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Farming

This tag is associated with 6 posts

Animal Justice Fund

Just a quick note on the Animal Justice Fund, administered by SAFE, funded from Jan Cameron’s (founder of the hugely-successful outdoor equipment company, Kathmandu) fortune which allocates $2 million for whistleblowers. Between $5 000 and $30 000 can be awarded in each instance that leads to a successful prosecution or ‘significant animal welfare outcome.’

To date, at least six workers have ‘dobbed in’ bosses for animal cruelty. But none want to accept the reward.

All were for dairy farms and piggeries. None of the workers were still employed by the farms they were laying complaints against, so the cases and information are considered ‘historical’ and hence a low priority for investigation. Four of these cases were referred to MAF. According to SAFE’s Hans Kriek:

Paddocks were in bad shape, there were stones and lame cows. There were high mortality rates amongst calves. Dying animals were being left to rot in paddocks. With the pig farms we had the usual complaints … that the conditions were terrible and enclosures weren’t cleaned out and the animals were standing a foot deep in their own muck.

Yet, no breaches of the relevant welfare codes were found in any case. Continue reading

Pig Farmers: The NZ Pork Industry Board Is Keeping Your Secrets Safe Tonight

And these are the crates they'll let us see...

The nationwide furore over the conditions in which pigs are intensively farmed has finally prompted voluntary audits of conditions in piggeries around Aotearoa New Zealand.

Today, a leaked email was released in which the New Zealand Pork Industry Board, a statutorily-created entity, is shown attempting to develop a legal strategy to avoid the results of those audits being made public. To quote the Dominion Post:

The leaked email, sent to farmers on behalf of the Pork Industry Board, said: “It is likely there will be a number of farms requiring corrective actions and … those actions could cause embarrassment to the farmer if made public and could cause embarrassment to the industry if used by animal welfarists, [so] some alternatives to current procedures were put forward.”

A suggested alternative would mean only the farmer and auditor would hold “completed documentation”, with the board notified of pass, fail, or “pending corrective actions (unspecified).”

Board chief executive Sam McIvor said its legal advice suggested the audit report would belong to the farmer, meaning it was personal information.

Some very serious questions need to be asked of a statutory body – albeit one that is mostly funded by farmers – that considers protecting piggery owners from “embarrassment” justification for its connivance to avoid a general obligation under the Official Information Act 1982 (OIA) to make information ‘held’ by them available to the public.

In any event, this tactic will simply not work. The Pork Industry Board is listed in the schedule to the OIA and section 2(5) of the Act is clear that “official information” includes:

Any information held by an independent contractor engaged by any department or Minister of the Crown or organisation in his capacity as such contractor shall, for the purposes of this Act, be deemed to be held by the department or Minister of the Crown or organisation.

Mr McIvor goes further to say that a balance has to be struck between the interests of farmers and the interests of the public:

He said the board wanted to be accountable to pork-buying customers, but most customers did not care about farm conditions, just whether they had passed a minimum standard. “There does have to be some trust and the customers need to be able to trust us that we have the processes in place.”

Indeed. The kind of trust that holds so long as you don’t ask any embarrassing questions.

Leaving aside this deft identification of the Board’s constituency as being only “pork-buying customers”,  it is statements such as these that lay bare the true issue: It is not privacy, it is certainly not animal health, it is secrecy. Secrecy that allows an industry with some  demonstrably cruel operators to continue to avoid public scrutiny of their profiting from the suffering of animals.

A report on the current review is due next week. We’ll keep you updated.

Cubicle (Factory) Farming and Ministerial ‘Call-Ins’ of Resource Management Consents

Late last year, I posted on the euphemistically-named ‘cubicle’ farming of dairy cows proposed in the South Island’s pristine McKenzie Basin.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has today recommended that Environment Minister, Nick Smith use his call-in powers under the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA) to make a decision on the consents. The Act states:

Section 141B – Minister’s power to call in matters that are or are part of proposals of national significance
In deciding whether a matter is or is part of a proposal of national significance, the Minister may have regard to any relevant factor, including whether the matter—

(a) has aroused widespread public concern or interest regarding its actual or likely effect on the environment

Why is this of interest in a blog about animal law?

