Government to phase out use of farrowing crates in pork farming by 2025

The Government will phase out the controversial use of farrowing crates and mating stalls in pork farming by 2025.

The cages were the focus of a landmark High Court judicial review earlier this year, in which their continued use was found to be "unlawful".

About 60 percent of pigs farmed in New Zealand are raised indoors. Most of them are inseminated in cages - mating stalls - and then forced to give birth and raise their piglets in cages - farrowing crates.

The Minister of Agriculture, Damien O'Connor, was told by the High Court to consider setting a date by which use of farrowing crates and mating stalls must stop.

Today, the Associate Minister of Agriculture, Meka Whaitiri, who's responsible for animal welfare, confirmed to Newshub that the crates will be phased out. 

"Cabinet, this week, agreed on a five-year timeframe for the phase-out of the traditional use of farrowing crate and mating stall systems in the pork industry," she said.

"This phase-out period allows the use of farrowing crates to continue for five years."

SAFE and the Animal Law Association (ALA), who jointly brought the High Court judicial review, say the phasing out is a "victory for animals".

"This is fantastic news, we're pleased to see justice has been served on this issue," Deborah Ashton, CEO of SAFE said. 

"But it shouldn't be up to charities to have to take the Government to court over these issues," Ms Ashton said.

On Thursday morning, SAFE and the ALA are taking out a full-page advertisement in the New Zealand Herald, calling on the Prime Minister to "get serious about animal welfare".

The advertisement will also call for a Commissioner for Animals, which would "report directly to Parliament and be independent of the Minister of Agriculture".

New Zealand Pork says farrowing crates are the best solution for piglets - one piglet on average is saved per litter when the cages are used - and more piglets will die if they are phased out.

It says banning them could also decimate the pork industry, as farmers will struggle to compete with cheaper, imported pork that is farmed in ways that would be illegal in New Zealand. 

"It'll force [farmers] out of business," David Baines, NZ Pork CEO, told Newshub.

"None of the countries sending pork to New Zealand comply with the welfare standards that our farmers are having to meet," Mr Baines said.

Meka Whaitiri says the five-year phase-out will start on Friday, December 18. 

"The Ministry for Primary Industries, alongside the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), industry, and stakeholders will work together to find suitable alternatives to current farrowing crate and mating stall systems urgently," she said.