Animal welfare investigators are inspecting a pig farm featured in a current affairs programme at the weekend, Agriculture Minister David Carter has confirmed.
TVNZ's Sunday programme aired footage by animal welfare organisation Open Rescue, who were accompanied by comedian Mike King during a break-in at the Levin pig farm.
King, a long-standing front man for a campaign advertising pork, said he was deeply ashamed of his role in promoting that type of farming.
The pigs were unable to move and obviously in distress, chewing at the cage bars and frothing, he said.
Mr Carter said the ministry had identified the farm through various sources and it was now under investigation.
"I am very concerned about animal welfare and no one wants to see animals suffer. This is why I urged SAFE to provide details of the property yesterday so the authorities could take the appropriate action immediately," Mr Carter said.
"In fact, SAFE could have revealed details of the property when it first received the recorded footage. Instead, the organisation seems more intent on playing publicity games than assisting the animals on this farm."
SAFE campaign director Hans Kriek today named the owner of the piggery as former New Zealand Pork Industry Board chairman Colin Kay.
Mr Kriek said he expected a MAF investigation to find the piggery was acting within the law.
"This farm has previously been investigated by MAF, who found nothing in breach of the law. The farm is disgusting but appears to be operating within the law, so we doubt if MAF will find anything different this time.
"If you want to make a stand, walk past the pork line."
A ministry spokeswoman confirmed the farm had been investigated and had been cleared in 2006.
Mr Kriek said Mr Kay, who has been working in pig production since 1985, owned five piggeries worth an estimated $4 million.
OWNER SPEAKS OUT
Mr Kay said he was concerned at public perception but his piggery met legal requirements.
"I'm concerned. The sows are quite upset. I think the activists must have stirred them up," Mr Kay said this morning.
The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, a government group, sets minimum standards for commercial piggeries, which were signed off in 2005. Dry sow stalls - used to house a female pig during the last stages of her pregnancy when it is no longer producing milk - are to be phased out by 2015.
He was very concerned about the public perception of piggeries, but said 90 percent of New Zealand pork was farmed intensively.
The pig farming practices highlighted by the Sunday show have also been noted politically.
At his post cabinet press conference yesterday, Prime Minister John Key said he found the television footage of intensive pig farming "very, very disturbing". There was a need for change if that was indicative of a large number of piggeries around New Zealand, he said.
Mr Kriek - from SAFE - said protests were now mounting around the country as campaigners made use of the publicity and the Ministry of Agriculture's investigation.
The SPCA has joined the voices of objection, with chief executive Robyn Kippenberger calling for a ban on sow stalls and farrowing crates.
She called for Agriculture Minister David Carter "to ensure that the Animal Welfare Code for Pigs was altered, as soon as possible, to ban these cruel practices".
"It is total nonsense for a code that is meant to reflect the humane principles of the 1999 Animal Welfare Act, to allow pigs to be kept for most of their lives in such tight conditions that they can't even turn round."
Pig farmers who continued to use sow stalls and farrowing craters were "behaving in a totally inhumane and unacceptable way, for the sake of short-term profit", she said.
"The industry as a whole does itself no favours by continuing to protect and support these farming methods, which are banned in the United Kingdom and much of the rest of the European Union."
The pork industry's board had postponed the annual Bacon of the Year awards in response to the Sunday programme.
Wholesaler Moore Wilsons spokesman Terry Christie said 80 percent of the pork they stocked was free range.
Customer preference for free range pork had been increasing over the last year though it was too early to tell whether the latest revelations had had an impact, he said.
He said overseas production of pork in battery-type farms made it difficult for New Zealand producers to compete and meant they had to find ways to cut costs.
Imported pork was "considerably cheaper", he said.
Commonsense Organics managing director Marion Wood said free range meat sales, in particular chicken and pork, had been climbing recently.
"We just can't get enough of them," she said.
"It's been increasing but we are really surprised at how much it has kept on growing through the recession ... it does seem that people are asking many more questions."
She said this story seemed to have resonated with Kiwi's more than in the past and expected it to change people's attitudes towards what they ate.
- By JODY O'CALLAGHAN and JILL GALLOWAY, Manawatu Standard, Stuff.co.nz and NZPA
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