A vegan photography student was yesterday facing a cold night above a Waikato pig farm protesting against what he says are "inherently cruel" practices within the industry.
John Darroch, 22, said he wanted to highlight some of the issues surrounding local pig factory farming practices so he chained himself to the top of a 12m-tall silo on a pig farm near Cambridge.
Mr Darroch, who was supported by members of animal welfare group New Zealand Open Rescue, said he wanted to put pressure on Agriculture Minister David Carter to fix loopholes in the Animal Welfare Act.
He said that under the act animals must be able to express their natural patterns of behaviour. But the current code of welfare for pigs legalised the confinement systems that include dry sow stalls and farrowing crates - tight enclosures used to restrain sows after breeding, when they are particularly aggressive, and after giving birth, when piglets are most vulnerable.
"There are sows that are confined in spaces of 60cm by 2m for 16 weeks of their lives, before and after they've given birth which is particularly cruel," said Mr Darroch.
"You've got mothers that can't turn around or lie down without getting sores, they're depressed and have just given up any hope ... it was distressing to see."
Last May, Mr Carter requested an urgent review of pig welfare that resulted in a National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee draft Code of Welfare for pigs. The document proposes new limits for the amount of time crates and stalls can be used after mating.
But Open Rescue spokeswoman Deirdre Sims told the Herald it still allowed for sows to be confined in crates for their entire lives until 2013.
"They are talking about banning sow stalls by 2018, which is just too far away, it needs to happen sooner."
SPCA executive director Bob Kerridge said the draft was headed in the right direction by recognising the cruelty involved with sow crates.
"But the debate will always be whether it goes far enough because for as long as we have that cruel practice continuing there will always be an animal welfare concern."
Mr Kerridge said there was a general acceptance of the use of farrowing crates for the pigs' safety but there was not an acceptance of their overuse.
The owner of the farm did not return Herald calls, nor did pork industry representatives.
Cambridge police said they were monitoring the situation.By James Ihaka Email James