Friday, 09 March 2018 12:55

Animal welfare regulations are important for New Zealand

Written by  Peter Burke
Professor David Mellor. Professor David Mellor.

New Zealand is internationally recognised for its well-founded and stringent animal welfare regulations. Yet, as reporter Peter Burke notes, cases of mistreatment of animals keep coming before the courts.

Breaches of the animal welfare regulations have long tarnished the image of New Zealand farming. 

The bobby calf scandal, as exposed by an animal rights organisation and which led to the formulation of new regulations, is one high-profile example. There have been others. 

But a good law is no guarantee of preventing some farmers from failing to meet their legal obligations to treat animals well. Prosecutions of farmers mistreating stock appear with monotonous regularity in the media.

But the news is not all bad, says Professor David Mellor, a bio-ethics specialist at the School of Veterinary Science, Massey University. 

He says farmers are now more keenly aware of what animal welfare means than they were 20-or-so years ago. Farmers then did not fully understand what was required and the extent of the pain and other unpleasant experiences animals can feel. 

Nowadays, when a breach of animal welfare regulations is reported, the regulators look to see how and why this occurred.

“For example, did the animal welfare problem arise because of the personal circumstances of the producer and did this result in a catastrophic outcome?” Mellor says. 

“The next question asked is whether or not it is a matter of education or a misunderstanding of the law, and will some form of education -- such as people coming onfarm to demonstrate best practice -- solve the problem?” 

But Mellor says if farmers don’t respond positively to advice or are antagonistic to it, then the authorities have to decide whether or not a prosecution is merited. 

In some cases, where there is compelling evidence of obvious ill-treatment or wilful or persistent ill-treatment, a prosecution may be taken immediately.

“Taking a prosecution is a big step because by their nature they are extremely expensive and there needs to be compelling evidence to secure a guilty verdict,” he explains.

In dealing with animal welfare problems, Mellor says, the Animal Welfare Act focuses solely on the welfare of animals and no account is taken of wider implications such as damage to the reputation of NZ agriculture.

In recent years, much has been said by farming industry leaders and scientists about the fallout for NZ from cases of animal cruelty. It has been said that consumers in our high-value markets want assurances that animals are treated well, in some cases as a precondition for buying our products.

Mellor says the NZ public are quick to seize on breaches of animal welfare standards, so sticking to the rules is necessary to maintain public support for farming.      


More like this

Bobby calf welfare improvement

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is welcoming a new report showing a major improvement in bobby calf welfare last year.

Ramming cow with quad bike earns ban

A former contract milker has been banned from working in the dairy industry for 12 months for ramming a dairy cow with a quad bike, causing it severe pain and distress.

All in together for bobby calves — Editorial

It is great to see all those involved with bobby calves working cooperatively and positively to forestall a repeat of the terrible incident that aired on television showing mistreatment of these helpless animals.


» Latest Print Issues Online

The Hound

Face palm

This old mutt would love to have been a fly on the wall at the PGG Wrightson HQ when news…

Going potty?

Just when your old mate thought the boffins at MPI couldn’t be seen in a worse light, given the M.bovis…


» Connect with Rural News