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Reporting Animal Welfare Concerns

 

“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” 

— Louis Brandeis

 


 

If you work on a farm, attend a rodeo, or even happen to glance out the window of your home, you may spot negligence, mistreatment, abuse or preventable accidents that harm animals.

Witnessing animal abuse like this can be a highly unpleasant experience. It can be worse when it feels like there is nowhere to turn, or you may face reprisals if you speak up.

By reporting your concerns to SAFE, you’ll allow us to expose this cruelty and file the appropriate complaints so that institutional and government oversight bodies can investigate and take action to hold those responsible to account.

To date, whistleblowers have been instrumental in revealing abuse across several industries in Aotearoa.

However, in the past, we have also received reports of the bullying of young farm workers and others who have had to leave their jobs because they were so sickened by the brutality they saw inflicted on animals. This shouldn’t ever happen, and this is why we have set up a dedicated phone line and submission form, so you can report any issues you have seen or heard about, without a fear of bullying or reprisals.

You can reach out via the submission form below, or by calling us on 0800 EXPOSE.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and by helping SAFE to expose cruel practices whistle-blowers can help fix a broken system.

Contact us about Animal Welfare concerns

Please fill out the form below or call 0800 EXPOSE (0800 397 673)

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    FAQ's

    0800 EXPOSE is a supportive programme that will provide witnesses of animal abuse with a supportive and confidential means to share information.

    You can call 0800 EXPOSE or use the convenient form on SAFE’s website, and a member of our team will assist you with the best course of action, such as providing evidence to enforcement agencies and investigative journalists.

    We are concerned for animals. Their treatment often occurs out of sight, out of mind, on remote farms, backyards, racetracks and behind closed doors. When mistreatment occurs it often goes unnoticed.

    The Ministry for Primary Industries is charged with monitoring animal welfare on farms and enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. But they only have 27 full time dedicated inspectors across New Zealand (according to 2020 figures). Every year New Zealand farms 10.2 million cows, 26.8 million sheep, 810 thousand deer, 621 thousand pigs, and 120 million chickens. There are simply not enough inspectors to monitor 160 million farmed animals, and that’s not even including the fishes, ducks, turkeys, goats and other animals farmed in New Zealand.

    Furthermore, MPI has a conflict of interest. Their stated reason for being is to help “seize export opportunities for our primary industries, improve sector productivity, ensure the food we produce is safe, increase sustainable resource use, and protect New Zealand from biological risk.”  There is no mention of animal welfare.  We need to hold them to account until an independent Commissioner for Animals is appointed, which SAFE is advocating for.

    There have been numerous examples where members of the public and industry insiders have tried to blow the whistle on cruel behaviour and practices. Winter grazing is a notable example, where members of the public have stopped on the side of the road to film or photograph cows standing in mud.

    The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is responsible for enforcing animal welfare on farms, and SPCA is responsible for domestic animals like cats and dogs. If you think animals could be harmed, you should lay a complaint with these agencies.

    But if you’re still concerned that not enough action is being taken, or you’re concerned animals are still suffering, you can report your concerns to SAFE, and we will investigate, expose and hold those responsible to account.

    You can call 0800 EXPOSE (0800 397673) or report your concerns by filling out the form on SAFE’s website.

    When you call you’ll first be asked for a brief description of your concerns, as well as your contact details so a member of SAFE’s Investigations team can contact you directly. If you fill out 0800 EXPOSE web form, your message will go directly to the Investigations team.

    SAFE’s Investigations team will then contact you for a more in-depth discussion about your concerns and recommend the best course of action. If your concerns are serious enough, this will include reporting them to the relevant enforcement authority, which SAFE will assist you with.

    Through all stages of the process, SAFE will maintain regular communication with you which will be confidential and handled with care. When animals are at risk of harm, SAFE is duty bound to report animal welfare concerns to the relevant enforcement authority, but will not share your personal details with any third party without your consent.

    If you prefer, we can follow up on anonymous reports, however, there are limitations to such evidence. It is incredibly helpful if you are able to provide some contact information, so we can follow up with you should we need to.

    In any event, SAFE takes your safety and confidentiality extremely seriously and will never disclose your personal information to any third party without your consent.

    This can be a difficult and lonely experience. We have been contacted by many workers in the past who have felt bullied out of jobs, or had to leave, due to their discomfort with the brutality towards animals they have encountered. This is one of the reasons SAFE has launched the 0800 EXPOSE programme, so you are able to safely and confidentially report your concerns, without fear of reprisal.

