Animal Welfare

This category contains 31 posts

Whatever happened to the Auckland City Council Rodeo ban on Council land?

rope calf[Note: This is a cross-post from my personal site]

On 31 October 2010 Auckland Council inherited a policy from the legacy Auckland City Council that prohibited  rodeo events on council land in the former Auckland City area. The ban was not a bylaw, it was a resolution of the whole Council led by John Banks. Because it was not a bylaw, it was unclear if and how it would be carried over into the new Auckland Council. Continue reading

Surfing the (Laser) Shark

This morning’s news presented two pieces of shark-related absurdity. 

First, the Ministry for Primary Industries has confirmed that attempting to surf on the carcass of a shark is not a crime:

The Ministry for Primary Industries says it has found no breach of the Animal Welfare Act after complaints over a shark `surfing’ incident.

A spokesperson for MPI said the matter would not be investigated any further.

“We’ve determined that there has been no breach of the Animal Welfare Act as the shark had been dead for around 30 hours before video footage was recorded.”

Three men from the Bay of Plenty caused outrage when footage emerged of one man “surfing” behind a boat on the carcass of the thresher shark which was being towed by its tail.

Bay of Plenty Times, via the NZ Herald.

This is ridiculous on every possible level.  First, if you read the full story, you will see that two fishermen accidentally killed a shark, then decided to tow the carcass back out to sea to dump it.  And, because they’re fun loving, wacky, kiwi blokes they decided to…surf it…out…to sea.  I’m not entirely sure how anyone could come up with that.  Second, the whole Herald story is about how surfing a deceased shark is not a breach of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Here’s a hint, guys: The Animal Welfare Act 1999 applies to living animals.

And, third, slipped in there without fanfare is the renaming of the Ministry responsible for animal welfare.  The Ministry for Agriculture and Forestry, merged with Fisheries etc is now the Ministry for Primary Industries.  Would it be possible to make the ridiculous conflict of interest at the heart of New Zealand’s animal welfare regime more obvious?  The Ministry responsible for promoting primary industries (like, say, industrial farming) is responsible for prosecuting breaches of animal welfare (like, say, much industrial farming).

Wired magazine presents even more shark-related madness though: “Scientists” (hint: they’re not scientists) have mounted a laser on a shark:

Relax, Dr Evil. Your inspired request for “sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached” has finally been fulfilled in the real world.

Marine biologist-cum-TV personality Luke Tipple attached a 50-milliwatt green laser to a lemon shark off the coast of the Bahamas in late April. The escapade was sponsored by Wicked Lasers, a consumer-focused laser manufacturer based in Hong Kong that produces some of the most brilliant — and potentially dangerous — handheld lasers in the world.

“This was definitely a world first,” Tipple told Wired. “Initially, I told them no. I thought it was a frivolous stunt. But then I considered that it would give us an opportunity to test our clips and attachments, and whatever is attached to that clip, I really don’t care. It was a low-powered laser that couldn’t be dangerous to anyone, and there’s actually useful application of having a laser attached to the animal.”

Tipple said the experiment was instructive in a number of ways. For starters, he was able to further test his clamping apparatus, which is typically used for traditional data-aquistion equipment.


That’s right.  Clamping a laser to a shark was great scientific research.  Because it helped test the clamp.  Well, that addresses all my animal welfare concerns right there.

Strange Bedfellows: The Netherlands and NZ; Welfarists and the Far Right

Kosher and halal slaughter are now illegal in the Netherlands:

 Just one week after the acquittal of fiery far-right politician Geert Wilders, the Dutch parliament struck another blow against multiculturalism in the Netherlands yesterday with the passage of a bill banning ritual animal slaughter. The bill requires that all animals be stunned before being slaughtered, a requirement that conflicts with halal and kosher stipulations that animals be fully conscious.

At first glance, this looks like a classic example of the far-right undercurrent that lurks below the surface in much of Europe.  It evokes Switzerland’s controversial minaret ban, for example.  You can easily picture a pale, thin Dutchman with close-cropped chestnut hair apoplectic about immigrants, their funny cuisine, and their sick, sick, sick farming practices.

