Feeble animal laws should be an election issue


New Zealanders pride themselves on treating animals well and having good animal welfare laws.

Unfortunately, that is not the reality.

This country’s Animal Welfare Amendment Act fails almost completely to provide legal protection to millions of factory-farmed animals. Exemptions to the basic provisions of the law mean that millions of pigs and hens live in horrific conditions, spending their lives confined to tiny cages and stalls and suffering immense physical and psychological pain.

The Animal Agenda Aotearoa is a campaign by a coalition of animal groups to press for better laws and policies for animals in election year.

The agenda comprises 10 points –

  1. Animal Testing – prohibit the testing of party pills on animals and work towards an outright ban on testing on animals.
  2. Sentencing – develop sentencing guidelines for animal cruelty offences and treat cruelty to animals as an aggravating factor under the Sentencing Act .
  3. The Link – recognise the link between animal cruelty, child abuse, and domestic violence, and include animals as “protected persons” under the Domestic Violence Act.
  4. Shelter & Transport – provide adequate shelter for all species of farmed animals and develop higher standards of stock transportation to ensure animal trauma is minimised.
  5. Commissioner For Animals – appoint an independent Commissioner for Animals, modelled on those appointed to represent other vulnerable members of the community, such as children. The Commissioner will be an advocate for all animals – farm, companion and wild.
  6. Surgical Mutilation – prohibit surgical procedures such as docking of dogs’ tails, the shortening of cows’ tails, de-barking, ear cropping, de-clawing, etc.
  7. Intensive Farming – abolish all forms of intensive and battery farming practices, including sow stalls, farrowing crates, and battery cages, on or before January 1, 2017.
  8. Painful Devices – prohibit the sale, possession, or use of devices that inflict pain and suffering on animals, including electric shock collars, gin traps, electric prodders, fireworks, etc.
  9. Animals In Entertainment – establish stringent regulations for the use of animals in entertainment, including racing. The use of animals in marine parks, rodeos and circuses should be banned. 
  10. Sentience – incorporate in the Animal Welfare Act and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act declarations that animals are sentient beings capable of feeling and have the right to quality of life and dignity.

We wrote to the 10 main political parties and asked them which aspects of the Animal Agenda they supported and then gave them marks out of 10 for their responses. The Internet Party received the highest mark – 10 out of 10 for adopting all of the items on the agenda. The Green Party came in second, with 8.5, and Mana was third with a score of 8. The other marks were –

  • Labour  - 5
  • United Future and the Maori Party – 4, and
  • National and New Zealand First – 1.

ACT and the Conservatives did not respond, so their marks were zero.

(We wrote to the parties before the Government announced a ban on testing psychoactive substances on animals. We are now seeking a prohibition on using animals for testing cosmetics.)

The Animal Agenda campaign is calling on all political parties to adopt all 10 agenda items. New Zealand has the chance this year to improve its shocking animal welfare laws and policies, and become a world leader in the good treatment of animals.

At the moment, this country is lagging far behind other nations. In Switzerland, for example, animal welfare has been included in the constitution since 1973 and the “dignity of animals” was specifically written into the constitution in 1999. Germany, Austria and Slovenia have similar provisions.

A Swiss lawyer who spoke to the New Zealand Companion Animal Council conference last year described our standards of animal welfare as “very, very low” and said that some aspects were not internationally acceptable.

Antoine F Goetschel expressed shock at what he described as “the list of animal mistreatments that were legalised by declaring them not an infraction of the Animal Welfare Act.”

In particular, he singled out factory farming.

Let’s improve the lives of New Zealand animals and restore our international reputation by adopting all 10 of the Animal Agenda Aotearoa items in 2014.


*Catriona MacLennan is the co-ordinator of the Animal Agenda Aotearoa.


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