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Pig farmers tighten security for activists

Pig farmers say animal activists who trespass and hide cameras on farms are exposing pigs to harmful diseases.

Animal rights group Farmwatch took hidden camera footage of two pig farms that aired on national TV and the group intends to keep trespassing to take more photos.

Mid-Canterbury pig farmers Vicki and Hamish Mee have since tightened security to keep out activists, installing laser buzzers and alarm systems.

“This is where my children are growing up,” said Vicki Mee.

“My home, my family, my privacy. Whenever a person comes to prowl on our property to me it is exactly the same as if they are in our house rifling through our things.”

The Mees say the biggest problem was the health risk that activists posed to animals. Visitors to most commercial pig farms must confirm that they have had no contact with pigs for 72 hours before entry and are given disposable overalls and boots to wear on the farm.

“Every pig farm has its own bugs that the pigs develop immunity to, but when activists come on they can transfer diseases from one farm to another. For us it could mean the death of all our pigs,” said Hamish.

A North Island pig farmer, who did not want to be named for fear he would be targeted, said he has had to employ night security guards to stop activists trespassing. His main concern was keeping his farm disease free.”It has cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain the farm’s bio-security status,” he said.

Farmwatch spokeswoman Jasmine Grey said the farmers’ fear was unfortunate, “but I don’t think that is our problem”.

The activists say they want to put an end to all animal farming.

“We think that animals, like people, have a right to life and to determine what that life is for themselves.”

“We are at the forefront of change,” she said. “At one time slavery and hunting of Aborigines was legal, but ethics and morals change over time.”

SAFE campaign officer Shanti Ahluwalia said that they supported Farmwatch and “applaud them for getting the footage”.

New Zealand Pork chairman Ian Carter said activist groups took isolated incidents and assumed every farm was like that.

“It is such an invasion of someone’s privacy to come into their building, hide a camera and then show that footage on TV. Why single out pig farmers?” said Carter.

He said every industry had a small number who did not comply with good practises and new random inspection requirements would help to maintain consumer confidence in the industry.

One fifth of the meat consumed in New Zealand was pork and that demand had remained constant since the TV programme he said.

Carter said New Zealand farmers were tending to move out of pork production.

“Each year we produce 10,000 fewer pigs. There are just 125 registered pig farmers left. Over the past 10 years imported pork has doubled and is now 48 per cent of all pork sold. When it is imported we have no guarantee it has met any of our animal welfare standards.”

SPCA chief executive officer Ric Odom said his group received very few complaints about pig farms.

“I am convinced most farmers want to do what is best for animals,” he said.

_By Krysia Krawczyk for Stuff