Parliamentary Candidates Challenged
4 July 2002
The Royal New Zealand SPCA is challenging parliamentary hopefuls to say where they stand on animal cruelty.
The society has sent pledge forms to electorate and list candidates contesting this month's General Election, including members of the outgoing parliament, asking them to signal their support for the SPCA in its mission of advancing the welfare of animals.
Candidates are also called on to pledge support for the SPCA's bid to become eligible for Lottery Grants Board funding and for the society's efforts to have battery hen cages banned by 2010.
"We've asked for the forms to be returned by Wednesday 17th July. Once this has happened, we plan to let the public know which candidates are willing to stand up and be counted on animal welfare issues, " says the Royal New Zealand SPCA's National Campaign Coordinator, Hans Kriek.
"All the signs are that New Zealanders are becoming more sensitised to the suffering of animals and that an increasing percentage want higher welfare standards, more in line with the best overseas practices. Politicians are well advised to take account of this trend and its potential impact on voting patterns.
"In addition to seeking support pledges from individual parliamentary candidates, we would like to know what commitments our major political parties are willing to make on the treatment of animals," he says.
As evidence of growing public concern over animal welfare standards, Mr Kriek cites the 79% response in favour of a ban on battery cages for hens recorded by a Colmar Bruton survey in April this year. He also points to the more than 100,000 submissions to government collected since March this year, calling for the cages to be phased out as soon as possible and not later than 2010.
"These are not fluke results. We received a similar level of support last year during our campaign against sow stalls, the cruelly restrictive pens in which some pregnant pigs are kept. More than 65,000 New Zealanders sent submissions to government calling for sow stalls to be banned whilst nearly 90% of those surveyed told pollsters that they regarded the use of stalls as unacceptable," he says.
Mr Kriek describes the current block on Lottery Grants Board funding for the SPCA as "bizarre" and as almost certainly failing to reflect public perceptions concerning which of New Zealand's charities deserve Lottery Grants funding.
"Animal welfare is specifically blocked from receiving funds from this source. But does that reflect the views of most New Zealanders on the importance of animal welfare? If so, how does one explain the fact that the SPCA has 100,000 members and supporters nationwide or that tens of thousands become regularly involved in our campaigns on behalf of animals?
"Furthermore, it's often impossible to work out where the needs of animals end and those of humans begin. We're one of the most frequently contacted charities in New Zealand. But it's always humans, often distressed humans, making the calls. We've never yet been telephoned by a dog or cat!" he says, adding that a change in Lottery Grant Board criteria is long overdue.
Mr Kriek says there's increasing evidence that New Zealanders want their political representatives to give animal welfare far more priority as an issue and that politicians would be well advised to use the current election campaign as an opportunity to signal their intent.
"But it's not just the views of New Zealanders that matter. Our economy is dependent on farm exports and we have to take seriously the ever-higher standards for the treatment of animals demanded by consumers in some of our key overseas markets. It would certainly be irresponsible for politicians to ignore this global shift in attitudes," he adds.