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Bobby calves welfare rules under review

Hon Nathan Guy

Minister for Primary Industries

27 February 2014      Media Statement        

Bobby calves welfare rules under review

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has instructed officials to consult on prohibiting the use of blunt force to euthanise bobby calves on farms.

“After speaking to industry leaders, I have asked the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) to consider an amendment to the Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010,” says Mr Guy.

“New Zealand’s animal welfare system is amongst the best in the world, but I believe the time has come to review the use of blunt force. Industry groups do not recommend it as best practice for euthanising calves, and as a humane society we have a responsibility to look after animals and avoid unnecessary suffering.

“The vast majority of farmers in New Zealand care about their animals and do a good job of looking after them. While I don’t believe this practice is widespread, I have real concerns about this and the potential damage it could do to our reputation.”

NAWAC will begin public consultation soon on the proposed amendment. A final decision will be made in mid-year after receiving final advice. 

“As part of this consultation, consideration will be given to emergency cases where a farmer might discover a suffering animal in a remote location and only have access to limited equipment.

“The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill is currently before the Select Committee and will further strengthen the Act. It allows for the creation of enforceable regulations that will complement the minimum standards contained within New Zealand’s 16 codes of welfare.”

“The Ministry for Primary Industries already takes a tough line on animal cruelty and there have been a number of major prosecutions over the last couple of years. Animal welfare inspectors and compliance officers visit farms, provide advice and education to animal owners and enforce the law,” says Mr Guy.

Further background to New Zealand’s animal welfare system

·         New Zealand has a robust system to ensure the welfare of animals is maintained during their life, including when killing animals and during the process of transport and slaughter of bobby calves.

·         The law clearly states that if an animal has to be put down, it must be done humanely.

·         Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 it is an offence to kill an animal in such a manner that the animal suffers unreasonable or unnecessary pain or distress.

·         Anyone in charge of an animal at any point during the slaughter process must fully comply with the requirements of the following:

o   Animal Welfare Act 1999
o   Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare 2010
o   Animal Welfare (Commercial Slaughter) Code of Welfare 2010
o   Animal Welfare (Transport within New Zealand) Code of Welfare 2011

·         Standards for the treatment and killing of animals on the farm are laid out in codes of welfare. The codes of welfare for commercial slaughter, dairy cattle, and transport within New Zealand all set standards to promote calf welfare. During the development of these codes of welfare, the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) considered how to best protect calf welfare across the farming, transport, and meat processing industries. 

·         Where non-compliance is brought to the attention of MPI – either through MPI’s own work or notified by another party - MPI takes this very seriously and will investigate and take action as appropriate.

·         MPI works closely with the dairy, transport and meat processing industries to ensure the welfare of calves transported from farms to slaughter meets the requirements of the codes of welfare stated above. It also supports measures to improve treatment on the farm.

·         Several resources have been developed to help farmers identify and meet the welfare needs of bobby calves, both on the farm and once they have left the farm. 

·         An example of this is MPI’s ‘Safeguarding our Animals, Safeguarding our Reputation’ Plan which is focused on improving compliance with animal welfare standards, and enforcing the law where needed. The Plan encourages partnership between government and other organisations to achieve the vision of everyone taking responsibility for the welfare of animals. It sets out a series of initiatives which will enhance New Zealand’s animal welfare performance.

·         Activities range from education and support, through to prosecutions and large scale recovery operations. While the Plan focuses mainly on the welfare of animals in the production sector, it also extends to the welfare of companion animals.

·         The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill also aims to further strengthen New Zealand’s animal welfare system. Currently before the Primary Production Select Committee, the Bill changes the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to make it more enforceable, clear and transparent.

·         The new regulations will be developed after the Bill has been passed, and will be publicly consulted on. The Primary Production Select Committee is due to report back to Parliament on the Bill by the end of March. The Bill must then undergo a second and third reading before being passed into law.


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