Animal Welfare Act Review Submission 2013

 

 REVIEW OF ANIMAL WELFARE ACT 1999

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SUBMISSION ON BEHALF OF

The New Zealand Vegetarian Society

3rd October 2013

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The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

- Mahatma Gandhi


Contents


Introduction…………………………………..……………………………….……….…………  3

Section 5 relating to “manipulation”……………………………………………..………  4

Standard of Care and Conduct Towards Animals …………………………………… 4

Obligation to Consult…………………………………………………………..……….……..  4

Clause 11 – Obligation to Alleviate Pain…………………………….………………….. 5

Section 15 Painful Procedures……………………………………………….…………….. 5

NAWAC / Ministry of Primary Industry (MPI)……………….………………..…… 8

Wild animals – Legal Protection Section 30 ………………………..….….….………8

Offences………………………………….….………………………………….……………….…. 9

Live export Section 38…………………………………………………………….…………10

Exemptions from the AWA Section 73 ………………………………………..………10

Animal Testing…………………………………………………………………………………..11

Animals in Entertainment…………………………………………………………………..12

Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………….… 13


One of the Aims of the New Zealand Vegetarian Society (NZVS) is to reduce animal suffering.   We are therefore vitally interested in the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) amendments, and hopeful that the amendments will ensure that the inadequacies of the current Act are remedied.

We ask that animal welfare be the primary consideration when making these revisions and that welfare is not overshadowed by economic or other non-welfare related considerations.

We urge you to close the loopholes that currently allow millions of New Zealand’s animals to exist in abhorrent and severely inadequate circumstances.  The fact that the AWA protects some animals and not others is simply unacceptable.

Farmed and laboratory animals are sentient beings that think, feel and suffer.  A non-owned animal suffers just as much as an owned one.  The fact that they are hidden in sheds, laboratories, in remote hill farms and in the wild does not change this and should be no reason for exemption from the protection the AWA provides domestic animals.

If nothing else changes, we implore you to make this Act an honest one.  An Act that puts the needs and rights of animals above the wants of those that harm or exploit them.

The Animal Welfare Act is responsible for the protection of all animals.  Please ensure it succeeds.


Section 5 relating to “manipulation”

We agree with the proposed amendments to include killing and breeding of animals for research, testing and teaching as “manipulations”.

The number of animals killed for research, testing and teaching, should be included in official statistics.  The numbers of animals killed for tissue collection, and the numbers of unused surplus animals killed, should also be included.

We ask that “(other than an animal in a wild state)” in 5(2)(1A) be removed.  Whether or not an animal is wild it is still an animal and should be included in any manipulation statistics and its use be subject to the same guidelines as domestic animals.

We do not agree that the definition of manipulation should exempt researchers from needing to satisfy the second “harm-benefit” test.

 

Standard of Care and Conduct Toward Animals

We agree that regulations are a preferred option to codes, as they are enforceable.

However, we are concerned that many of the minimum standards will not be suitable to be turned into regulations.  The remainder would become guidelines, which is unacceptable since they have no legal effect.  This could in fact reduce the protection provided by the AWA, which must be avoided.

Where necessary, it would be preferable to have specific schedules covering the obligations to individual species and specific practices.

 

Obligation to Consult

We suggest animal advocacy and welfare organisations be included in groups to be consulted during the development of regulations.  These groups are essential to help balance the input of industry and sector groups, particularly as the only agenda they bring is animal welfare and not profit or other.

 

Clause 11 – Obligation to Alleviate Pain

We support this.

 

Painful Procedures Section 15

The welfare codes still allow painful husbandry procedures, such as mulesing, removing of hens combs, tail docking and live fetotomy, without adequate anaesthetic or pain relief.  The Act also allows unnecessary procedures, such as tail docking of animals other than sheep, induced moulting of poultry through inadequate feeding, cow inductions and boiling of crustaceans alive.

Wherever these procedures provide no benefit to the animal, they should be banned.

Necessary procedures should be legally restricted where specific skill, medication or similar is required.  Adequate pain relief and appropriate supervision should be legally required.

Sufficient anaesthesia and analgesia should be considered a minimum standard during the performing of a painful procedure.

These procedures must be covered by the AWA and not codes, which are often written for the benefit of the industries involved.  Where animal welfare is unnecessarily compromised, the AWA should ban it.  Where animal welfare is necessarily affected, the AWA should provide the standards.

 

The NZVS submits that the following procedures be classified as follows:

Prohibited

  1. Mulesing
    Inhumane and unnecessary. With the industry imposing a voluntary ban on it, now is the ideal time to prohibit it.
    From an economic perspective, you will be aware of the backlash mulesing has had on the Australian merino industry and would surely like to avoid that for New Zealand.
  2. Tail docking of any animal (other than sheep)
    Unless there is a genuine medical need this operation should not be performed.
    Cow docking – Performed for the comfort of the farm worker only, and this is not sufficient reason to inflict pain and subsequent reduction of ability to deter flies causing on-going discomfort.
  3. Dubbing
    There are other means of managing aggression amongst poultry.  Dubbing is unnecessary.
  4. Induced moulting of poultry
    Through inadequate food.  This clearly does not adhere to the requirement of the five freedoms.
  5. Induction of dairy cows
    Inductions for the purposes of farm management should be prohibited.
    When carried out for a health related reason it should be a restricted procedure.
  6. Force-fed Foie Gras production
    There is no excuse for such a cruel trade as this.  The world can exist without this product.  This industry is a disgrace and should be banned.

