TVNZ last night screened an amazing documentary about intensive pig farming in New Zealand (video in 3 parts). The star of the show was Mike King, former pork poster boy turned SAFE campaigner, who visited a pig farm with Open Rescue after he was challenged about his support for New Zealand pig farming, given the intensive farming practices here. He talks about the intelligence of pigs, their capacity to suffer depression. He is visibly emotionally affected by the horrible conditions in a factory farm. He explains how it’s all about saving money & the industry doesn’t care about the welfare of pigs. Cut to him visiting a “free range” farm where families of pigs are hanging out in a paddock, and he’s kissing a baby pig and observing how nice and clean it smells. Then, cut to a barbeque scene where he’s serving up “free range pork” and talking about how it’s acceptable to him, but he’ll never eat that other kind of pork.
Dear New Zealand: an even better way of respecting pigs is not to eat them at all. If you’re reading this blog you almost certainly know this already, so that’s all I’m going to say.
The issue is continuing to get press: the Breakfast show wonders if consumers will buy free range bacon that is twice as expensive as Signature Range, the Prime Minister is disturbed, & the Pork Board says these conditions are atypical but conveniently dodges the issue that they’re absurdly legal in this country (and cancels this week’s Bacon Awards in case of negative press).
SAFE’s Love Pigs campaign is endorsed by all kinds of famous people (including His Worship The Mayor John Banks? Really?), but Mike King’s involvement as a former prominent pork endorser is quite amazing. I think he’s right that the average New Zealander just doesn’t know about how pigs are farmed in this country, and I’m sure this press coverage will encourage some people to think about their consumption habits.
The pigs pictured above are living at Animal Place sanctuary in California and Best Friends Sanctuary in Utah. Farm animal sanctuaries are kind of like free range farms, only with more respect for animals’ inherent worth and without the killing for food. There actually was a farm sanctuary on last night’s documentary as well, which included the rescue purchase of a pig from the sow crates. She was traumatised and numb, and didn’t know what to do with an open space – I really hope TVNZ’s attention span for this issue is long enough that they’ll revisit her once she’s been at the sanctuary for a while.
There are some amazing sanctuary stories at Peaceful Prairies’ blog, and Farm Sanctuary. The closest animal sanctuary to Auckland is probably the sanctuary in Matakana, which is also a vegetarian (I would presume vegan-friendly) bed & breakfast.
Extra for experts: if you’re interested in the emotional lives of pigs, I highly recommend the book The Pig Who Sang To The Moon by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, an honourary New Zealander. When I read it, I had already been vegetarian for more than 10 years and was vegan, but even so, it totally changed my perspective on farmed animals, animal rights and the compassionate argument for vegetarianism.
(Post title from Oink! magazine, possibly an early influence towards my vegetarianism: “Don’t eat pigs ’cause they’re made from ham/ Eat that nasty butcher man”).