Animal welfare expert hails historic court ruling on pigs in New Zealand

17 Nov 2020

Andrew Knight, Professor of Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Winchester has hailed an historic new ruling in the New Zealand High Court, which will significantly improve the welfare of pregnant sows.

A judicial review has ruled that the government's legalisation of farrowing crates for pregnant sows in 2018 was invalid because it circumvented earlier law changes designed to phase out the controversial practice of farrowing crates and mating stalls for pigs.

The extremely restrictive cages have been used for decades to confine mother pigs individually before, during, and after giving birth, known as farrowing. The controversial crates restrict the movement of sows and reduce their ability to carry out nest building and other normal behaviour. A stall is an enclosure in which a pig is kept individually. The size of a conventional stall allows a pig to take around one step forward or backwards, but the pig cannot turn around. Pigs are kept in these extremely restrictive cages for four to five weeks, or even longer.

The ruling follows a report by Professor Knight which was published in 2018 by Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE), New Zealand's main animal advocacy organisation.

The report - Uncaging New Zealand's Sows: Scrutinising New Zealand's Farrowing Crates - documents the welfare problems experienced by around 15,000 sows each year, in a practice which is claimed to reduce piglet mortality. However, alternate strategies can decrease mortality and some non-crate systems have even lower piglet mortality.

Professor Knight, who is the founding director of the University of Winchester's Centre for Animal Welfare, said: "I am delighted that my fellow campaigners and I have been able to achieve this historic success for pigs. This will result in legal change to significantly improve the lives of New Zealand pigs, in particular, giving mother pigs the freedom to live more natural lives."

The successful judicial review was brought by the New Zealand Animal Law Association and SAFE.

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