Is Parliament finally taking animal welfare seriously?

After ten years of stony silence on animal welfare in Parliament, and MPs rolling their eyes and cracking jokes whenever I raised animal welfare issues in the House, it was great to hear MPs speaking passionately about the need to stamp out animal cruelty in New Zealand during a debate on the Animal Welfare Amendment bill yesterday.

The Minister announced solemnly that “all acts of cruelty are unacceptable to this Parliament.”

Which sounded great.

The only problem though is that the New Zealand Parliament legalises and supports institutionalised animal cruelty in the form of codes of welfare which make it legal to keep pigs and hens in cages indefinitely, which has to be animal cruelty in anyone’s definition.

The problem with the bill is its extremely narrow scope. It deals only with individual acts of cruelty and deftly ignores all forms of institutionalised cruelty to animals –which of course make up most cases of animal cruelty.

It is a perfect example of what Peter Sankoff calls political double standards on animal welfare. “Politicians only hate some kinds of animal cruelty and are perfectly happy to promote other types,” he observed. How true. Only the Green party opposes the institutionalised cruelty to animals in the form of sow crates and battery hen cages.

Still, having waxed eloquent about the need to stamp out animal cruelty it will be hard for the Minister  – or other politicians – to sit on their hands and do nothing about sow crates and battery hen cages. If they do they will be accused of massive hypocrisy.

It was also a bit of a joke to think that increasing the lengths of sentences would reduce animal abuse, when in fact enforcement authorities are so under resourced that few prosecutions are ever even made for animal cruelty in New Zealand.

MAF has only five full time inspectors in the whole of New Zealand and basically delegates its duty to take prosecutions to the SPCA –a cash strapped voluntary organisation.

So the Government had better do something about that too, or the bill will be simple window dressing.

15 Comments Posted

  1. Delighted to hear that many of you will make submissions to the Animal Welfare Amendment bill when it finally hits the Primary Production committee. Its a great opportunity to ask searching questions such as why politicans jump up and down about some types of animal creulty (eg to pets) but promote institutional abuse to hens, pigs etc. I will alert everyone in another blog when submissions are called for, and the amendments I will be seeking to make to the bill, which hopefully you can support in your submissions. Sue Kedgley

  2. Great!
    After we’ve improved animal welfare, maybe we can start taking Human Welfare on.
    You know – make an effort to stop the cruelty.
    It’s contageous and wholly unacceptable.

  3. The government approach to animal welfare is Puritanical (in the worst sense of the word). They are increasing the penalties for a few sadists and psychopaths, while at the same time ignoring 99% of animal abuse. The reason for the outrage over psychotic abuse like the man feeding kittens to the pit bull has nothing to do with the feelings of the animals; it has everything to do with the supposed feelings of the perpetrator. Sadistic glee and neglect are frowned upon. On the other hand, delights over pleasures of the palette and pleasures of the pocket (also known as gluttony and avarice) are quite acceptable and even encouraged.

    So someone who feeds kittens to his pit bull is vilified, but the chicken that most of the parliamentarians tuck into at Bellamies after wagging their obese fingers at the pit bull owner would have suffered far more than the kittens.

    And it means nothing to say that humans have to eat; so do pit bulls. Even if you still think humans need to eat meat, there is no excuse for a system of cruelty that leaves 90 million broilers lame, locks up 3 million hens in cages and drives pigs insane, just so farmers and/or consumers can get cheaper meat.

  4. Federated Farmers can barely contain their glee at the actions of this Government, yet they are running a ‘we’re not entirely happy with what’s happening’ smoke-screen.
    Land tax? Gone, thanks to the Feds.

  5. It’s quite clear that where someone who has invested capital in exploiting an animal for profit – there are few if any standards to be established by regulation by this government (whether of cruelty to animals or pollution of waterways by animals and related farming practice).

    It could be argued that being seen to act to protect animals here is a diversion from the fact that they have no intention of acting in the area of farming practice. A bit like a mafia boss being a sponsor of charities while continuing with the business to finance the good works.

  6. Valis – I’m sure I’m not the only one sharpening my pencils to draft a submission for that committee 🙂

  7. I think that is overstating the case, really. Labour implemented a fair amount of Green policy. S59 fit their policy too, so they weren’t forced to do anything. And National voted for it as well remember, as did every other party but ACT. And of course both Labour and National supported the Green insulation scheme.

    But it is true that they shy away from anything more controversial, cannabis reform being the best example.

    I pick the Greens to support the bill though it should clearly do more. The best thing is that such a bill will finally go to select committee. I’d be very surprised if submissions supporting the Green position don’t flood in.

  8. I really hope the green Party supports this Bill even if it “doesn’t go far enough” because any action is better than none at all

  9. I say it because It might just be that parties are genuinely afraid of enacting any Green Party policy as a part of their govt. Look at the intense debate surrounding the s59 situation, Labour was forced into backing it, National took the “moral” Ground to preserve “light” Smacking (whatever that is..) and after that the polls sled even further for labour,

    This Bill I think will get amendments viz the Select Committee and various MPs and even the Honourable Minister has made statements in support of ending the slightly barbaric practices that some farmers still use

    Oh yes and Vegetarian is Awesome!..maybe not Vegan..

  10. Its interesting that this issue could only come forward properly under a govt. that was not supported by the Green Party isn’t it

  11. Good on you, Sue! What an important topic. Good to see that the issue of institutionalised cruelty towards animals is finally starting to hold some sway. I look forward to seeing some law changes to the meat and dairy industries.

    Until then, go vegetarian/vegan!

  12. The National/Act government exists to serve the few, not the many, so it is no surprise that they want to give wealthy factory farm owners a free pass on animal welfare issues.

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