ANIMAL WELFARE ACT HERALDS NEW ERAFood, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control
The passing of the Animal Welfare Act, is a significant achievement which represents a major philosophical shift from the former Animals Protection Act, Minister for Food and Fibre John Luxton said today.
"The old Act was nearly 40 years old and focused on punishing acts of cruelty. The new legislation adopts an animal welfare rather than animal rights philosophy."
The new Animal Welfare Act provides legislative power for codes of welfare to be developed. They will contain minimum standards and recommendations for the care of animals. The codes will be developed in a consultative manner allowing the community's views to be taken into account. In this way the standards developed will reflect the expectations the New Zealand public has for the welfare of animals."
The Act also provides a rigorous framework for managing the use of live animals in research. It gives legal standing for existing practices, improves accountability and promotes the concept of the "Three Rs": to reduce, refine and replace animals in research.
"New Zealand's approach shows a strong sense of ethical commitment and contrasts with the more heavy-handed Government intervention that occurs in some other countries," Mr Luxton said.
The Bill also provides greater restrictions on the use and interaction with great apes. Research, testing or teaching involving the use of a great ape can only be approved by the Director-General of MAF who must first be satisfied that any likely benefits are not outweighed by harm to the great ape.
"This requirement recognises the advanced cognitive and emotional capacity of great apes. New Zealand is the first country in the world to legislate in this way. This is a small but nevertheless important step," Mr Luxton said.
Hunting and fishing
This Bill does not impose regulatory controls on the activities of hunting, fishing and pest control. To do so could have significant social and economic effects and these issues have not been subject to adequate public debate. "I would encourage those interested groups to develop voluntary codes of practice in conjunction with the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee."
On the issue of docking dogs' tails Mr Luxton said it was an issue that has been subject to significant debate.
"The Select Committee examined the issues very carefully. The debate shows no clear consensus on the issue. It is clearly a difficult one to resolve as it involves quite strongly held ethical and philosophical views. We could not afford to let the issues of docking dogs tails stand in the way of passing this important Bill through the House."
"Animal welfare is an important strategic marketing issue and of growing importance to international trade. New Zealand's animal welfare reputation is likely to play an increasing role in consumer perceptions and ultimately their choices of our agricultural products. Codes of welfare will be a progressive addition to the legislation, and will assist New Zealand to provide assurances to our trading partners," Mr Luxton concluded.