New Zealand: Animal welfare body airs ‘concerns’

The need to reduce tail cutting was highlighted in the report

Concerns over selective breeding practices in New Zealand’s commercial pork and poultry farms have been raised in a report from the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC).

The government-establishment NAWAC raised concerns in its report that pork and poultry producers were using imported genetics from multinational organisations, meaning they lacked influence over the “selection pressures” applied to livestock.

New Zealand produces 100 million birds per year making chicken, numerically, the largest meat industry in the country, NAWAC claims. As such, NAWAC said any compromise on animal welfare would be “far-reaching”. One area of concern is that chickens are bred beyond a point that is “compatible with survivability”.

While the majority of hatched chickens are slaughtered within a few weeks, NAWAC said the rapid growth of chickens kept to adulthood has a negative effect on fertility, mortality, movement and aggressiveness.

Greater transparency

On pork, it is a similar issue: NAWAC takes concern with the pig genetics from multinational corporations who plan selections years in advance. It has called for greater transparency from the breeding companies.

According to NAWAC, tail biting is a big issue in New Zealand and as such, tail docking is prevalent. NAWAC has asked for industry to look at breeding pigs without tail biting tendencies to reduce the need to dock tails. While this may sound complicated, NAWAC pointed to research in 2005 from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that found pigs with a high enough hereditability for selection.

It has also called for industry to breed more robust piglets to improve to survivability rate, as many piglets are crushed.

‘Satisfied’ by red meat effort

The government-established body said it was “satisfied” with the approach to beef and lamb selective breeding.

NAWAC chair Dr Gwyneth Verkerk said the committee has spoken to the sectors is has concerns about, but said overall she was happy with the effect of selective breeding on animal welfare.

Selective breeding offers many opportunities to improve both animal welfare and production like breeding animals that are resistant to disease. NAWAC found that good practices are generally being applied across the board, but noted some examples of concern since they affect animal’s welfare.

We have had really useful conversations with different sectors and we trust the report will continue to inform progress on this significant animal welfare subject,” she added.

Neither the Poultry Industry Association New Zealand or the Poultry Industry Association New Zealand could be reached for comment at the time of writing.

The NAWAC was set up under New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act to provide independent advice on animal welfare to the Minister for Primiary Industries.

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