It has to be time to roast the Pork Board

The Pork Industry Board is a statutory agency. Yet it seems to assume it is a law unto itself.

Late last year, the Pork Industry Board threatened litigation to prevent the Government from releasing a draft code for animal welfare in piggeries for public consultation.

Last week, a leaked email from the Pork Industry Board revealed it was conspiring with pig farmers to evade the Official Information Act over its audit of animal welfare in New Zealand piggeries.

Today, the Sunday Star-Times has revealed that the Pork Industry Board is also likely responsible for covert surveillance of animal welfare activists, including the (not very) covert use of a tracking device on the vehicle of one animal welfare activist.

The Pork Industry Board is a statutory agency gone feral. It appears to be assuming it has surveillance powers that even the Police and the SIS don’t have. The Police and the SIS need to obtain warrants to use tracking devices on vehicles. For the Pork Industry Board to be able to do so without a warrant is outrageous.

The law is unclear as to whether such surveillance is lawful. But it should not be, and Keith Locke has today suggested that this should be addressed by an amendment to the Search and Surveillance Bill currently before Parliament’s Justice and Electoral Select Committee. Well done, Keith!

But looking at the bigger picture, the Pork Industry Board is a statutory agency that considers itself above the law in several respects. Agriculture Minister David Carter is either unable or unwilling to make it accountable.

The Pork Industry Board has three strikes against it now. Surely it is time for a Commission of Inquiry into its attempts on behalf of rogue farmers to subvert the process of requiring piggery owners to maintain humane conditions for their animals.

29 Comments Posted

  1. “You like the other have missed my point… An activist should not be suprised if there is activist action against them.”

    Actually you seem to have missed my point – activist action against activists is nothing new or surprising. But using hired professionals to spy on activists, and disseminate dodgy information, is a relatively recent phenomonen.

  2. We avoid purchasing pork unless it is branded “Free range” and the same applies for chicken meat. Where we have the option we buy from organic farmers and growers. Actively support what we consider to be good and avoid bad or cruel practice. At the moment we are making and alternative to controlling pest animals with toxins and making available to the public. We support and help organic growers to work more effectively and profitably. Farmers and most businesses do what is most profitable. Lets make a difference where it counts.
    Peter Bacchus,

  3. I would like to see a change in the conditions of pigs raised in NZ. I do have feeling for pig farmers who must compete with farmed pigs which are raised overseas in conditions that would not meet our new, more reasonable, rules.

    It is a sad product of our cheap pork importing habits that swill has become an unattractive food source for pigs. The threat of contamination of foot and mouth contaminated overseas pork requires long energy wasting heat treatment. Let’s have humanly farmed NZ pork at fair prices, supplemented by small scale, by product fed, pig raising.

  4. gerrit,

    I wouldn’t want to be added to your list of broad line drawers, and I’m fairly sure that the good folks already so deemed by you don’t the status either, so would you be so kind as to define for us what you mean by a legitimate activist.

    If it helps you to align things to your own preference by all means add what constitutes to your mind an illegitimate activist..

  5. The same organ-isation that allegedly arranged the spying on these activists stands soon to gain legal sanction to spy, enter your home secretly and install snooping equipment etc.
    What do you think about that Mr Gerrit?

  6. Sam,

    You like the other have missed my point.

    An activist should not be suprised if there is activist action against them.

    Just because you havent heard about a piggery activist does not mean they dont exist. Hardly going to introduce themselves!!

    Activists can come from anywhere.

    Heard through the grapevine that if the activists continued their attempts to prevent the coal train from running to Lyttleton, the west coast miners were going to spend time on action not conducive to anti coal mining activists carrying on their activities.

    Should any activists be suprised at this?


  7. “..One could argue that the correct course of action to take against a piggery would be to call the SPCA and the police…”

    and you would quickly conclude that you were just wasting your time…

    the pig-concentration camp owners are ‘within the law’..

    and the spca is part of the governing body that sets these standards…

    (i know..!..go figure..!…eh..?..)


  8. “Funny that it is OK for you to visit a piggery to take photographs but not OK for the piggery activist to visit your place.”

