Picture of a cow

Let’s not be chicken when it comes to animal welfare

New animal welfare regulations will be coming into effect in October. They are a step in the right direction but it’s more of a clean-up of the rules than an overhaul. There’s now guidelines regulating the use of tethers, fines for ingrown horns on animals, banning docking and a host of other changes.

A big area though that needs action is the how we treat animals in agriculture. This week I questioned the Government on the use of feedlots, where thousands of cattle on a single farm can be kept in a bare paddock, away from shelter and unable to fulfil normal functions. I think they fail animal welfare and threaten our environment and agricultural export brand. As an animal lover it’s hard to see cattle crammed in bare feedlot paddocks, or knee-deep in mud.

Another big area of concern is how we treat chickens. Millions of chickens are raised in New Zealand each year for their eggs and meat. While battery cages have been banned, their replacement, colony cages are little better.

The new regulations deal with important issues like the build-up of excrement in cages, requiring seclusion, perching and scratching areas, but to use the animal metaphor – miss the elephant in the room, we are still caging chickens. As many as 60 chickens can be in a single colony cage and with a regulatory requirement of 13 chickens per square meter than translate to about the size of an A4 piece of paper each. As someone who has 6 chickens at home which I use as weed-eating-earth-movers I know how much they love to move around, graze and forage.

Meanwhile the new regulations don’t really address with meat or broiler chickens where millions of chickens are slaughtered every year after only 4-6 weeks of life and breeding programmes have developed meatier chickens who in their later stages of life can’t even move properly. They’ve also been the subject of very concerning footage. Addressing animal welfare concerns for meat chickens is especially important given Tegel is looking at building a ‘megafactory’ in Northland harvesting nine million chickens a year.

New improved regulations are good but the Green Party wants to see a phase-out of all factory farming practises in New Zealand. Our legislation acknowledges animals are sentient and we need to start treating them as if they were. Kiwis love animals and don’t want to see them suffer in feedlots or factory farms.