    Ill-treatment and neglect of animals is a crime under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

    There are some exceptions. The Act regulates the use of traps and devices that have the potential to cause pain or distress to animals. The Act also provides a defence for ‘generally accepted’ hunting practices that may cause pain or distress to animals.

    The Act also sets out obligations for people in control of animals. They must meet an animal’s physical, health and behavioural needs, and must alleviate pain or distress.

    The Act defines ‘physical, health and behavioural needs’ as

    • proper and sufficient food and water
    • adequate shelter
    • the opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
    • appropriate physical handling
    • protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, injury and disease.

     

    This depends on the circumstances and whether or not charges are laid. The maximum sentence for wilful ill-treatment of an animal is five years in prison or a fine of up to $100,000 for an individual and $500,000 for a company.

    While SAFE does not have a warrant to enforce the Animal Welfare Act, those abusing or neglecting animals can be prosecuted by the relevant enforcement authority, such as MPI or the SPCA.

    The process will depend on the agency responsible for conducting investigations. When you contact 0800 EXPOSE, SAFE’s team will help you through the process and advise you of the agency that has oversight of the issue.

    Absolutely not. SAFE encourages you to share any anything you have witnessed that has made you feel uncomfortable or concerned.

    You may see animal treatment that is legal but morally abhorrent and in the public interest. SAFE can shine a light on examples like these that are worthy of exposure.

    Cruelty can be irregular activities and behaviour that constitutes abuse, mistreatment or neglect of animals. This can be behaviour that constitutes a breach of the Animal Welfare Act. It can also include animal treatment that’s legal but considered morally abhorrent and in the public interest, and worthy of exposure.

    Absolutely not. But nobody is above the law. We want to ensure illegal behaviour is properly investigated by MPI or the relevant agency and ensure animal abusers are held to account. If MPI fails in their duties then it is our job to hold them to account.

    We also want to highlight systemic cruelty that is currently legal. Much of what happens on farms and slaughterhouses is out of sight, out of mind. The public has the right to know what goes on in their backyard.

    There are multiple agencies responsible for enforcing our animal welfare laws, including MPI and SPCA. So it’s not always clear to people who they should report animal abuse and mistreatment to. SAFE’s 0800 EXPOSE programme is here to help eyewitnesses present their accounts to the right enforcement agency and provide support for the duration of their complaint.

    If you have any information regarding the treatment of animals that you think is cruel, or you are aware of animals that are at risk of harm, neglect or ill-treatment, SAFE can help you file a complaint with the relevant authority and ensure action is taken.

    If you’re concerned about dogs barking, wandering dogs, or livestock on the road, we encourage you to contact your local council. Local council maps and list of websites.

    This is a difficult question, and one without a definite answer. The reason for this is that much animal cruelty, neglect and abuse goes on behind closed doors, out of sight of the public. This is why we are encouraging brave witnesses to come forward and report what they see, so we have a better picture of how animals are treated across the country.

    There are multiple agencies responsible for enforcing our animal welfare laws, including MPI and SPCA. When you contact 0800 EXPOSE, SAFE’s team can help you if you are unsure of which agency you should contact.

    SPCA is responsible for companion animals and lifestyle blocks (also known as hobby farms). MPI is responsible for animals on farms.

    The Racing Integrity Board’s purpose is to ensure the integrity of the racing industry and enforce the rules of greyhound racing, thoroughbred racing and harness racing. The RIB has an interest in animal welfare as it relates to racing integrity, but they do not have a warrant under the Animal Welfare Act, and will refer those breaches to MPI.

    The enforcement agency responsible will depend on the situation.

    For issues relating to farm animals, you should contact the Ministry for Primary Industries.

    For issues relating to domestic animals, such as companion animals (e.g. cats and dogs) or animals on lifestyle blocks, you should contact your local SPCA branch.

    But if you’re still concerned that not enough action is being taken, or you’re concerned animals are still suffering, or you’re unsure what to do, you can contact 0800 EXPOSE or use our webform, and we can assist you.

    For concerns about dogs barking, dogs wandering on the road, or wandering livestock, contact your local council.

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    As a charity, SAFE is reliant on the support of caring people like you to carry out our valuable work. Every gift goes towards providing education, undertaking research and campaigning for the benefit of all animals. SAFE is a registered charity in New Zealand (CC 40428). Contributions of $5 or more are tax-deductible.