A New Agricultural Industry: A New Animal Welfare Code

  • Dr Lockwood Smith
International Trade

David Bayvel; Anne Munro; Paul Garlic; our friends from the media; ladies and gentlemen.

Wellington's morning newspaper, The Dominion, seemed a little surprised last week that this function would be going ahead with a menu of ostrich and emu. Well, The Dominion may not be aware of our ostrich and emu industries, but the rest of us here today know them to be two of those exciting new industries which demonstrate the innovation of our agriculture sector.

Back in 1990, there was neither an ostrich nor an emu industry in New Zealand. It took the innovation of people like Murray Gos, Lilly Daniel, Michael Moran and other key figures to get them off the ground. Already, New Zealand is producing a small but select amount of ostrich and emu meat each year. Both industries have the potential to grow, particularly into markets like the EU and Asia. I will be pleased to support both your industries in my capacity as Trade Minister with any barriers or difficulties you may face.

Animal welfare has always been an issue in humane societies, and in New Zealand we have always taken it seriously. But animal welfare is now growing in importance internationally. Consumers are increasingly demanding greater and greater assurances that animals from which products are derived have been well looked after. For both these reasons, it is not before time that a code for ostrich and emu welfare is being launched today.

My Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, or AWAC, has produced 20 codes in the past, but the development of this code has been unique. Initially, the industries approached AWAC to develop a code because they recognised the importance of such a code if they were to grow. AWAC wasn't able to do the work in the short term because pressure to develop other codes. The industries took the initiative themselves. After discussions with MAF, they sourced background material from the UK, the EU and Australia and formed a working group to draft the code. AWAC's role was then to review the code and consult other stakeholders before recommending to me that I approve it. Based on that advice, I was pleased to do so.

I'd urge other industries to follow the same model: to take the initiative, and fund and develop their own draft codes for AWAC's review. Not only is it fair enough for the main beneficiaries of animal welfare codes to pay for them, it is also better for the industries concerned to drive the process - with the bureaucracy acting as auditors. That sort of approach makes sense across a wide spectrum of government activity. I'd like to see more of it.

My congratulations to all involved. You'll be pleased to know I don't intend to speak for any longer. I'm looking forward to trying my first ostrich and emu snacks.