 

Restricted

  1. Tooth extraction
    Tooth extraction for the purpose of farm management, when less intrusive alternatives are available.
  2. Canine dew claw removal
  3. Caslicks procedure
  4. Castration of young farmed animals
    Any castration of an animal involving surgery requires an appropriately trained person, anaesthesia and analgesia.
  5. Dehorning & disbudding
    These procedures should be transferred into the proposed regulatory scheme.
    Dehorning cuts through large nerves and causes considerable pain, including that of cold air into the open sinuses.  Local anaesthesia throughout the procedure and post-operative analgesia should be mandatory.
  6. Develveting
    Requires an appropriately trained person, anaesthesia and analgesia.
  7. Debarking of dogs
    Should remain restricted and only be performed by a veterinarian, and only when it is necessary for the welfare of the dog.
  8. Declawing of cats
    Should be restricted and only be performed by a veterinarian and only when it is necessary for the welfare of the cat.
  9. Rectal examination of horses
  10. Tusk trimming (Boars)
    Requires local anaesthesia throughout the procedure and post-operative analgesia.

 

Significant

  1. Desexing companion animals, including horses and alpacas
    Appropriate anaesthesia, post-operative pain relief and veterinary supervision/performance is required.  A regulation for this procedure would be sensible.
  2. Tooth extraction
    Tooth extraction for medical reasons.

 

NAWAC / Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI)

The NZVS feels strongly that it is imperative to have an independent Commissioner for Animals.

Is it not acceptable for New Zealand’s animal welfare legislation to be administered by the Ministry of Primary Industries.  This is a Ministry whose primary focus is the economic profits from animal products.  Clearly there is a significant conflict of interest.

NAWAC needs to have a more balanced membership of people with an interest in the primary sector and people with a focus on animal welfare.  NAWAC needs a higher number of animal advocacy representatives for it to be an honest committee with a genuine interest in providing high quality animal welfare.

 

Wild animals – Legal Protection Section 30

We applaud the proposed inclusion of wild animals, but submit that the amendments do not go far enough to ensure wild animals receive the protection of the AWA.  Wild animals feel and suffer in the same way as domestic animals and deserve no less legal protection.

The AWA should expressly state that where hunting and fishing is undertaken, all practicable efforts to reduce pain, stress and suffering should be made.  Many hunting methods are unjustified and can create severe and prolonged suffering.  The AWA needs to make these illegal.  Aspects such as injured animals and the young of killed mothers should be specifically covered and it should be required that all reasonable efforts be made to capture and humanely euthanise those animals.

Section 30A states “It is intended that generally accepted hunting, fishing, and pest management practices will not be affected by the new section, which is directed at acts of wilful or reckless cruelty.”

We ask that this needs to be reconsidered as some generally accepted practices create severe suffering, for example pig hunting with dogs.  Being “generally accepted” should not be considered a reasonable exemption; being “generally accepted” does not make something acceptable.

Hunting practices that inherently cause severe pain and/or distress should be banned.  These would include pig hunting with dogs, helihunting, whaling and shark finning. These clearly go beyond the Act’s intention to prevent acts causing unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress, and as such are obviously in conflict with the intention of the Act.

 

We strongly request 30A(3) be removed:

“A defendant has a defence to a prosecution for an offence against subsection (1) or (2) if the defendant satisfies the court that the conduct alleged to constitute an offence is or is part of a generally accepted practice in New Zealand for the hunting or killing of wild animals of that type or animals in a wild state of that type.”

Section 36 – Any trapping system that causes unreasonable suffering, such as gin traps, should be expressly banned.  There needs to be a legal obligation that any trap is inspected on a daily basis if there is any chance of an animal remaining alive within it.

We ask that the AWA clarifies what conduct is permitted, in order to protect the animals and to provide specific guidelines to hunters so that they may abide by them or be prosecuted if they fail to do so.  We recommend a regulation be created for hunting and fishing.

 

Offences

We support the proposal to make an offence of drowning or attempting to drown any land animal, including wild animals.  We ask that birds be added to this category – there is no reason not to.

Boiling alive of crabs, crayfish and similar should be prohibited under all and any circumstances.  It is barbaric, unnecessary and causes unjustifiable pain and distress.

We support the suggestion for a wider range of enforcement tools for inspectors.  We agree with the proposal to introduce new infringement offences and increase the maximum fine to $1000.

 

Live export Section 38

Please amend the Act to ban the live export of animals for slaughter.

This trade causes immense suffering and subjects New Zealand’s animals to practices that they are protected from while in this country.  It is unconscionable that animals with legal protection should be allowed to be exported to suffer practices that are illegal in their own country.

