In this file:


·         New Zealand: Farrowing crates for pigs are unlawful

·         Farrow crate use ‘saves piglet lives’



New Zealand: Farrowing crates for pigs are unlawful


Vincent ter Beek, Pig Progress

Nov 19, 2020 


The New Zealand high court has ruled the use of farrowing crates unlawful and has indicated that changes would be required to the country’s legislation.


The matter came to court because of a legal action by 2 animal welfare groups, SAFE and New Zealand Animal Law Association, back in June. They claimed that the use of farrowing crates as well as mating crates would not be in agreement with the country’s Animal Welfare Act. The first edition of that act revolves around the well-known Five Freedoms, one of them including the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour.


The New Zealand Animal Welfare Act stated that a stall can be used for mating purposes for the maximum of a week. Nevertheless, the use of farrowing crates continued to be permitted in practice as they were considered to be a situation of “exceptional circumstances.” In 2015, New Zealand’s parliament indicated to have a preference to phase out stalls, yet the practice continued.


Considering new regulations phasing out farrowing crates


Early November, high court justice Helen Cull said that agriculture minister Damien O’Connor must consider new regulations phasing out the use of farrowing crates and mating stalls, and improve minimum standards.


In a news item for major news outlet Stuff, New Zealand Pork’s CEO David Bains commented, “We are disappointed by this decision and we are assessing our options. […] Our sector follows world-leading animal welfare practices. Farrowing or birthing systems are essentially maternity wards for sows. They support the survival of as many well-grown healthy piglets as possible, whilst also meeting the needs of the sow.”


He continued to say, “Worldwide, farrowing crates are the most common system used to house sows and piglets until piglets are weaned. No country has completely banned their use.”


Over 50% of farmers use farrowing crates ...


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Farrow crate use ‘saves piglet lives’


By Sally Rae, ODT Rural Live (New Zealand)

19 November 2020


Former New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter is saddened by a High Court ruling that the use of farrowing crates is unlawful, saying they save "millions" of piglets globally every year.


Animal welfare groups Safe and the New Zealand Animal Law Association took the Attorney-general, the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) to court in June saying the use of farrowing and mating crates breached the Animal Welfare Act 1999, RNZ reported.


In its decision, the court said the agriculture minister must consider new regulations phasing out the use of farrowing crates and mating stalls, and improve minimum standards.


Mr Carter, who farms in North Otago, said no other system got close to meeting the needs of farmed pigs. He estimated farrowing crates could save more than 200 piglets a day in New Zealand if they were universally used.


"I have spent my life understanding and farming my animals with care, and to know that I may be forced to change from a proven system that cares, to one that will create more harm than good, is tough to contemplate," he said.


Mr Carter, who stepped down in 2018, was board chairman and one of the industry representatives during the NAWAC farrowing crate review. There was a complete and thorough investigation into farrowing systems completed by NAWAC in 2016, he said.


"There has been no new science since to suggest any need for significant change. For the benefit of an animal’s welfare these decisions must only be made on science not emotion or perceptions which can have unintended consequences that cause more harm than good. Emotive and perceptive decisions should be left solely for the individual consumer to make at their point of purchase," he said.


A farrowing system was used for about four weeks; from just prior to birth through to weaning at up to four weeks of age. During that time, the sow did not need to concern herself with safety, predator threat, shelter, warmth or seeking food or water, and could focus on nurturing her piglets.


The piglets had areas that were warmed at a higher temperature than the sow, which helped provide them freedom from the sow accidentally laying on them and killing them with her weight, Mr Carter said.


Sows were large (250kg plus) animals which gave birth to large numbers of piglets, each roughly weighing 1.5kg. Accidental lay-ons were the biggest driver of mortality in pig production.


"Those who understand our animals see the farrowing system for what it is, a maternity unit of care," he said.


In a statement, SAFE and NZALA welcomed the High Court’s judgement, with SAFE chief executive Debra Ashton describing it as a historic day for animals...