But there’s something more, and something stranger going on there. 

Foreign Policy continues:

The bill was initially proposed by the Party of the Animals, which holds two seats in the 146-seat Dutch parliament and maintains that ritual methods of slaughter are inhumane.

The Party for Animals?  Here in New Zealand, where only one Party has an animal welfare spokesperson, that seems outlandish, and extraordinarily progressive. 

Of course, the far right are still in the game: 

 It gained support from centrists on similar grounds, but Wilders’s Freedom Party has also been a longtime proponent. In fact, it was Wilders who first raised the issue in 2007 when he objected to halal meat being served at a public school in Amsterdam.

Strange bedfellows.  The Dutch animal welfare movement and the Dutch far right.

All movements, especially single-issue movements such as traditional animal welfarism or animal rights, must be careful with who they align themselves with and take real care to consider the unintended consequences of their actions.  In advancing the cause of animals, we must take care not to alienate natural allies.  Animal liberation should not come at the cost of oppressing human minorities.

New Zealand and the Netherlands are bedfellows also.  Both are in the handful of countries that have banned kosher slaughter.  In New Zealand, however, halal slaughter is legal. 

The process was very different.  No odd alliance of the SPCA and the National Front, but the slow, methodical, industry-backed process of Codes of Welfare.  Without hue or cry, we banned kosher slaughter. 

And then backed down:

Under pressure on human rights grounds the Agriculture Minister David Carter has granted an exemption to the Commercial Slaughter Code of Welfare for the local Jewish community, to be able to slaughter chickens without pre-stunning. He is also under heavy pressure to continue to allow a temporary exemption for sheep and cattle, despite it contravening the code of welfare.

What surprises me about this tale is that the state, without an Act of Parliament, banned a fundamental part of Jewish practice.  As a lawyer, I strongly suspect that this Code of Welfare could be open to legal challenge on the grounds that it is ultra vires, or outside the power that Parliament has given the executive.  But to forestall any such claims, David Carter MP backed down.

SAFE is campaigning for him to stick to his guns – but I’d pick an easier battle.  Campaigning against Jewish religious expression makes you an easy target.

Animal Justice Fund

Just a quick note on the Animal Justice Fund, administered by SAFE, funded from Jan Cameron’s (founder of the hugely-successful outdoor equipment company, Kathmandu) fortune which allocates $2 million for whistleblowers. Between $5 000 and $30 000 can be awarded in each instance that leads to a successful prosecution or ‘significant animal welfare outcome.’

To date, at least six workers have ‘dobbed in’ bosses for animal cruelty. But none want to accept the reward.

All were for dairy farms and piggeries. None of the workers were still employed by the farms they were laying complaints against, so the cases and information are considered ‘historical’ and hence a low priority for investigation. Four of these cases were referred to MAF. According to SAFE’s Hans Kriek:

Paddocks were in bad shape, there were stones and lame cows. There were high mortality rates amongst calves. Dying animals were being left to rot in paddocks. With the pig farms we had the usual complaints … that the conditions were terrible and enclosures weren’t cleaned out and the animals were standing a foot deep in their own muck.

Yet, no breaches of the relevant welfare codes were found in any case. Continue reading

Circus Animal Bans

As of 1 July 2010, the use of any animal in a circus has been banned in Bolivia. A handful of other countries have banned the use of wild animals in circuses but only Bolivia has banned exploitation of domestic animals in circuses as well.

The Bolivian law, which states that the use of all animals in circuses ‘constitutes an act of cruelty’ was enacted on 1 July 2009, with operators given a year to comply.

The bill took two years to pass through both chambers of the Plurinational Assembly, meeting stiff opposition from the eastern states of Bolivia where there was concern that the law would be expanded to include bullfighting, which is popular in rural villages. Bullfighting remains legal in Bolivia.

The legislature were eventually won over by a screening of videos shot by undercover circus infiltrators in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia co-ordinated and funded by Animal Defence International (ADI), a London-based NGO which found that ill-treatment and violence against animals in circuses is commonplace.