This would not be only an ethical decision, also an economic decision that will enhance New Zealand’s global reputation.

With live export for slaughter currently suspended, there will not be a better time to prohibit it permanently.  There will be no loss of income or expenses incurred by a ban.  We need to use this opportunity to ensure this despicable trade never resumes.

 

Exemptions from the AWA  Section 73

The “exceptional circumstances” provision in clauses 73(3) and (4) requires a narrower definition.  Exceptional circumstances should be genuinely exceptional and not simply a matter of preference, and certainly not wide-spread practices such as battery and broiler chicken farming, severe selective broiler chicken breeding and farrowing crates.  Any “exceptional circumstances” need to have defined transition periods of the minimum practical duration, never exceeding five years.

We feel “exemptions” should not include religious or cultural practices. The Animal Welfare Law should ensure welfare standards in all circumstances possible.

We would like to see clauses 183A (4) b and c removed.

“The Minister must not recommend the making of regulations in reliance on subsection (2) Regulations made under this section may (without limitation) prescribe standards or requirements that do not fully meet—…)unless he or she is satisfied that all or any of the following apply:…

“(b) not to do so would result in an unreasonable impact on religious or cultural practices:

“(c) not to do so would result in an unreasonable impact on a particular sector or New Zealand’s wider economy.”

 

Matters relating to “practicality” and “economic impact” should not become specific considerations.  There is already provision for it under “other matters”.  Stating these individually only gives the matters more impact than they deserve.

Accepting “exemptions” under the current definition will allow, and almost certainly ensure, inhumane practices such as intensive farming systems to continue indefinitely despite the practices being avoidable and in breach of the AWA’s requirements.  We find this completely unacceptable and ask for these clauses to be amended.

 

Animal Testing

The use of animals for the testing of non-essential products, such as cosmetics and psychoactive drugs, should be prohibited.  Already many countries have done so and if New Zealand is to retain its clean, green image, it must also prohibit this unnecessary testing.

There is no need for this kind of animal abuse and the majority of people do not condone it.  We would also point out there are well tested and respected alternative methods of testing products which do not involve the use of animals.

We find it disgraceful and ask that the AWA takes this opportunity to ban unnecessary animal testing.

Additionally, currently New Zealand does not test on great apes.  We would like to see this specifically banned to ensure such testing is never done in New Zealand in the future.

 

Animals in Entertainment

Exotic animals in circuses
Please ban the use of exotic animals in circuses. Animals kept in these conditions are not free to exhibit their natural behaviours, as is required in the five freedoms.  It is cruel and unnecessary.  Animals should not suffer for our entertainment.  It should be banned now, while it is not currently being practiced in New Zealand, to prevent it recurring in the future.r

Cetaceans in captivity
As above, please amend the Act to ban the keeping of cetaceans, such as dolphins and orcas, in captivity.  Animals should not suffer for humans’ entertainment, and these intelligent, energetic, social animals most definitely suffer in captivity.  Again, it will never be easier to introduce a ban than now, while there are none currently in captivity.

Rodeos and Greyhound Racing

Again, these activities cause unnecessary suffering in the name of entertainment.  They are morally objectionable.  We ask that these activities be expressly banned.



Conclusion

Please don’t fool yourselves into believing it is a unanimously held belief that the use of animals, provided it is “humane”, is acceptable.  It is not the view of the New Zealand Vegetarian Society, nor that of the majority   of its members.

It should be understood that “humane” is defined differently by many.  To the NZVS and its members, the unnecessary taking of another’s life is not “humane”, no matter how painless.

Animals are sentient beings, with thoughts, feelings and wills of their own.  It should not be assumed that all New Zealanders find it acceptable to put people’s wants ahead of animals’ needs or rights.

Animals utility and ability to provide us with profit is not the only, nor even the most important, consideration.  They are beings in their own right and should be treated and respected as such.

We also urge you to err on the side of conservatism.  Not so long ago, it was considered that infants didn’t feel pain and were therefore operated on without anaesthesia.  When in doubt, please work on the principle of the possibility of suffering, rather than waiting for the proof of it, as we well know humans don’t know everything.  The world was flat until it was proven round.  Ignorance is no excuse.  The benefit of the doubt ought to be given.

From a societal perspective, the treatment of animals will raise the standards of conduct in general.  While we continue to accept cruelty to animals, mistreatment of people will also continue.  Giving a strong message to New Zealanders that they are expected to act with thoughtfulness to others can only help improve the standard of societal behaviour in general.

Finally, we feel strongly that New Zealand’s government gives lip service only to its “Clean, Green” image.  This is vital for our economic trade, yet we don’t walk the talk. Other countries are ahead of us on the welfare track and the rest of the world knows it.

If we are to protect New Zealand’s international reputation, and with it, our economy, we must keep up with the best global standards of welfare.  We have the opportunity to be leaders in this field.  In the long run, this is the most prudent and profitable approach.

We strongly recommend you use this opportunity to improve and enforce New Zealand’s welfare standards and make us world leaders

Give New Zealanders something we can be proud of.

 

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