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September 27, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Protesters picket parliament to protect pigs (and chickens)

Animal welfare supporters descended on Parliament last Wednesday protesting the Government’s plans to oppose a bill that aims to free chickens and pigs from constraining cages.

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley’s Animal Welfare Amendment (Treatment of Animals) Bill focuses on tightening the Animal Welfare Act and eliminating loopholes that allow the use of practices such as sow crates and battery hen cages.

The bill was originally planned to have its first reading on the day of the protest but earlier in the week Agriculture Minister David Carter told NZPA that the government would not be supporting the bill as it would raise challenges for New Zealand farmers.

“You’ve got to decide whether you want a pork industry and a chicken industry in New Zealand. If we make it so difficult for farmers to farm chickens and pork, then New Zealand will ultimately rely entirely on imported pork. And we will have no control on the way that pork is farmed in other countries. It’s a matter of being very balanced.”

At midday on Wednesday about 100 animal welfare advocates attended the public demonstration organised by newly formed action group Standing For Welfare in Farming Techniques (SWIFT) and supported by national animal advocacy group SAFE.

Kedgley told people at the rally that the bill had been withdrawn from having its first reading last Wednesday as she had requested to the Speaker that it be made a conscience vote rather than a policy vote.

A focal point of the demonstration was a ‘to scale’ sow crate which was available to be “tried for size” by all MPs.

Green Party MP Kevin Hague was one of the few to brave a stint in the crate, but did not stay in there for long, saying that despite being “significantly smaller than a pig” he was feeling quite confined and cramped.

SWIFT spokesperson Ewan Kingston said the demonstration was a chance for concerned New Zealanders to show their support for the phasing out of cruel and indefensible farming procedures, and for decision-makers to get a real sense of the grim living conditions many farm animals in New Zealand are currently subjected to.

“There are tens of thousands of sows and millions of hens in unacceptable living conditions.

“They suffer, but they can’t take part in the political process. It’s the duty of every New Zealander to ensure that their interests are perceived and protected.”

Comedian Mike King and actress Rose McIver have continued to voice their support for the bill and for the end of factory farming.

Speakers at the demonstration included Kedgley and actress Loren Horsley.

“What we’ve ended up with is an act that pretends to protect the interest of animals, but really it protects, for the most part, the interest of farmers. That’s why my bill is so important. It’s strengthening the Animal Welfare Act. It’s removing the loopholes in the act,” Kedgley said.

Her bill would also give the Minister of Agriculture power to amend any Code of Animal Welfare to prevent the suffering of animals, and include an animal’s freedom of movement as a physical need.

The bill has the support of the Labour Party, the Maori Party and United Future.

No one from the National Party came out to meet the protesters.

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