RNZSPCA 66th Annual Conference

  • John Luxton
Food, Fibre, Biosecurity and Border Control

Peter Blomkamp - RNZSPCA CEO Peg Loague - RNZSPCA National President Your Worship Mark Blumsky - Mayor of Wellington Distinguished guests Ladies and gentlemen

Thanks for the invitation to say a few words here today. As many of you will be aware, among my responsibilities is the effective administration of the Animals Protection Act 1960 an issue that is very dear to the hearts of everyone here.

New Zealand enjoys a good international reputation in respect to animal welfare, and it's one that I'm proud of. Our reputation is a credit to all those involved in animal production, husbandry, care and welfare and the use of animals in research, testing and teaching. The new animal welfare legislation will further strengthen our arm in the care and protection of animals.

MAF/RNZSPCA Relationship

Today's conference gives me the chance to comment on the very valued relationship your organisation has with my Ministry.

Both MAF and the RNZSPCA have a shared goal in preventing cruelty and promoting a 'duty of care' approach to all animals. I wish to acknowledge the excellent work that is undertaken by RNZSPCA office bearers, inspectors, educators, veterinarians and other support staff every year.

Without your work and the close relationship with MAF, many animals in New Zealand would be much worse off.

The RNZSPCA is represented on my two animal welfare advisory committees, (the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee) which has been and will continue to be extremely valuable RNZSPCA work closely with MAF staff in carrying out annual compliance audits. And RNZSPCA has been closely associated with the development of codes of welfare.

Consumer demand

Aside from moral and ethical responsibilities to treat animals well, animal welfare is also becoming an international marketing issue.

Around the world, consumers are increasingly beginning to make a conscious demand for products to be produced in an 'animal welfare friendly' manner, as much of my correspondence reflects.

Professor Sir Colin Spedding, Chairman of the UK Farm Animal Welfare Group reinforced this view by stating "Most of the main retailers in Britain have already decided they should play a big role in deciding what will be the major engine for influencing animal welfare changes".

"They can move faster than Governments, can cut off a supplier's livelihood by stopping contracts and can ignore international trade agreements. While Europe as a whole has to adhere to the World Trade Organisation, and cannot ban imports on animal welfare grounds, retailers are free to do so".

In future, New Zealand's animal welfare reputation is likely to play an increasing role in consumer perceptions and ultimately their choices of our agricultural products.

It is also likely that animal welfare, along with environmental issues, will have a greater profile in the lead up to the millennium WTO round. All this can only support the welfare objectives of the RNZSPCA and MAF.

Transfer of Animal Welfare Complaint Response and Investigation to the MAF Enforcement Unit

Last November changes occurred within MAF in relation to the handling of animal welfare complaints, response, and investigation. Instead of MAF inspectors working only part time on welfare problems, a core group of full time MAF Animals Protection Act inspectors was established Now we have a national group of seven, very experienced inspectors who are working full time in animal welfare and who are situated within the MAF Enforcement Unit.

This change of approach came only after full consultation with the RNZSPCA and other key stakeholders.

To date it has been very successful and the core team has worked hard to continue a good relationship with the RNZSPCA, along with veterinarians and industry groups throughout New Zealand.

While congratulations should go to the individuals in this unit, thanks and credit are also due to each RNZSPCA branch and member society. It is only by working together that improvements to animal welfare in New Zealand can be made. Again let me stress the importance of this partnership, and which is formally embodied in a Memorandum of Understanding between MAF and the RNZSPCA.

I am advised that several of this team is here today, and you will be hearing from Jockey Jensen, National Manager, of the MAF Enforcement Unit, later in the day.

Shared Training

Another area where the MAF/RNZSPCA partnership is working well, is in the area of training. From late 1998 MAF has provided $50,000 for training Most of this money goes towards the Unitec Course but also to the funding, support and organisation of three successful weekend 'refresher' courses for inspectors. Each weekend course included tutors from both MAF and your organisation.