Well, although about 75% of the large number of submissions received by the Canterbury Regional Council mentioned deleterious effects on the cows, the question has been raised as to whether animal welfare issues can be legitimately considered as an ‘effect’ of dairy farming for the purposes of resource management consents.

The Council has received legal advice that they can not, nor can they provide grounds for a ministerial call-in.

The Council’s Chief Executive, Dr Bryan Jenkins, has said that the animal welfare issue is more appropriately dealt with under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the AWA). He also suggested that a stronger argument can be made for damage to New Zealand’s reputation in international dairy markets being an ‘effect’.

This is all the more incredible if we look at the statutory definition of “environment” in the RMA: Continue reading

MAF’s ‘Arms Length’ Approach to Prosecutions

Just last week, we posted about the SPCA’s difficulties in pursuing prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the AWA).  An article in the Herald on Monday (‘Hundreds of Cases of Livestock Mistreatment Reported’) highlights just how little the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), is doing by way of prosecutions.  But, as the Police generally do not prosecute animal welfare offences, MAF is the other main body, along with the SPCA, that is empowered to prosecute under the AWA.

In the year to November 2009, MAF received 689 complaints about the mistreatment of animals, and investigated 615.  They brought two prosecutions.

In 2008, there were 948 complaints in total, of which 824 were investigated.  No prosecutions were brought.

So, out of 1439 investigations in two years, only two resulted in prosecutions. This is a rate of less than 0.4%.

Curiously, the story was re-spun the next day with the title: ‘Big Fines for Farmers Who Let Their Livestock Starve’ moving the sentences imposed to the head of the article and the fact that there were only two prosecutions in two years to the second half of the piece. Continue reading

‘Cubicle’ Dairy Farming: Factory farming by another name

Farmed Cows

'Cubicle' cows in the United States

Intensive indoor farming of dairy cows – which would be a first in New Zealand – is being proposed in South Canterbury’s Mackenzie region.

In this radical departure from current dairying practice in this country – grass-fed Friesians wandering outdoors – three companies: Williamson Holdings LtdSouthdown Holdings, and Five Rivers Ltd (the director of which has an appalling record for pollution of waterways with dairying waste) are each applying for land use consents and effluent discharge consents to establish a total of 16 new farms.

These will house nearly 18,000 cows in so-called ‘cubicle’ shelters for 24 hours a day, eight months of the year. For the remaining four months, the cows will be kept inside for 12 hours a day.

This will produce a quantity of effluent equivalent to that of a city of 270 000 people. This vast quantity of waste will require 414 million litres of effluent storage capacity in ponds. 1.7 million litres of diluted effluent will be deposited on the land on a daily basis in an attempt to make the land fertile enough to grow feed in situ. This is a tall order; the Mackenzie Basin is one of the driest parts of the country and is covered in tussock grass. Until then, feed will be trucked in.

 As with any form of intensive, indoor farming, there are significant welfare issues in housing animals in crowded sheds. Rates of infection are far higher and so greater amounts of antibiotics are generally required to keep the animals healthy. Taking cows, which are at least as intelligent as dogs, and confining them to small spaces is bound to be a traumatic experience. Nevertheless, in a radio interview earlier this week, the President of Federated Farmers, Don Nicholson, when pressed about the total confinement of the cows for eight months of the year made the frankly astonishing argument that:

We live in houses ourselves, we’ve adapted to intensification and I’m sure that farmers of New Zealand want to do their very best for the animals

Continue reading

Veganism and the Environment

Cows Grazing by Mt. TaranakiThere are many reasons for choosing the vegan way of life: Ethical, spiritual, environmental, and physical. My own motivations are a combination of the above, but one aspect that I would like to focus on here is the environmental consequences of meat and dairy production.

Many commentators (indeed, many of my vegan friends!) consider this to be a secondary consideration. They believe that it is the suffering of the animals concerned that must take primacy. Perhaps this is the purists’ dislike of anthropocentric considerations slipping in to what ‘should’ be a movement for the rights of animals. Perhaps it is a form of ‘green fatigue’ brought on by the recent trend to frame any lecture or article – on any subject and however strained – in terms of ‘climate change’.

Continue reading

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