A leaked e-mail suggests that New Zealand pig farmers are attempting to suppress the results of a Pork Industry Board audit conducted earlier this year.

The communication, written by the veterinarian who carried out the audit, said there will likely be a number of farms requiring corrective action and that those actions could cause embarrassment for the farmers and the industry if they were made public. As a result, alternatives to current procedures were suggested, including making the complete documentation available only to the appropriate farmer and the person conducting the audit. In that case, the Board would only be notified of "pass," "fail" or "pending corrective actions (unspecified)" designations. The bulk of the information would remain exempt from the Official Information Act and, consequently, from the public eye.

According to Board Chief Executive Sam McIvor, many farmers had requested that results remain private before they would agree to the voluntary nationwide audit. He said the key is to balance the interests of the farmers with the interests of the public. "There does have to be some trust and the customers need to be able to trust that we have the processes in place," said McIvor.

Members of Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) have said they will go to the Office of the Ombudsmen with a formal complaint if the complete audit results are not released. "It obviously shows that they're not transparent," said SAFE Spokesman Hans Kriek about the leaked e-mail.

According to the e-mail, the audit has been put on hold while the pork industry seeks legal advice.