Vernon Tava

Barrister. Lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
Vernon Tava has written 32 posts for The Solution

Bullfighting Ban Proposed in Spain

A 'noble art'

UPDATE: The ban was passed into law by the Parliament of Catalonia on the 28 July 2010, coming into full effect in 2012. The final vote was 68 for the ban, 55 against, with nine abstaining. On 28 October, the conservative nationalist, People’s Party lodged an appeal with the Spanish Constitutional Court on the grounds that the regional parliament has exceeded its powers in banning a practice of national cultural significance. For more detail, see our posts here and here.

Bullfighting afficianados have been treated to some spectacularly gory action in 2010. In Spain, in a widely-publicised incident in May, bullfighter Julio Aparicio’s jaw and lower throat were pierced by a bull’s horn which emerged from his mouth. Only one month earlier, Spain’s most charismatic and popular bullfighter, José Tomás, suffered a severe goring in Mexico which required a transfusion of eight litres of blood. The human body normally contains five litres.

But despite the inherent risks, only fifty-two toreadors have died in the ring since 1700. Continue reading

The Trials of Moko the Dolphin: But not of anyone else

Over the Summer months, as well as writing a Masters thesis, I’ve been following the rather sad and brutal tale of Moko the bottlenose dophin.

He is but one in a long succession of “lone” dolphins who have actively sought the company of humans around coastal New Zealand. Two of the better-known since European settlement are Pelorus Jack (in the early 1900s) and Opo (1955-6). A common denominator in both of these stories is unprovoked human aggression toward intelligent animals who sought and enjoyed human company. A passenger on the Penguin took a shot at Pelorus Jack (follow the link for the tale of the sad fate of that ship) and there was strong suspicion that Opo was killed (whether deliberately or inadvertently) by an explosive charge set off in the water.

In the present day, scientists have pointed out in a recent study that of the 30 lone dolphins identified around the world in the last decade, 14 had already been injured or had died as a result of their interaction with humans. Continue reading

Cubicle (Factory) Farming and Ministerial ‘Call-Ins’ of Resource Management Consents

Late last year, I posted on the euphemistically-named ‘cubicle’ farming of dairy cows proposed in the South Island’s pristine McKenzie Basin.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has today recommended that Environment Minister, Nick Smith use his call-in powers under the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA) to make a decision on the consents. The Act states:

Section 141B – Minister’s power to call in matters that are or are part of proposals of national significance
In deciding whether a matter is or is part of a proposal of national significance, the Minister may have regard to any relevant factor, including whether the matter—

(a) has aroused widespread public concern or interest regarding its actual or likely effect on the environment

Why is this of interest in a blog about animal law?

Well, although about 75% of the large number of submissions received by the Canterbury Regional Council mentioned deleterious effects on the cows, the question has been raised as to whether animal welfare issues can be legitimately considered as an ‘effect’ of dairy farming for the purposes of resource management consents.

The Council has received legal advice that they can not, nor can they provide grounds for a ministerial call-in.

The Council’s Chief Executive, Dr Bryan Jenkins, has said that the animal welfare issue is more appropriately dealt with under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the AWA). He also suggested that a stronger argument can be made for damage to New Zealand’s reputation in international dairy markets being an ‘effect’.

This is all the more incredible if we look at the statutory definition of “environment” in the RMA: Continue reading

MAF’s ‘Arms Length’ Approach to Prosecutions

Just last week, we posted about the SPCA’s difficulties in pursuing prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the AWA).  An article in the Herald on Monday (‘Hundreds of Cases of Livestock Mistreatment Reported’) highlights just how little the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), is doing by way of prosecutions.  But, as the Police generally do not prosecute animal welfare offences, MAF is the other main body, along with the SPCA, that is empowered to prosecute under the AWA.

In the year to November 2009, MAF received 689 complaints about the mistreatment of animals, and investigated 615.  They brought two prosecutions.

In 2008, there were 948 complaints in total, of which 824 were investigated.  No prosecutions were brought.

So, out of 1439 investigations in two years, only two resulted in prosecutions. This is a rate of less than 0.4%.

Curiously, the story was re-spun the next day with the title: ‘Big Fines for Farmers Who Let Their Livestock Starve’ moving the sentences imposed to the head of the article and the fact that there were only two prosecutions in two years to the second half of the piece. Continue reading

Tougher Penalties Proposed for Wilful Ill-Treatment of Animals

National Party MP, Simon Bridges, has drafted a private member’s bill to increase the maximum penalty for wilful ill treatment of animals from three years imprisonment to five years.

As always in public discourse, the primary justification for this increase of the sanction is that abuse of animals leads to – or is at least an early indicator of – violence against humans.

It is encouraging to see these issues raised in Parliament and the mainstream media but this call for tougher penalties highlights a number of the shortcomings of the law around animal cruelty. Namely: That sentences are so far short of the current maximum that an increase will be largely academic; the fact that the sanction is criminal actually militates against its implementation; and, the real problem is with a distinct lack of enforcement and prosecutions. Continue reading

‘Cubicle’ Dairy Farming: Factory farming by another name

Farmed Cows

'Cubicle' cows in the United States

Intensive indoor farming of dairy cows – which would be a first in New Zealand – is being proposed in South Canterbury’s Mackenzie region.

