Another waste of time, or a real opportunity for animals?

The Animal  Welfare Act review 2012

When the new Animal Welfare Act (AWA) was introduced in 2000, a sense of optimism was felt in the animal welfare community. The new AWA replaced the Animals Protection Act, written in 1962. The old Act was a complete failure for animals as it did not recognise their most basic needs and was near impossible to enforce.

The new AWA promised to remedy the old Act’s failings and provide better protection for animals by placing more responsibility on ‘owners’ of animals and setting minimum standards of care via newly established welfare codes. Of particular interest to SAFE was Section 10 of the Act, requiring that animals must have the ability to display normal behaviour. Surely, this would bring an end to some of the worst factory farming practices such as battery hen farming, pig crates and other practices where the animals clearly could not display any of their normal behaviour?

We could not have been more wrong! Instead of protecting animals, the Act had so many deliberately built-in loopholes that it became, in fact, a protector of commercial animal abusers. Under this Act, more hens were crammed in battery cages than ever before, pigs continued to be incarcerated for life in narrow metal crates and meat chickens were kept at a stocking density of 20 birds per square metre. The new Act also failed animals used in research and those used in the entertainment industries. The codes of welfare developed under the Act not only undermined the very principles of the Act but also made any meaningful enforcement near impossible.

SAFE calls for changes

After 12 years of abject failure the AWA is under review this year and SAFE will be making a substantial submission to demand significant change.

We want to see the establishment of an independent Commission for Animals, we want breaches of welfare codes to become offences, a ban on practices that do not meet the obligations of the Act such as battery hen farming, a complete overhaul of animal ethics committees that oversee animal experimentation and meaningful protection for wild animals that are hunted or considered as pests.

The Government will be calling for public submissions in August and SAFE will ask its supporters to speak out for animals during this time. SAFE will show good faith by participating in the review process even though we are highly skeptical about the motivation behind the review. From past experience we know that the animal-using industries have a strong influence on the decision-making process, thus ensuring that their exploitative practices continue unabated. We have no reason to believe that this year’s review will be any different so we must ensure that our voice becomes louder than those of the abusers.

Low standards

While the Government keeps repeating the same old mantra that New Zealand already has high animal welfare standards, those who care about animals know that this is simply not true. In the end the proof will be in the pudding. Will a new revised Animal Welfare Act ban practices that do not allow animals to express their normal behaviour? Will it stop laboratory animals from being subjected to experiments that cause high levels of suffering? Will it provide meaningful protection for animals hunted for ‘sport’ or targeted as ‘pests’?

SAFE will judge this review on the outcomes for animals, not on the spin put out by the Government or animal-exploiting industries. Real change for animals can be achieved but only if good people speak out.

Let’s make it happen

So stay in touch with SAFE, join us in the public consultation process and let our combined voices be heard; and then help us put the pressure on the politicians to make a real difference for animals!

Hans Kriek, SAFE Executive director

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. ~~~S Wave~~~ says:

    Thank you for what you do for animals.

  2. Sue says:

    Absolutely correct. I’ve been advocating a Commissioner for Animals for years. It’s much needed. We would also need to be certain that the Commissioner would be for the animals, not an actual defender of cruel practices.

  3. Shawn Bishop says:

    Will SAFE produce a basic submission for the general public, so that we can all copy and submit it? Numbers do matter, so if they get thousands of submissions (even identical ones), it’ll make an impact. Most people are too intimidated to create their own submission from scratch, but would be absolutely eager to submit one if it is provided. I’d be happy to get lots and lots and lots of people to submit, if you’ll provide us a draft!! Cheers, Shawn, The Animal Sanctuary

    1. SAFE says:

      hi Shawn – yes definitely we’re looking to engage the public in this. The Ministry can’t be left to its own devices! Look out for a launch of our submission guide coming out next week from the 20th August.

      Eliot – SAFE Campaign director

    2. Caroline Arkesteijn-Wouda says:

      Argee with Shawn. We have to make it as easy as possible for people to make a submission. The lower the hurdle the more compliance you get, scientifically proven. Most people have busy lives and haven’t got much time to put a whole document from scratch together. Help them. We need quality and quantity!

  4. Jeane says:

    My question too Shawn – numbers and an organised submission needed. Have started to read this document and it is cleverly worded to not upset the producers I feel – the government do not want to put such a large representation of NZ economy off side. Such a pity – am only in the loop because of complaining to MAF about cow tail docking which seems to be going on – hideously cruel again – esp in the summer to fend of flies etc. Thanks SAFE so much

  5. tony says:

    As a animal lover , like alot i get frustrated with the governments spin and inaction , my faith in them is not huge , however i will be actively getting people to submit in this as its important that the voice for the animals is louder than the industry that abuses animals is !

  6. Liz Anderson says:

    Looking forward to your submission guide and will share it with all friends. I totally agree with Shawn that many people have plenty to say about this, but don’t have the confidence to write their own words. We just HAVE to change the pathetic welfare codes in NZ, and if we all stand together we will do exactly that. Thank you, lovely SAFE folk 🙂

  7. buffyellen says:

    Thank you so much for your draft public submission. Have just read and signed and my partner also. Completely wholeheartedly support what SAFE is doing, thank you for your extreme and tireless efforts, it is much appreciated by both us animal lovers and the animals themselves. Thank you again so much. Buffy

  8. Graham Bull says:

    I am not sure if the amendment act is about penalties for people who act against the act, which was my reading or more widespread and about welfare in general as you are suggesting.I may be reading the wrong bill.If it is more narrow will the committee accept comments on more general but important themes?I am trying to put forward a submission. Could you advise me ?Thanks

    1. SAFE says:

      hi Graham, the scope of the Act is limited but broad and while the government is aiming to push through the Amendment Bill quickly there are a number of different aspects to it. These include scope for introduction of regulations, more enforcement, and more specific issues related to the use of animals in testing, live export, animals in the wild. You can find out more on this site http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/biosec/consult/proposals-for-aw-strategy-and-aw-act

      The Bill does not go far enough and we encourage you to make a submission on the issue or issues that concern you most. SAFE has suggested a number of issues which we believe are achievable and realistic http://safe.org.nz/Campaigns/Animal-Welfare-Act/.

      Writing a submission also indicates to MPs how important animal welfare is to their constituents, and next year during the election they’ll be more sensitive to these concerns.

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