Campaigners question 'inhumane and illegal' treatment of pigs

An animal rights campaigner is questioning why nothing has been done to ban the use of farrowing crates on pigs.

SAFE will deliver a petition to parliament on Thursday calling to ban the crates, which immobilise mother pigs for weeks on end after giving birth, so they don't crush their piglets.

"If you were to do that to a dog you would be prosecuted for animal cruelty," SAFE campaigner Hans Kriek told The AM Show.

"[You] could be sent to jail. Pigs are highly intelligent animals."

The metal crates leave the pigs lying on their side so the piglets can access their teats for milking. Around seventy percent of farmers in New Zealand use farrowing crates, but Mr Kriek says they actually goes against animal welfare requirements.

"The law requires that animals be able to express a normal behaviour and if you can't even turn around you obviously can't express normal behaviour."

 Farmer Steve Sternie doesn't use them himself, but told The AM Show that to call the crates cruel is going "too far".

"They are designed to prevent deaths amongst the piglets and look after the piglet welfare and they do succeed at doing that."

"New Zealand already has a very high proportion of its pig produced from crate-free environments. A crate free pig is readily available around New Zealand.

"It is possible for a consumer to source those pigs if they choose to."

Mr Sternie says the "real issue that needs to be addressed" is the importation of pork meat form countries with unrestricted use of the crates.

Mr Kriek agrees, but suggests we could help lead the way.

"It is obviously crazy if we ban it here and allow products from countries that use cruel methods to come in to this country.

"Why don't we make the industry a shining example of how it can be done and should be done much better and that's the point of difference because now the industry in New Zealand is starting to compete with cheaper imports and they always lose.

"We cannot let this cruel practise go on for ever and ever and ever. The time is now."

He says alternatives are available which have been trialled overseas which successfully prevent piglets from being crushed.

The petition, signed by 112,000, will be delivered to parliament at midday, accompanied by Buttercup, a live pig.