Animal Welfare Act

Our work Animals in Aotearoa Animal Welfare Act

New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act

In 2015 New Zealand updated our Animal Welfare Act 1999 with groundbreaking changes. For the first time in New Zealand, and the first time in the world, animals were legally recognised as sentient.

This was a result of many years of work by dedicated animal campaigners. These campaigners had already won many successful campaigns which had led to the Government banning live export for slaughter; committing to phasing out the use of sow stalls on pigs, the use of battery cages for hens; and banning the testing of cosmetics and party pills on animals.


The Act is based on the five freedoms of animal welfare. This should ensure that all people in charge of animals provide them with:

  1. Proper and sufficient food, and proper and sufficient water
  2. Adequate shelter
  3. The opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour
  4. Physical handling in a manner which minimises the likelihood of unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress
  5. Protection from, and rapid diagnosis of, any significant injury or disease

The problem is that this revolutionary Act is undermined by loopholes and a complete lack of enforcement.

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Demand an independent agency to regulate and enforce the Animal Welfare Act.


This Act would be revolutionary if it wasn’t ignored by those who write the regulations. Instead, New Zealand is in a situation where loopholes have been created through the implementation of Codes of Welfare and Regulations. Many of these are drafted by farmers, for farmers, and are in direct contradiction to the principles of the Act. For example, rodeo causes animals distress and often leads to harm — this is in no way acceptable under the requirement of animals to be handled in a way that minimises stress and harm.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee continues to use such loopholes to justify the use of many practices that the public finds abhorrent and which are technically illegal under the Act. SAFE continues to campaign against factory farming in Aotearoa and created history, becoming the first organisation to take the Government to court for animals.


These loopholes are illegal and SAFE, along with the New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA), is challenging the Government over the continued use of farrowing crates for mother pigs. Farrowing crates confine mother pigs for five days before they give birth and for up to five weeks afterwards. The mother pigs are unable to express natural maternal behaviours such as nest building, foraging and interacting with their piglets.


Enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 is divided between the SPCA and the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). MPI is responsible for over 160 million farmed land animals, yet they only have 26 inspectors for the whole country. Less than 1% of complaints received by the SPCA and MPI ever lead to a prosecution — this is far lower than other areas of criminal law. Compared with the money made from the export of animal products ($28 billion in 2018), MPI spends less than 0.02% of that figure on the enforcement of animal welfare legislation.

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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.