    If an activist is snooping around a farmer’s house or intefering with their vehicle, I wouldn’t condone it. Checking out a place of business in a sector with a track record for law breaking and a ‘can we get away with it’ approach to ethical behaviour is rather different.

    And I’ve never heard of a ‘piggery activist’ this is professional spying, not something motivated by legal or ethical concerns.

    “One could argue that the correct course of action to take against a piggery would be to call the SPCA and the police.”

    Can you cite many examples of the police seriously investigating allegations of pig farmer’s mistreating animals on tha basis of a phone call? I’m sure if the police jumped into action in such cases, activists would be happy to oblige with an flood of calls. The reality is the SPCA are overworked and the police don’t care – unless there’s concrete evidence and public pressure.

    And you are perfectly welcome to check out my veggie garden anytime the mood takes you.

  9. gerrit – Cauli don’t have brains. They don’t suffer in the way pigs do.
    Your highlight doesn’t work.

  10. Toad,

    Thanks for the reference.

    I’m sure an activist from either side will find an excuse to be somewhere “with a reasonable excuse”.

    One could argue that the correct course of action to take against a piggery would be to call the SPCA and the police.

    But if you want to take the law into your own hands dont expect the other party not to do so as well.

    Greenfly, The cauliflower analogy was to highlight the argument.

    George, did you ever after an (illegal?) visit to a piggery pass any information to the SPCA and the police for follow up?

  11. Gerrit, the relevant offence is under section 29 of the Summary Offences Act:

    29 Being found on property, etc, without reasonable excuse
    (1) Every person is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 months or a fine not exceeding $2,000 who is found without reasonable excuse
    (a) In or on any building; or
    (b) In any enclosed yard or other such area; or
    (c) In or on board any aircraft, hovercraft, or ship or ferry or other vessel, train, or vehicle.
    (2) It is not necessary in a prosecution under this section for the prosecutor to prove that the defendant had an intention to commit any other offence, but it is a defence if the defendant satisfies the Court that he had no such intention.
    (3) If any constable finds a person in any place referred to in subsection (1) of this section, without reasonable excuse but in circumstances that do not cause the constable to suspect an intention to commit any other offence, the constable may, instead of arresting him for an offence against subsection (1) of this section, warn that person to leave that place and, if the person refuses or fails to do so, he is liable to a fine not exceeding $500

    Note the words “without reasonable excuse”. If I have reasonable cause to fear for the welfare of animals on someone else’s property, I have a reasonable excuse to go onto the property to investigate. I doubt you could find a reasonable excuse for your cauliflower analogy, unless you actually saw a person or an animal like a goat rampaging through the cauliflower patch destroying them.

    And before anyone suggests it, this is not the same as the Waihopai 3 defence.

  12. Are you generally concerned about my treatment of cauliflowers Gerrit, or is your argument spurious?
    The line is not so easily ‘applied’ to both sides, if you approach the issues genuinely. The treatment of pigs = genuine issue, the treatment of cauli = not so much.

  13. Greenfly,

    So as long as I leave a calling card, you dont mind if I visit your property in the middle of the night as an activist who is protecting all those defenceless cauliflowers you grow, from being cut down in their prime.

    The line you, toad and George draw is a very broad one, easily applied to both sides of any argument.

  14. Gerrit – those actions are taken for the sake of the defenceless pigs.
    The ‘spying’ is for purely self interested, less noble reasons.
    There’s a difference.

  15. As far as my quick search around goes the Pork Board don’t count as a Govt Agency but if it could be a defined as a point of law interpretation etc, that a Body that a Minister has influence over and was setup by Statute counts as such a govt/public service body that is a rather interesting case…. essentially it would be the Executive in light of the Public Service suing the Executive in light of the Government/Crown…I’m not even sure that’s possible. With this Tracking situation though, the activists involved could easily have a claim in civil court, don’t believe there is a criminal liability here , I presume they would qualify for civil legal aid though attempting against the actual investigators seems more useful than against the Board since there is more chance of a success I’d think and somewhat a future deterrence element to be had in that sort of judgement if they were successful, just an opinion of sorts of course

  16. John Darroch,

    If you are on private property and are asked to leave and dont or come back then you do.

