Speech to the New Zealand Animal Law Association on RodeosAgriculture
Tēnā koutou katoa, and thank you to the New Zealand Animal Law Association for the opportunity to speak at this event. I would like to acknowledge all of those in attendance, and the hard work that has gone into this report.
Animal welfare minister
Labour said pre-election that we would appoint a dedicated animal welfare minister. I am very proud to be the Minister responsible for animal welfare in this Coalition Government.
Rodeo position statement
Tonight we are here for the launch of your report into rodeo. This is a thoughtful and considered analysis of the Rodeo Industry which I will read in detail.
I have made my position on rodeos very clear. I will not consider a ban on rodeos.
What I have done, is asked my Ministerial advisory committee – the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee – to look at rodeos more closely. This will include looking at the use of calves, electric prodders, flank straps, tail twisting, and rope burning.
NAWAC will also report back to me on the animal welfare implications of each rodeo event, such as bronc riding, bull and steer riding, roping events, and steer wrestling.
NAWAC, as I’m sure many of you will know, was set up under the Animal Welfare Act and is separate from the government, which provides advice on animal welfare issues to me.
NAWAC will report back to me by the end of May. I have asked the Ministry for Primary Industries to review your report on rodeos in the context of NAWAC’s work. Any action in relation to rodeos will involve a full public consultation, and I can assure you I would want to hear all voices and opinions. Your report will contribute to that discussion.
I should also tell you that banning the use of electric prodders on cattle under 150kg is part of a set of regulations I will be taking to Cabinet shortly. This will effectively stop the use of electric prodders on calves at rodeos.
I am well aware that rodeo is a contentious issue for the New Zealand public and that there are a range of perspectives.
Two examples that come to mind are, the 67,000 people that signed the anti-rodeo petition presented to Parliament last year. Then there are the 100,000 people, including many families, who attend rodeos each year – who consider them an important social gathering for their community.
This Coalition Government wants free and open access for interest groups and stakeholders across the country. This is a Government that will practise transparency in its decision making.
Animal welfare vision
I want to speak briefly about my vision for the direction of animal welfare in New Zealand. I am committed to improving animal welfare outcomes. I have high expectations that the leaders in the animal welfare sector will continue to drive improvements to managing and preventing harm.
Better outcomes for our animals and to our international reputation for good animal welfare.
In 2015, the global charity World Animal Protection ranked New Zealand first equal alongside the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland for our animal welfare regulatory system. But I know we can do more.
I want to find ways of working with all players in the system to drive behaviour change, including working with communities to proactively identify and address animal welfare issues before they cause real harm.
I know when all the players in the system work together we can achieve outstanding results.
For example, following the SAFE and Farmwatch exposé on the treatment of young bobby calves, in 2015, industry and government together, put in a huge effort to reduce calf mortality rates. As a result the mortality rate of bobby calves halved in 2016, and has again halved in 2017.
This result demonstrates the value of a close and productive relationship that I am aiming for in the animal welfare sector.
Industry groups, animal welfare groups and Government all have equally important, but different parts to play.
I know industry groups are not the only players in animal welfare. I expect to have relationships with animal advocacy groups as well.
Turning to the matter for which we are all here today, it is clear that rodeo is a contentious issue for the New Zealand public. There are a wide range of views, from those in this room today, to others that may not be represented in this room.
To have a voice and to have that voice heard is my commitment to you today.
Tonight I am announcing that I will invite animal welfare groups to join me in a workshop, so that their views and priorities can be discussed.
In conclusion, as a Minister five months into the job, my focus is on forming relationships and hearing the wide range of views. Our reality is that we do have to prioritise where we put our limited resources and when. In that respect, your advice would be well received.