Dr Mike King: Examining pork’s ethics

Dr Mike King, an expert in animal science and ethical issues at the University of Otago, looks at the furore around the use of sow crates in intensive pig farming.

An excerpt from his column in the Otago Daily Times:

“If there’s one thing we can be sure about, it is that intensive pig farmers exploit animals. That’s a fact. But so does the most loving and conscientious pet owner. When we exploit something, we use it.

“Much-loved pets are exploited for companionship, exercise, security, and so on. And these pets exploit their owners right back, for exactly the same things, plus food. I have never been more exploited than I am by my cats.

“Animals and humans live in a mutually exploitative relationship. Everybody wins, and who’d want it any other way? Long live exploitation, right?But exploitation has a darker meaning – to use something selfishly.

“This is when only one side benefits from the deal. This may encapsulate what makes indoor farming of pigs seem wrong. Farming used to be more like the mutual benefit just outlined.

“The animals were given food, shelter and room to do what they normally do, and the farmers were provided with eggs, milk, wool and meat.

“This was prudent for both parties: if farmers didn’t provide the right environment for animals, they wouldn’t flourish and be productive; if animals didn’t hang around with farmers and be productive they wouldn’t get easy access to such a nice environment to live in.

“But, in intensive farming perhaps the bargain has lost its fairness.”

The column was also published in the New Zealand Herald