In particular I would like to acknowledge the pivotal roles of Mrs Peg Loague (RNZSPCA National President) and Mr Andy Waters (RNZSPCA Training Officer and National Vice President) in this area.

A further training initiative is underway, namely the development of a National Certificate in Compliance and Regulatory Control in Animal Welfare ie the Unitec course I alluded to previously. This is a major step towards standardising training between MAF and the SPCA. It also provides national recognition of the work done by both paid and volunteer RNZSPCA inspectors.

I see from your programme that Mrs Jay Lamburn from the Public Sector Training Organisation will provide you with more details of this, later in the morning.

New Animal Welfare Legislation

Obviously for anyone involved in animal welfare the importance of the new animal welfare legislation cannot be overstated. I'm delighted that 1999 is likely to herald the commencement of a new Animal Welfare Act. And David Bayvel MAF's National Manager for Animal Welfare, will speak to you on this in more detail.

The Animal Welfare Bill represents a change in focus from the current Animals Protection Act, from punishing acts of cruelty to a more active and preventative approach. The Bill places a positive obligation on owners and persons in charge of animals creates by the inclusion of the provision of a duty of care and identifies certain conduct or activities using animals that are prohibited or controlled.

The Bill imposes obligations on owners and those in charge of animals to ensure that the physical, health and behavioural needs of animals are met and that pain and distress is alleviated.

The Bill provides legislative power for codes of welfare to be developed. They will contain minimum standards and recommendations for best practice for the care of, and conduct towards, animals. They will be developed through a public submission process and will be approved by the Minister.

The standards developed will therefore reflect the expectations that the New Zealand public has for the welfare of animals. Codes of welfare will be a progressive addition to the legislation, and will assist New Zealand to provide assurances to our trading partners.

Codes of welfare will also be able to be changed more rapidly which will reflect changes in scientific knowledge and society's expectations in a more timely manner. The Select Committee when considering this Bill, became aware that a number of existing management practices may not meet the obligations under Part 1 of the Bill once it is passed. Several industries would therefore be at risk of prosecution as they would not be sanctioned by a code of welfare.

Accordingly, it is recommended that six existing Animal Welfare Advisory Committee voluntary codes be deemed to be codes of welfare under the Act for a transitional period of three years unless replaced earlier by a new code of welfare. These codes cover circus animals, animals used in rodeo events, exhibit animals, pigs, layer hens and broiler chickens.

Also included are more comprehensive and detailed provisions relating to the use of animals in research, testing and teaching, and to the approval of animal exports. In both cases the Bill responds to increasing community concern about these areas.

Of particular interest, to RNZSPCA members are the provisions which allow, the approval of organisations to enforce the new legislation. The RNZSPCA branch societies are deemed to be such organisations, as are the member societies while they remain affiliated to the RNZSPCA.

The new legislation also provides for the rehoming, sale or disposal of animals given to the care of RNZSPCA branches and member societies. This is very significant as it clarifies the legal situation and provides protection to these groups.

The Animals Protection Act now nearly 40 years old, has served New Zealand well, but as we approach the new millennium it is clearly no longer adequate to meet both local and international animal welfare expectations. The proposed new Animal Welfare Act, underpinned by the welfare codes, will give us the legislative framework to ensure that we continue to make ongoing improvements in animal welfare performance.

I look forward to MAF and SPCA staff continuing to work closely with animal user groups to ensure this objective is achieved and also to ensure that legislation is enforced in a professional and cost effective manner.

Before I end I heard a good joke the other day ...

A man took his Rottweiler to the vet and said "My dog's cross-eyed, is there anything you can do for him?"

"Well," said the vet, "lets have a look at him." So he picks the dog up and has a good look at its eyes.

"Hmm," says the vet, "I'm going to have to put him down"

"Just because he's cross-eyed?" says the man.

"No, because he's heavy," says the vet. I wish you a very successful conference. Thank you.