New Zealand claims world-class animal welfare standards, even officially recognising animals as sentient beings in 2015. That means animals are perceptually aware with individual needs, desires, and experiences giving rise to inherent interests.
But what does that mean for animals in NZ five years on?
Our country benefits economically from an international public perception that our animals are all happy and healthy whether pets, farmed or wild and that we stopped experimenting on them, neglecting them or treating them inhumanely after 2015. The reality is far from the perception and these and other hypocrisies of animal welfare need to be challenged.
We do not believe New Zealand has adequate systems in place to protect either those animals on which the economy is dependent, or those that are targeted or harmed through its wild animal control programs. New Zealand rests on its ‘world class animal welfare reputation’ without making the corresponding effort to ensure necessary change in support of these claims.
Animals have basic rights that must be properly met. These non-human animal rights need to be enshrined in the Bill of Rights. The gaps that still exist in the system are resulting in considerable animal suffering. There is often little understanding of what constitutes harm because of ingrained practices existing in society.
Accountability is lacking and what is said to be protected is nothing more than papering over the cracks. Animals need better laws and better enforcement of those laws, but they also need better examples set by those who are in positions of power around what constitutes humane treatment of animals in all circumstances. Not just some.
These issues are serious and important despite having been on the back burner for so long—one could argue they are even more pressing now because they have been ignored. We must play catch-up here—especially as we have absolutely no way of knowing how many animals are suffering.
New Zealand is not adequately capturing data around these issues because there is no benefit, in all honesty, to officially knowing those statistics given the status quo. Animals do not have adequate representation.
The NZ Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is the sole animal welfare investigative body in New Zealand and is severely handicapped by its memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI).
The SPCA is currently the underdog in its uneasy relationship with the powerful and wealthy ‘NGO’, Forest & Bird which is in the thrall of nativism and, along with other interested parties, would prefer to see the complete eradication of all non-native species from New Zealand.
There is a well-known link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence. If we want to stamp out violence in all its forms from New Zealand society, we need to demonstrate a paradigm shift from the top down.
We believe there should be a more powerful entity overseeing animal welfare and animal rights in New Zealand. We believe this entity should not be hindered or blocked from its task by either conflict of interest or interference.
Discussion: What Do We Need Right Now?
Different business sectors regard animal welfare from their own perspectives. The racing industry, farming, rodeos, zoos, conservation and tourism all have unique points of views on how they should manage animals in their care.
Our policy will be inclusive of all of these industries, and we will carry out in-depth, independent research to enable us to make Bill of Rights and Constitutional recommendations for these sectors.
NZPP is not afraid to look at the problems that have been ignored by so many administrations for so many decades. Simply stating, "That's the way we've always done it" is not an acceptable answer.
It is important to make the distinction that the animal welfare policy is not an extension of the agricultural policy but stands alone. Farmers, like all of us, are under an obligation not to abuse animals and naturally most will instinctively embrace this attitude of animal husbandry. The animal welfare policy is there as guidance for those that don’t respect this and to correct course where our culture, and education, has conspired to diminish the rights of animals.
PDF Document: Michael Morris, War On Pests, 2019
PDF Document: Report on the Animal Sentience Workshop Wellington 2017
PDF Document: Legal personhood for animals in New Zealand