New framework shows Minister hopeful, but out of touch with NZ’s Animal Welfare Act

Associate Minister of Agriculture Meka Whaitiri has great hopes for the future of animal welfare. On Friday she released her Framework for Action on Animal Welfare. It was published after SAFE and Farmwatch’s dairy exposé last week.

The Framework focuses on four areas: Independent Voice, Transparency, Strengthening Codes and Capacity Building. While these words provide the promise of improvements for animals, SAFE has strong concerns that the outcomes of these promises might be compromised because of loopholes in the law.

It is disappointing to see the Framework focus on regulations and codes of welfare. Codes and regulations are basically written to set minimum standards for the exploitation of animals, where their treatment is likely to breach the Animal Welfare Act.

For example, the Act says that animals must be allowed to express normal behaviour. Mother pigs in farrowing crates or hens trapped in a colony cage, clearly cannot do this. Therefore the welfare codes that exist for pigs and hens, create a loophole which allows animals to continue to be farmed for profit.

The codes are also not enforceable, meaning that those farmers breaching animal welfare codes are not held accountable for abuse, neglect and cruelty.

In the Framework the Minister is also calling for voluntary compliance and education, which can mean that those who abuse animals may be left to carry on, without effective monitoring.

We welcome the Minister’s calls for an independent voice for animals. However, her plans to establish a dedicated Animal Health and Welfare unit within the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is not the way forward.

“Recent exposes have shown that MPI is incapable of addressing animal welfare. Their role in promoting the animal agriculture industry is a conflict of interest with their current responsibilities for animal welfare. A stand-alone regulatory and enforcement agency, like a Commission, needs to be the highest priority for the Minister,” says SAFE head of campaigns Marianne Macdonald.

The Minister’s focus on transparency and greater participation from interest groups is a great step forward. Our hope is that the Minister continues to listen to animal advocates. Increased transparency would mean that it is more likely that those who do offend, will be held accountable.

SAFE is calling for an stand-alone regulatory and enforcement agency (a Commission), with sufficient resourcing to install CCTV cameras in milking sheds and slaughterhouses, and to properly investigate all claims of animal abuse on farms.

 

Image shared with permission from Sunday Star Times and Murdoch.


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3 July 2018