Changes in pig farming: Pacific community may struggle to afford pork for cultural events


A pig’s head or a whole pig is usually the main delicacy served at cultural events in the Pacific community. File photo / Dean Purcell

A Tongan community leader said proposed changes to pig farming could lead to many families in the Pacific struggling to afford whole pigs for cultural events.

Auckland-based Pasifika chef Melino Maka said the government’s new draft pig welfare code would significantly reduce the availability of New Zealand farmed pork and therefore impact consumers.

Proposed changes include a ban or significant limitation on the traditional use of farrowing crates, changes to the minimum space allowance for growing pigs and the minimum weaning age of 28 days for piglets.

Farrowing systems have the movements of a sow (mother pig) restricted – even when turning around. Social groups say it is a cruel practice.

But agriculture experts say it drastically reduces the leading cause of piglet deaths, including hypothermia, starvation and accidental crushing by their mother.

Industry players said many farmers would be forced out of business or would have to drastically reduce the number of sows they can care for in order to comply with the rules – which means fewer pigs or people choosing to buy imported pork instead.

Maka said the changes would also mean many families simply could not afford whole pigs; which are widely used for traditional cultural and family events such as weddings, funerals, birthdays and Christmas parties.

“Having a whole pig for important events is an integral part of the Pasifika culture.

Concerns about backyard pig vendors

“We are concerned that these higher costs and the reduced number of pigs born and raised in New Zealand will make it difficult to supply whole pigs.”

Maka, also chairman of the Tonga Advisory Council, expressed concern that an independent report commissioned by the government showed that people would have to pay at least 18.8% more for their kiwi-origin pork to to cover the costs of pig farmers, if the changes have taken place.

It was also feared that due to these high prices, community members would turn to other means to find cheaper whole pigs.

“We are concerned that this will lead to community members sourcing whole pigs more cheaply and more easily from unregulated backyard vendors – with associated health risks and no assurances regarding welfare. pork,” he said.

“It is illegal to sell or trade home killer meat in New Zealand. We urge the government to consider the impact of these proposals on our community.”

Pig farmers have set up a website calling on the public to support them.

“New Zealand pig farmers are facing unprecedented changes in the way they farm,” the website says.

“These changes could lead to the death of thousands more piglets, the closure of pig farms and forcing Kiwis to rely even more on imported pork.”

People are be invited to support Kiwi pig farmers by emailing the Ministry of Primary Industries directly to show their support for the pork industry.

Consultation on the proposed changes ends Friday.

James C. Tibbs