It’s got all the right ingredients: local celebrity, an epiphany, cute animals, industry bad guys, hoodwink, public outrage - the media’s happy as a pig in muck, this week. But why did it take so long?
The story’s been around for years -- decades, actually. Sue Kedgley has repeatedly climbed in and out of sow crates and posed with bald startled chooks, patiently asking the questions and releasing the statements. The Greens issue an animal welfare policy each election, the only political party to do so; fringe animal rights groups like Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE - Hans Kriek’s employer), Open Rescue, and the Animal Rights Legal Action Network battle on; and occasionally, a young, usually female, celebrity lends her slight weight. I was only the last, least and, er, lowliest to mention it, when I posted about it on Pundit three weeks ago.
As I pointed out then, the Animal Welfare Act has a foot in both camps, promisnig proper care for animals but also giving famers an out if their economic interests are at risk. Ultimately, I concluded, the welfare of animals lies in the hands of consumers and what we are willing to buy.
This is a brief post, because it’s the same story: the legalised cruelty that is possible, and practiced, under the auspices of the Animal Welfare Act.
Words, blah blah: for some things, only television will do. The question has always been: why should television producers and their viewers -- and Pundit readers, for that matter -- care, today any more than any other day, or at all? What’s the hook?
The hook, as it turned out, was a celebrity tantrum. Or perhaps, more accurately, a sort of road to Damascus conversion. Having parted company with New Zealand Pork the dollar signs fell from Mike King’s eyes, prompting him to do what he should have done in the first place, and investigate the industry he has long and, one guesses, lucratively promoted.
SAFE’s timing, ingredients and strategy -- yes, strategy -- are impeccable. I’ve been mightily impressed, watching it all play out: MAF’s inspection yesterday, the conclusion that under the relevant Code, the farmer has done nothing wrong. (Note to David Farrar: nice try, but your attempt to paint SAFE's strategy as cynical isn't plausible. As SAFE would have known, it was not putting public relations ahead of animal welfare; the fact that nothing can be done for those pigs by MAF is precisely the point. Legally, there is no animal welfare issue.)
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
Sunday: where there’s a story, we’ll find it? There’s a tired old joke in that, or just a missing word. “Sensational”.