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Urban consumers will change farming practices

24 August 2006

Urban consumers will change animal farming practices

Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton today opened the National Animal Welfare Action Committee (NAWAC) workshop on the future of pain relief of production animals. He said that New Zealand's agricultural sector will increasingly be challenged to demonstrate to local and international consumers that not only do our products come from a clean and green environment, but that the animals that produce them are treated with respect for their welfare.

"The human race has come a long way since animals were regarded as ‘automata’ or ‘animal machines’. It is widely accepted that animals certainly feel pain but it is unrealistic to believe that we can offer them a pain-free existence, any more than we can offer that to ourselves," Jim Anderton said.

"However, it is very likely that urban consumers, who have little understanding of life on a farm, will influence the welfare of production animals. They have clear views of what is acceptable to them, and what is not, and they will vote with their wallets," Jim Anderton said.

"We must appreciate the role that public opinion plays in shaping animal welfare without losing touch with the reality of agricultural practices. Animal welfare measures must however, be demonstrably practical and effective for New Zealand farmers in New Zealand conditions.

"The Animal Welfare Act of 1999 was a big step forward because for the first time, our obligations to the animals we own or take care of were spelled out. It is a major statement by us, as a society, of our concern for our animals and their welfare. It is being seen as a model by other countries developing animal welfare legislation and it puts New Zealand in the top rank of nations with a concern for the welfare of animals.

"The NAWAC workshop has brought together a wide spectrum of organisations to plan the way forward on pain relief and amelioration in production animals. They are looking at research and development that will lead to cost-effective pain relief procedures. These include, but are not limited to, painful husbandry procedures covered by the Animal Welfare Code of Welfare 2005.

"As Minister of Agriculture, I want New Zealand to be well in front on animal welfare issues and not be waiting for consumers as far away as the European Union to dictate the animal welfare standards for New Zealand farms," Jim Anderton said today.

ENDS

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