Animal rights campaigners and mental health advocate Mike King welcome ban on 'cruel' pig crates
The manager of a piggery which once had a pig "rescued" from it during an animal cruelty campaign has accepted a ban on restrictive pig housing.
But the new law got a warmer welcome from Mike King, the former comedian and pork industry promoter who helped spark it.
New rules banning sow "stalls" came into effect on Friday after years of campaigning by animal rights crusaders.
They said the stalls, used to prevent aggressive sows from hurting each other, were actually cages which trapped pregnant sows in one position for weeks, gave them pressure sores, and stressed them so much they chewed the bars.
Animal rights group SAFE called Friday's ban one of its "greatest victories".
"It is a victory both for animals and for caring New Zealanders," said spokeswoman Mandy Carter.
One of the farms campaigners criticised in the past was Carterton's Reid piggery.
A sow named Piggy Sue was "rescued" from Reid's during a 2009 undercover operation for TVNZ's Sunday programme, and rehomed in an Upper Hutt animal sanctuary.
Elaine Reid, who ran Reid's at the time, said piggeries had been trying to conform to welfare requirements "for years" but would probably never see eye-to-eye with animal rights campaigners.
"We're always going to disagree - their point of view is quite different."
Current manager Sandra Shivas, Reid's daughter, said the stalls ban meant extra costs and work, but had been accepted as inevitable.
Research done during the Ministry for Primary Industries' formulation of the new regulations had allowed farmers to find more humane ways to keep "stroppy" sows apart, she said.
"[The ban] means you do get a bit more hassling, animal to animal, and it's just more time-consuming. Which is OK if you've got a good income for the product."
Ways of dealing with the ban included "runaway" areas where a pig could escape an aggressive pen-mate.
Another was more careful sorting of pigs by temperament.
"It's almost like children in a classroom - you try not to put bullies with the ones that are timid."
PORK FAN SPARKED BAN
Mental health advocate King said all Kiwis should celebrate the ban, which resulted from a polarising campaign during a dramatic cross-roads in his life.
"I think it's fabulous... people thought the campaign was a vendetta against farmers but it was never about that, it was about the law."
Now retired from comedy, King got involved in the campaign while working as a frontman for the Pork Board.
"I was a drug addict and an alcoholic and I didn't care where my money came from... then I gave up drugs and alcohol and discovered I had something I didn't know I had, a conscience."
The change came after a friend sent him a video depicting then-legal practices in a piggery, which inspired King to see first-hand the "appalling" conditions.
"The pigs were stressed, distressed... it was sickening, really."
Some were lying injured in a pen marked "broken legs", some were partially submerged in water, and all were clearly suffering from a lack of movement, normal interaction and fresh air.
After his media appearances denouncing the conditions, King received hate mail and lost lucrative work on the corporate speaking circuit; but he had no regrets.
"I was a misogynist, homophobic, racist, sexist comedian... I was introduced to a whole lot of people [animal rights activists] I thought were PC idiots. But they were actually amazing human beings and they changed my whole view of life."
He still eats pork, but only free-range.