Deborah Coddington

Deborah Coddington is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Deborah Coddington: Witchhunt on farmers as animal lovers forget facts

94 comments
Sows can crush, and occasionally will eat, their offspring. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times
Sows can crush, and occasionally will eat, their offspring. Photo / Bay of Plenty Times

It's open season on farmers. When they're not destroying the environment, they're torturing animals.

There's always been banter between townies and cockies but the divide suddenly got serious.

Now rich-lister Jan Cameron, founder of Kathmandu clothing and camping gear, has given $2 million as reward money for farm workers to dob in their bosses.

Cameron wants staff reporting employers to authorities for cruel practices: the use of sow crates and caged hens in particular.

I don't doubt Cameron's motives. She seems genuine and most people exposed to repeated pictures of the same sows, with the same sores, lying in the same crates, could not help but be moved by their plight.

Tasmania, where Cameron now lives, has moved to ban pig-crate farming by 2017 and there are strong arguments for New Zealand to do the same.

So long as Kiwis are happy to pay more for pork and eggs.

But let's make sure we get the facts straight about what constitutes cruelty to animals before ignorant people start queuing for farm jobs so they can claim their bounty by ratting on their bosses.

Cruelty to animals is different from animal cruelty. The latter is what critters do to each other - like sows crushing, or even occasionally eating, their offspring. And that's not when they're housed in confined quarters.

Piglets, when born, are tiny things, too small for mum to see or count, so sometimes she rolls over and splat. While they're so wee, depending on the sow, sometimes it's better to have her in a special pen for a few days where her babies can reach her teats but she can't squash them.

It's our job to protect animals from themselves and each other. Animals can be extremely cruel but, because they don't possess free will, they can't be held responsible for their actions.

You don't have to live on a farm to know this. Just watch your cat next time it catches a mouse, as it pretends to let the little rodent escape then pounces and tosses it in the air, plays with the poor demented creature until it's bored and then bites mousie's head off.

Hens in cages? I've got free-range chooks and, right now, two are sitting on eggs. They're in a small cage so Winston, the vainglorious rooster, who chases his hens for a bonk, doesn't kill off his own progeny. Someone care to dob me in?

Chooks are horrible playground bullies. One of my chooks is slightly different in colour and the others always make sure she's at the bottom of the pecking order. If they had cellphones, they'd be texting nasty messages all day.

Life on farms is brutish. My free-range pigs bite my legs but they have a happy life and I admit I cry all the way to the home-kill.

I'm sure Cameron's heart is in the right place, but will this campaign lead to the ridiculous? There are vegetarians who take their position because they believe it's cruel to eat meat, but we all die for a reason.

Vegetarians might believe sheep and cattle farmers are guilty of cruelty simply because they send their stock to the abattoirs to be slaughtered without the benefit of general anaesthetic.

If it's cruel to eat animals, then this is tantamount to putting animals on the same level as humans. Why not campaign, then, for national animal screening for cholesterol, cervical screening, breast and prostate cancer?

And what about animal privacy? Sheep and cattle farmers could be dobbed in for forcing their stock to indulge in group sex, ewes being raped, underage sex and - hang on, isn't inter-breeding just incest?

Dairy cows don't even see a bull these days. Their only experience of sex is the indignity of artificial insemination - do they consent to that?

You know I'm being silly but, 10 years ago, it would have been equally silly for television to show a calf being born with the cow standing up and alleging that's cruelty to calves (cows can deliver standing up or prostrate). Or for a major newspaper to picture cattle in a stream and caption them as dairy cows.

But both these occurrences were unquestioned, because the facts would have ruined stories where reporters were putting the proverbial gumboot into farmers.

- Herald on Sunday

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 29 Dec 2014 09:43:05 Processing Time: 658ms