Continue reading

Animal Welfare on Farms: A lower standard for agricultural animals

A healthy flock of sheep

A report in the Dominion Post this week about a particularly nasty case of criminal neglect of sheep in the Manawatu highlights much of what is wrong with the enforcement and prosecution of animal welfare offences on farms in New Zealand:

75 sheep were found dead and another 25 had to be put down [immediately] because of alleged ill-treatment. SPCA officials raided the farm in August after being tipped off about the sheep. The 66-hectare farm is now under strict monitoring by vets and four SPCA inspectors. It is still being run by the farmer and has several hundred sheep.

Although full details have not yet been divulged by prosecutors, pending the laying of charges, it appears that the sheep were emaciated from starvation and severe neglect. The file is about to be sent to Crown Law for prosecution.

For reasons that will become clear, it is important to note that this was a raid carried out by the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, three bodies are statutorily-empowered to investigate and prosecute animal welfare cases; the Police, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the SPCA. Only the Police and MAF are fully state-funded, the SPCA relies for 98% of its income on private donations. Continue reading

Against the Proposed New Elephant Enclosure at Auckland Zoo

Plans were approved in August this year to expand the elephant enclosure at Auckland Zoo to six times its current area.  The importation of another 9 elephants to join the current sole occupant, Burma, would make this the only elephant herd in Australasia. The planned extension into Western Springs Park is estimated (by many accounts, unrealistically) to cost $13 million and the zoo plans to expand into 22000 square metres of the park.

Two main arguments have been made for this. First, that Burma is in need of companions as elephants are intelligent, empathic, social animals and she has only recently lost her companion, Kashin. Second, that the herd will be valuable for conservation. Given a choice between sending one animal to a reserve overseas or committing to the hugely-expensive upkeep of ten elephants, the City has chosen the latter.

This goes against international trends to close elephant enclosures. As pointed out in SAFE’s excellent submission to the Auckland City Council Combined Committees, enclosures closed this decade include London (2002), San Francisco (2005), Detroit (2005), Lincoln Park, Chicago (2005), Alaska (2007), and Philadelphia (2009). A significant number of zoos have also committed to gradually phasing out their herds by not replacing elephants.

Continue reading

Sow Crates Are To Be Phased-Out: But ‘farrowing’ crates remain

The Minister for Agriculture, David Carter, has confirmed that the new Pig Welfare Code will phase out the use of sow crates in New Zealand within the next five years. The ban will come into full effect in early 2016.

Many readers will remember that SoLVe (the University of Auckland Law Faculty student group that was the genesis of this blog) hosted a seminar given by Peter Sankoff (to a packed lecture theatre) on this issue on May 27th 2009.

A ban on sow stalls included in the draft welfare code was leaked to SAFE (Save Animals From Exploitation) in February this year.

The draft code, developed by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), was to be released for public notification in December 2009 but was delayed following legal threats from the New Zealand Pork Industry Board. NAWAC preferred a ban by December 2017, a full two years later than the deadline that has been decided.

Sow stalls have already been banned in the United Kingdom and Sweden and will be soon phased out in Finland, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Denmark. Continue reading

Behold the Frankensalmon.

True believers claim that ingenuity is the lifeblood of economy, central to solving the economic, social and environmental  dilemmas we have today. Much the same has been touted in connection to the release of genetically engineered Salmon into the US market, as approval is considered in the coming days by the USFDA. On 22 November the FDA finished its comment period on the labelling requirements for GE Salmon, and while the product is yet to hit the market (it could have as early as 23 November) it has become a hot-button topic. Continue reading

Closing the Loopholes?

With much fanfare, the government launched an animal welfare amendment bill earlier this year.  You may remember our scepticism.  Now, with much less fanfare, Sue Kedgley MP’s clumsily-titled private members bill, the Animal Welfare Amendment (Treatment of Animals) Bill has been balloted to receive its first reading in September.

So, what does she hope to do? Continue reading