South Canterbury pig farmers Andrew and Julie Kerr have launched a petition to air their concerns about the risk that porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS) poses.
Mr and Mrs Kerr have called on the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) not to reduce biosecurity standards for the importation of raw pork meat.
Mrs Kerr said she started the online petition because she "didn't want to sit here and watch everything fall down around our ears".
She hoped to get around 1000 signatures and present it to Primary Industries Minister David Carter.
New Zealand Pork has appealed a High Court judgement which did not support its challenge of new import health standards.
The pork industry challenged the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry's (now MPI) process for deciding new standards, which would permit imports of untreated pig meat from countries with PRRS.
It was concerned PRRS - a contagious disease that can cause stillborn fetuses, abortion or respiratory sickness - would enter New Zealand under the less restrictive standards, greatly increasing the risk of infected meat being fed to pigs.
The ministry has said its decision was made after years of assessing all available science and a comprehensive risk assessment process, which showed the risks of PRRS entering New Zealand could be effectively managed through the measures outlined in the standards.
The petition said the impact of PRRS on the industry would be:
• Significant death and disease on-farm.
• Significant animal welfare issues, which in some cases could only be managed by the humane destruction of pigs.
• Significant productivity losses on farm and, therefore, financial and personal hardship for farmers and their families.
• It would undermine the industry's ability to meet consumers' demand for New Zealand-grown pork, bacon and ham.
• It would compromise the New Zealand pork industry's commitment to world leading animal welfare.
• The fall-off in production would be replaced by imported product that had lesser welfare standards.
Mr and Mrs Kerr have been farming pigs for two years, having replaced sheep on their property at Albury, near Fairlie.
They have about 265 sows and also run cattle on their dryland farm.
The number of pig farmers in New Zealand was declining and the risk of PRRS was not going to help, Mrs Kerr said.
The likes of varroa, didymo and the PSA disease in kiwifruit had got into New Zealand and the arrival of PRRS would be "another nail in the coffin".
"New Zealand trades on its clean green image. When you look under the carpet, it's not really that clean," she said.
The New Zealand pork industry was already subject to imports and, while that was not ideal, farmers could 'live with it". It would be nice if the public supported New Zealand-grown pork, she said.
Mr and Mrs Kerr farm their pigs outdoors and they already lostebetween 15% and 20% of piglets through crushing. To lose more from the disease would be "devastating".
Animal welfare issues would be "horrendous" while there would also be a big impact on arable farmers.
Outdoor sows in the South Island each ate about 1.5 tonnes of food a year, she said.
In a comment on the petition, Dunedin pig farmer Pieter Bloem said with such a wide variance in opinion on risk, it would be wise to "err on the side of caution", given the extremely serious nature of the disease.
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