Primary Industries.


The drop off gave farmers two choices: killing pigs on their own farms, a process known as depopulating; or holding pigs back in the hope they could be sent to abattoirs later.


Both of these options raised significant animal welfare concerns.


Pigs that stayed on farms for too long could become too overweight to be slaughtered, the briefing warned.


“Pigs that become larger than the processing specifications (between 70-80kg per animal) can force farmers to keep these pigs on-farm.


 “Overweight pigs are no longer considered to be a marketable carcass due to fat/protein ratios,” the briefing warned.


In the worst case this would mean pigs outgrowing their pens, raising animal welfare concerns. Likewise, slaughtering pigs on-farm was also raised animal welfare concerns, given the scale of slaughter required.


Officials raised several other animal welfare concerns. Farmers unable to sell animals to meat processors would have less revenue from which to pay for the additional feed they’d need to keep those animals on their farms.


 The papers were published on Friday as part of the Government’s release of hundreds of papers relating to the response to Covid-19.


The briefing said that of the 12,500 pigs killed each week, only half are bought by big retailers and supermarkets.


Of the remaining half, “Asian retailers” took 26 per cent, food services...