This blog post was first published in the Kapiti Independent.
So we have all (well most of us) done our duty as good citizens and voted. In the lead up to the election, SAFE urged people to consider the animals when casting their vote, as in the end animals rely on politicians to pass legislation that will improve their welfare.
Animals are important to New Zealand. We can afford to buy houses, cars, groceries and lots more as a direct result of the 21 billion dollars animal products contribute to our economy. You would think that we would all be eternally grateful to these animals, but are we? Judging by the 0.03 percent of this income spent by the Government on animal welfare enforcement, hardly. As a nation, we seem especially callous towards animals incarcerated on factory farms. In a country like New Zealand, with plenty of space and a mild climate, we choose to confine 85 million meat chickens, 3 million battery hens and hundreds of thousands of pigs in dark, overcrowded and cruel indoor conditions simply because we want cheap meat and eggs.
Recently an exposé by SAFE of disgusting conditions on factory pig farms and the brutal treatment of the animals on these farms made headlines around New Zealand. Public outrage followed and people demanded action. Two months later, the furore has died down but what has happened to improve the lives of these pigs?
Well, not surprisingly, very little. The Pork industry repeated their old mantra, “this farm is not representative of our industry”, despite the fact that the farm carried their Pigcare accreditation label, supposedly guaranteeing high animal welfare standards. The Minister for Primary Industries tried to discredit SAFE for not taking evidence to MPI, ignoring the fact that SAFE had provided damning evidence about the farm a year before and nothing had changed. The exposed incompetent farmer falsely claimed the footage shown on television was not taken on his farm.
So everybody was ducking for cover. Nobody stood up to say that this was not good enough, let alone take action to improve the lives of these abused animals. So what happened to all the people that expressed outrage? Are they boycotting all factory-farmed products? Did they vote for a party that promised to end factory farming?
We now know that we have another three years of a National Government ahead. National has made some positive changes for animals in the past by increasing penalties for animal abuse, phasing out sow stalls and ruling out party pill testing on animals. On the other hand, they have also allowed cruel colony cages to replace battery cages and seem content with the intensification of our dairy industry, which could mean year round indoor confinement for thousands, if not millions, of dairy cows.
In the end, if we sit back and let politicians decide the fate of factory-farmed animals, the animals will have a long wait ahead of them. As New Zealanders we have just voted for the politicians, but let’s vote again, and again, and again, and again. Every time we do our shopping we can vote for or against factory farming. So let’s vote for the animals by not buying any factory-farmed products. Can the animals count on your vote?