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SPCA Urges Speedy Progress On Animal Law Reforms


ROYAL NEW ZEALAND SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS

For Release: 30 August 2002

SPCA Urges Speedy Progress On Animal Law Reforms

New Zealand's largest animal welfare organization plans to keep on reminding the new Parliament of business left over from before July's general election.

"There are five immediate issues which concern us and on which we're hoping to see speedy progress," says Peter Blomkamp, Chief Executive Officer of the Royal New Zealand SPCA.

"To start with, we want a ban placed on sow stalls, the highly restrictive cages used by a minority of pig farmers for confining pregnant pigs. The stalls prevent these intelligent, sensitive creatures from walking or turning around for months at a time. It's small wonder that many of them are driven insane by this cruel and pointless practice.

"Secondly, we want battery cages for egg-laying hens phased out as quickly as possible and no later than 2010. Here again, we're faced with an extremely callous system of confinement. Each bird is restricted to an area smaller than an A4 sheet of paper and is unable to perform most of the activities normal for hens, including walking, scratching or stretching its wings," he adds.

Mr Blomkamp says that the SPCA will, in addition, seek legislation to ensure farms provide sufficient shade and shelter for their livestock.

"New Zealanders are becoming increasingly conscious of the hardships faced by farm animals during cold snaps of the type which have punctuated the last few months. But high stocking rates have also resulted in a shortage of shade for livestock during warmer weather. All too often, you can see every animal in the paddock jostling for space beneath a solitary tree whilst the midsummer sun beats mercilessly down," he says.

"A more general area of concern is the court system's failure to take animal cruelty cases seriously. The 1999 Animal Welfare Act provides for substantial fines and prison sentences in such cases. However, judges seem reluctant to apply penalties from the higher end of the scale, even when faced with appalling instances of cruelty. We will be looking to the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Phil Goff, to remedy this situation quickly.

"Fifth and last, we want an end to the current ban imposed by the Lotteries Grant Board on its provision of funding for animal welfare organizations. This ban is bizarre and arbitrary, particularly when one considers the very broad range of organizations that do receive Lotteries Grant funding.

"We are one of New Zealand's most popular and widely respected charities with 100,000 members nationwide. If we can't persuade the Lotteries Grant Board to change its mind, we will lobby the new parliament to review the way the board is constituted," says Mr Blomkamp, adding that the SPCA is simply seeking the same level of consideration as other charitable bodies.

Mr Blomkamp points out that the government-appointed National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is currently reviewing the Welfare Codes for both pigs and layer hens and is expected to make recommendations concerning their reform later this year.

"We expect NAWAC to recommend the rapid phasing-out of both sow stalls and battery cages and we also expect Agriculture Minister, the Hon. Jim Sutton to sign-off on these recommendations at an early stage in the life of the new government.

"Under current legislation, government is required to take public opinion into account when setting or revising animal welfare codes. There can be no doubt of what New Zealanders want on these two issues. Over 65,000 members of the public sent submissions to the Mr Sutton last year calling for an end to sow stalls and approximately 130,000 sent in submissions this year, calling for a ban on battery cages," says Mr Blomkamp.

"Public opinion polls have also shown large majorities in favour of banning these cruel farming practices, with nearly four out of five declaring themselves willing to pay more for eggs if that's what is entailed in ending the cruelties of battery farming," he adds.

Mr Blomkamp says the SPCA is prepared to continue public campaigning indefinitely until sow stalls and battery cages are both banned and will lobby hard for the other changes it advocates.

"We believe it's vital for New Zealand to have the highest possible animal welfare standards. Our economy remains hugely dependent on animals and animal products. We simply cannot take the risk of falling below the level of humane treatment of animals expected in our more affluent overseas markets," he says.

For further information, please contact:

Peter Blomkamp Chief Executive Officer Royal New Zealand SPCA 09 827 6094 021 179 0072 Released by Ian Morrison, Matter of Fact Communications Tel: 09 575 3223, Fax: 09 575 3220, Email: matfact@ww.co.nz

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