Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Silk purse from a sow's ear

I didn't really want to write about this whole pork debacle; given that I am an ethical vegetarian, I didn't want legitimate news-rage to get clouded by personal outrage. But a few days of reading Herald headlines on the issue - that is, video evidence of the vile treatment of pigs in a government-certified piggery near Levin (glamorous home of the Miss New Zealand pageant) - I thought I would have another look to see if I could gauge the Herald's position on the issue. If you can consider headlines to be a rough reflection of the newspapers editorial position, they make for interesting reading:
  • "SAFE not naming pig farm targeted on TV"
  • "Carter slams SAFE as Maf investigates piggery"
  • "Maf inspection found nothing wrong with pig farm: owner"
  • "'Pork would rise $2 a kg' if intensive farming stopped"
  • "Piggery still under Maf review"
  • "Maf says piggery not breaking any laws"
  • "Piggery owner: activists stirred pigs up"
Actual story, as unemotive as I can make it: 'Animal welfare activists break into a government-inspected (in 2005) pig farm and capture footage of pigs in sow crates etc. The footage is then shown on national television, leading to a significant level of disgust on the part of the public. Maf investigates, but it turns out that these conditions are not actually in breach of the law.'

Story as interpreted by a Martian who only reads Herald headlines: 'Group of glory-hunting animal-fascists break into pig farm and stir up pigs to make honest farmer look bad. They then refuse to divulge the location of the farm, thus condemning the pigs to more torture. Their goal is to raise the price of pork for the Joneses, who are already struggling from the recession. Happy ending where the farm is not breaking any laws, which means that the pigs are not being mistreated.'

Number of headlines quoting people in the pork industry: 3
Number of headlines quoting SAFE: 0
Number of headlines 'slamming' SAFE: 1

Meanwhile, the normally sane Brian Rudman 'slams' the admittedly unsympathetic Mike King for his about-turn (from television pork-fancier to critic of intensive farming), as if that were the point of this issue:
No doubt King won't be the last, but please, he should accept that having sold his soul, he's on his own. And if there is a victim, it's not him, it's those of us who've been duped, or misled, or sucked in by the smiley messages he and other celebrities are paid to peddle.
Actually, Brian, it's probably still the pigs. And the "Your Views" on this issue contains gems such as this:

Edward (North Shore): The Western world has not been able to feed itself without intensive farming for the last 50 years.

The pigs live in a fairly warm environment compared to the cruelty of freezing on a "free range" farm. Their health is checked regularly. They don't have the stress of getting into fights, as on a "free range" farm.

Their quality of life and level of stress is lower in a controlled intensive environment. In a "free range" piggery, agressive pigs muscle out other pigs' food. In a controlled farm, we know they are properly fed.

The same NGO outfit who are promoting "free range" pigs are also telling African governments not to use drought resistant seeds, and saying 'you're better off poor and starving'. How cruel is that!

I wish I were in jail so that I didn't have to go out in the cold and could get fed every day.

I tell you, we have to stop nannying these pigs in their luxury crate-hotels, where they can lie.. erm, stand around all day not having to do a decent day's work! Send 'em to Egypt, I say.


  1. The whole "farm not breaking the law" thing seems obvious. No one said they were. In fact the Sunday item made it very clear that they weren't breaking the law, that the methods were in line with the law. The point was that the law is out of line with other animal welfare laws.

    That seems to have been largely missed in media reaction.

  2. My favourite Your Views response was the one that stated "Sure, go free-range... then all the NIMBYs who would hate the smell of a free-range pig farm in their neighbourhood will have to put up and shut up."

    Because the natural result of asking for better animal welfare standards is that someone will come and start a pig farm in the middle of your suburb.

  3. Ethical vegetarian? Whoa... when did that happen, James? Were you or were you not a member of 'Meat Club' at uni?

  4. Solid opportunity for New Zealand to catch up with and even overtake the rest of the world with regard to animal rights and ethical standards.

    Maybe our progressive (sic) government can capitalise on this opportunity!

    At the very least fingers crossed this might convert a few people to vegetarianism. Or even just vegetemporarianism.

  5. @Ryan
    Vegetemporarianism = Deep fried Japanese vegetarianism?


    click on this link to see where a dearth of ethical vegetarianism and compassion for animals - as a nation - gets us.
    Momma, don't let yr children grow up to be cowboys.....

  7. Don't think James was in the meat club, but he was definitely the chief architect behind Meatfest '02 (or was it '03? It's been so long...)

  8. And wasn't the infamous meat sushi wrapped in intensively farmed bacon? And for some devil's advocate rebuttal, Life of Pi has an interesting take on caged animals. Excellent. Quoting works of fiction. But still interesting.