Vivisection and Animal Welfare Standards in New Zealand

Against a background of Swine Flu’s origin in intensive pig farming,  the New Zealand pork industry was again drawn into sharp relief  (see NZ Herald and TVNZ reports) when TVNZ’s ‘Sunday’ programme showed shocking footage of pigs kept in cramped stalls unable to turn round, the long term usage of sow stalls and distressed animals frothing at the mouth.

Sow Stalls banned in other countries
New Zealand’s animal advocacy organisation SAFE (see Pigs in New Zealand) say that dry stalls, in which sows are kept for all of their 16 week pregnancies measure 0.6 x 2m, just big enough for the sow to stand up and lie down but not move around. The director of SAFE – Hans Kriek said that approximately 45% of sows – 22,000 animals are kept in these conditions in New Zealand.

Sow stalls are banned in the United Kingdom and Sweden and will be soon phased out in Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark.

Farrowing Stalls banned in other countries
SAFE say:
“At the end of their pregnancies sows are transferred to farrowing crates where they will give birth. These are big enough to only allow the sow to stand up and lie down. With no straw for bedding, she scrapes her nose over the bare concrete floor in an attempt to build a nest for her piglets. Her inability to properly mother her piglets only adds further frustration and depression Her piglets will be taken away at a mere four weeks of age. The grieving sow will be impregnated again and returned to the sow stall where the cycle of abuse starts all over again.

• How many New Zealand pig farmers use farrowing crates? 67 per cent.
• Sweden and Switzerland have banned the farrowing crate.
• Most sows have 8-12 piglets each litter.
• Outdoors, pregnant sows construct a private nest apart from the group, in which to give birth to, and suckle, their babies.”

The New Zealand pork board have said that pork would rise by 50c a kilo for the producer and $2 a kilo to the consumer if intensive farming was stopped. Is this a price NZ is prepared to pay to ensure the good care and welfare of its farm animals?

In August 2007 animal advocacy organisation SAFE produced video to show the appalling conditions that pigs were kept under see (Youtube video “pig farm horrors exposed”) yet little seems to have been done to improve conditions since then so I guess the answer to the above question can only be “No”

Hans Kriek later today named the owner of the pig farm as former New Zealand Pork Industry Board chairman Colin Kay. Kriek was reported as having said he expected a MAF investigation will 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.”

Robyn Kippenberger the chief executive of the SPCA has asked 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”

Vivisection on over 300,00 NZ animals inc. dogs and cats
But it’s not just New Zealand’s pigs that SAFE are very much concerned about. It looks like animal welfare in other sectors of the economy may be an issue, epsecially in vivisection centres (they fall under the same legislation as piggeries – the Animal Welfare Act 1999)

SAFE carried out a four month investigation into a company called VARC (Valley Animal Research Centre) owned by Allen Goldenthal (see: Who is Allen Goldenthal) which has kennels and catteries located in both Hawkes Bay and the Manuwatu, they revealed that:
“beagles and other companion animals are destined for a new wave of New Zealand animal research carried out on behalf of international organisations.

VARC is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere to use beagles for research. Aside from beagles SAFE understands VARC plans to breed cats, horses and rabbits, also for research. While it appears no terminal experiments are taking place right now, the facility is still new. It is likely animals will eventually undergo invasive experiments and be killed. The head of VARC says his animals are necessary research tools in the quest to save human life. The “higher goal” as he describes it.

A total of 318,489 living animals were used for animal research (vivisection) in New Zealand last year. The most recent national figures available reveal 757 cats and 682 dogs were used in 2006. The use of cats and dogs for research in New Zealand has doubled since 2001. Most laboratory animals will suffer. Many will die. None will be loved. If they are lucky, their death will be quick and painless, but most won’t be so lucky…..”

“Most animal research in New Zealand is aimed at increasing the profits of the meat and dairy industries. 38 per cent of the animals used in 2005 were used by commercial researchers. A further 21 per cent were used by government departments and crown research institutes. The remaining 41 per cent were used in experiments at universities and schools. In 2005, only 4.8 per cent were used in medical research.


Animal research in this country is shrouded in secrecy. Although most of the research is funded with public money, few details are released. The National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee (NAEAC) releases a bland annual report every year assuring us that everything is fine and that the New Zealand regulatory system is one of the best in the world. They say animals are used only when it is absolutely necessary, and that all possible steps are taken to prevent unnecessary and cruel research. This is simply not true.

Painful mutilations, electric shocks, lethal toxicological procedures, cutting, freezing and burning – even without pain relief – are legal. Many laboratory animals are forcibly restrained to undergo cruel experiments that you would never allow your beloved animal companion to endure.”

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    A Whangarei Boys’ High School student has been stood down for five days for pulling the head off a duckling.

    The 13-year-old was with other boys who threw rocks at the mother duck until they killed it.

    The incident took place during a lunch break last week near the Waiarohia Stream which runs alongside the school’s sports field.

    The boys caught one of a clutch of ducklings and were handing it around when it defecated on the hand of one of them, the school’s headmaster, Al Kirk, said.

    The boy reacted by tearing off the duckling’s head. One or two of the boys then started throwing rocks at the distressed parent duck. Mr Kirk described the incident as “shocking”.

    “This is normally a reasonable young man, but he way overstepped the mark,” Mr Kirk said.

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