    Funny that it is OK for you to visit a piggery to take photographs but not OK for the piggery activist to visit your place.

    Is it legal to visit your place uninvited like you expect to do to piggeries?.

    Now both you and toad dont get me wrong. I dont like the way some piggeries operate in New Zealand anymore then you do.

    But claiming the high moral activist grounds is naive to say the least.

    There are any number of cliches around that involving geese and ganders, but you get my drift.

  17. Gerrit, going onto a pig farm and taking photographs and videos is not in itself breaking the law – it only becomes breaking the law if intentional damage is done, or if there is an intent to commit some other offence, or the person doing it has been issued with a warning under the Trespass Act with respect to a particular pig farm.

    Deliberately conspiring to evade the Official Information Act is definitely breaking the law. I’m not sure about the use of trackign devices – but it does seem strange that the Police and the SIS have to get warrants to use such devices, but a private investigation company can use them without any oversight.

  18. John Darroch,

    So, that makes law breaking OK?

    As I said, live by the sword, dont be suprised if the opposition bring a gun to the confrontation.

    Next it will be a consipracy against activist by the Police, and almost all government agencies.

    Does our air-force have black helicopters?

  19. toad,

    frog said

    Today, the Sunday Star-Times has revealed that the Pork Industry Board is also likely responsible for covert surveillance of animal welfare activists……

    Proven fact that the PIB organised the surveilance? No (notice the use of the words “most likely”).

    Did they use information provided by a pro piggeries activist.

    Probably. Is that against the law? No.

    No more so then the Greens using the Mike Smith generated piggeries invasion tapes.

    Once information is in the public domain it is useable by all.

    Point I’m making is that activists on one side of an argument should not be suprised that opposing activists carry on the same type of activity.

  20. Gerrit another major difference is that we conduct our campaigns openly, releasing footage and photos of ourselves documenting conditions in factory farms. We make no attempt to hide who we are and we are fully prepared to defend our actions in court.

    The pork industry on the other hand could not survive without high levels of secrecy. When consumers are shown what is going on in these farms they are disgusted. These latest actions by the pork board are a sign of desperation as we continue to reveal the horrific conditions in pig farms across New Zealand.

    I have never had the police ask me about my work documenting factory farms but have had to put up with years of informants, covert photographers and low level harassment. My experience has shown that the police and Thompson and Clark are acting to protect corporate profit rather than enforce laws.

    John Darroch

  21. Gerrit, the Pork Industry Board is a statutory agency. The difficulty here is that it has gone far beyond its statutory role of helping in the attainment, in the interests of pig farmers, of the best possible net ongoing returns for New Zealand pigs, pork products, and co-products.

    It has taken on a self-appointed activist role of defending pig farmers with poor animal welfare records and frustrating Government efforts to introduce and enforce an effective Animal Welfare Code for the pork industry.

  22. Activist breaking into piggeries is OK

    Activist attatching electronic tracking equipment to other activists’ cars is not OK.

    Thats the trouble when you live by the sword. The other party has a sword as well. Hopefully they dont bring a gun to a sword fight.

  23. Interestingly perhaps I’ve just had Mark Thoma@ EV send this link through..

    They say it has been around a while and tech savvy is what some elements in the government would sure term themselves.. plus who can say whether its novelty assesses within bounds of the law.. or likely to fairly soon.. seems a sort of tandem possibility to me.. wishing you all luck in the sorting thereof..

  24. Try again.. like bruce with his spider… yep, lost the last input..

    basically suggesting that that without check and balance the alleged spying activities by third parties for the PIB may well become conventional practise under a Westminster-type political system.. better would be the Minister having the PIB explain itself to him and the government..

    Better being reason d’etre the prevailing government anyway.

  25. Good on you, Keith and Sue, for your work in this.

    Any chance of getting Select Committee inquiry into the Pork Board’s allegedly unlawful activities if the Government won’t establish a Commission of Inquiry?

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