In this radical departure from current dairying practice in this country – grass-fed Friesians wandering outdoors – three companies: Williamson Holdings LtdSouthdown Holdings, and Five Rivers Ltd (the director of which has an appalling record for pollution of waterways with dairying waste) are each applying for land use consents and effluent discharge consents to establish a total of 16 new farms.

These will house nearly 18,000 cows in so-called ‘cubicle’ shelters for 24 hours a day, eight months of the year. For the remaining four months, the cows will be kept inside for 12 hours a day.

This will produce a quantity of effluent equivalent to that of a city of 270 000 people. This vast quantity of waste will require 414 million litres of effluent storage capacity in ponds. 1.7 million litres of diluted effluent will be deposited on the land on a daily basis in an attempt to make the land fertile enough to grow feed in situ. This is a tall order; the Mackenzie Basin is one of the driest parts of the country and is covered in tussock grass. Until then, feed will be trucked in.

 As with any form of intensive, indoor farming, there are significant welfare issues in housing animals in crowded sheds. Rates of infection are far higher and so greater amounts of antibiotics are generally required to keep the animals healthy. Taking cows, which are at least as intelligent as dogs, and confining them to small spaces is bound to be a traumatic experience. Nevertheless, in a radio interview earlier this week, the President of Federated Farmers, Don Nicholson, when pressed about the total confinement of the cows for eight months of the year made the frankly astonishing argument that:

We live in houses ourselves, we’ve adapted to intensification and I’m sure that farmers of New Zealand want to do their very best for the animals

Continue reading

Jail Sentence for Dog Fighting

In a first for New Zealand, a man has been sentenced to jail for dog fighting. He is to serve a 10 month sentence.

William Kain Campbell, a 25-year-old process worker, appeared in Porirua District Court today after earlier admitting seven charges of dog fighting and failing to seek treatment for the injured animals.

His most notorious act was to steal a 14-year old Ridgeback cross named Lincoln in order to use it as ‘bait’ for his own fighting pit bull, Dukes. Lincoln suffered deep lacerations to his body and head. He is still on medication for his injuries and his owners report that he exhibits negative behavioural effects from his ordeal.

Campbell was ordered to pay reparations of $4362.47 and banned for life from owning or caring for an animal.

Although dog fighting has been acknowledged as a scourge in parts of New Zealand, sentences have tended to be rather lenient. It is encouraging to see a jail sentence being imposed for a calculated act of cruelty such as this.

Misconceptions: Protein

Possibly one of the most common questions asked of a vegan is: ‘How do you get enough protein?’

My favourite (cheeky) answer is: ‘To which amino acid do you refer?’ (I must thank Isa Chandra Moskowitz in the magnificent Veganomicon for that one.)

Proteins are composed of amino acids; these are our cellular building blocks.  There are twenty standard amino acids taken up by the body through the food we eat. Nine of these cannot be synthesised by the body itself and must be obtained from food; these are known as the ‘essential’ amino acids.  Requirements are a little different for children, as a further five of the twenty standard amino acids are required for normal growth.  The main vegan sources of protein are nuts, grains, and legumes, although there are smaller proportions in many other plant foods. Continue reading

Eaten Alive

In rather disturbing news this week, news outlets in the UK have detailed the proclivity for ‘live cuisine’ – the eating of animals that are still alive – in some Asian countries. Popular, and in some cases merely rumoured, dishes include live octopus, monkey brains, and still-beating snake heart. A YouTube video showing the consumption of a live carp that has been deep-fried but for its head has recently received very wide coverage. It is age-restricted, but similar videos (such as live squid eating) are easily found and abound on the web. Surely this is the absolute nadir of human treatment of animals.

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NZ Game Hunting Council to be Formed

top_bannerA new Game Hunting Council is to be formed to regulate the hunting of New Zealand’s many introduced animals;  particularly deer, tahr, chamois and wild pigs. Most of these animals were introduced specifically to be hunted; it is telling that until 1990, the district bodies regulating hunting were known as ‘Acclimatisation Societies’. Some background on the Council:

In 2007 a Ministerial panel looked into future options for managing game animals and recommended the formation of a Big Game Hunting Council. The new Council is being established to represent the interests of hunters and game animal managers, and to manage and regulate the game animal resource, while having regard to the environmental effects of deer, tahr, chamois and wild pigs. It will carry out a range of functions relating to the hunting, farming and management of those animals. “In carrying out its functions, the proposed Council will recognise both the value these animals have to recreational hunters, commercial hunters, farmers and the public in general and that their numbers need to be controlled for conservation reasons,” said Garry Ottmann, chairperson of the Establishment Committee.

Hunting is exempted from the cruelty standards of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 by s175.

Continue reading