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Greens to be Govt's animal rights conscience

Greens pledge to be Govt's animal rights conscience

The Green Party today pledged to be the animal rights conscience of the next government, citing new forms of animal cruelty in New Zealand.

"I am particularly disturbed by the trend of the crown research institute AgResearch into genetic engineering and cloning of cows and sheep, producing unnatural animals which are treated like machines," party spokesperson Sue Kedgley said. "Some of this research is classed officially as laboratory work which needs no public input before behind-the-scenes official approval, and it is continuing without public scrutiny."

AgResearch examples she gave today in Wellington, in a speech to the annual conference of the Australia and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (11.30am at Te Papa) were:

* Work at Ruakura, near Hamilton, to add human and other genes to dairy cows. According to written details of the research, scientists work on young calves aged six to nine months to induce lactation well before the calves are naturally ready for this. The government scientists also take out and insert various embryos and fetuses, including in very young animals. Scientists continually operate to obtain skin and other body samples.

* Scientists have in recent years created deformed mice by taking out whole gene sequences. Some of these mice are barely alive, with loss of liver functions, walking difficulties, no hair, failed immune systems, and failed pregnancies. The scientists have been talking about similar "knock out" gene sequences in sheep and cattle, and are likely to have produced these animals already in secret. An AgResearch report in 1997 about a particular "knocked out" gene sequence regulating muscle growth said this New Zealand discovery had "opened the flood gates" for work on sheep to greatly boost the amount of muscle. The Green Party has had an anonymous message from Ruakura saying staff have been sworn to secrecy about GE sheep, which have ongoing problems retaining bodily fluids and which the messenger says should not be kept alive.

* The cloning of sheep and cattle, including 10 identical calves from one cow's cell at Ruakura. Some of these cloned animals appear to be aging prematurely.

Ms Kedgley also targetted the pig and poultry industries' "factory farming" methods saying they would be subject to intense political and consumer pressure over the next three years, including Green Party lobbying in Parliament. The Greens would push to phase out battery hen farming and the practice of keeping sows in crates.

"Battery hen farming and sow crate systems for pigs flout the new Animal Welfare Act which has as one of its underlying principles that animals should be able to express normal patterns of behaviour," she said. "Clearly, treating animals like machines and locking them up in cages for years on end suppresses almost all of their natural instincts."

Sue Kedgley's speech is available from Green Party parliamentary media officers Adam Shelton 04 470 6723 or Paul Bensemann 021 214 2665.

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