Here’s a couple of considerations to keep in mind as you read the article dealing with farming and “New Zealand’s most popular meat”. The key words to those considerations are “sentience”, and “balance”
Consideration #1: What difference would a legal definition of animal sentience have on the daily lives of the animals involved? Putting that question another way, what difference would it make to the animals if, in addition to ensuring animals did not suffer “unnecessarily”, industry had a legal obligation to ensure that animals were “provided with opportunities to experience pleasure”? For those who are genuinely serious about elevating standards of animal welfare and improving the daily life experience of animals, it’s an attainable objective.
Here’s how. Apply a definition of sentience in Section 2 of its Animal Welfare Act 1999 stating “sentience means animals experience negative and positive states”.
To understand how that definition makes a difference, have a look at what New Zealand’s Veterinary Association have said about animal sentience:
Then compare the clarity and quality of the NZVA’s definition with the statements of the New Zealand Government. The New Zealand government still don’t have a definition of sentience in legislation, but did go so far as to say that the acknowledgement of animals as sentient in New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act 2015 Amendment was “merely symbolic”. New Zealand’s 2018 government have an equally token semi-definition of animal sentience with a non-legislative reference which states: “Sentience is the ability to perceive or feel things”.
Did you notice the word “things” in this official government website definition of sentience? “Things”?! The semi-definition that fails to identify “things” as the animal’s negative AND positive experiences as referred to by the NZVA, enables the law to side-step applying a legal responsibility for the positive experiences of animals.
Consideration #2: Is this article balanced in terms of stakeholder interests? Critiquing is different to simply criticising, and balance is one of the elements of credibly critiquing. For example, have you noticed that when one chicken farmer falls foul of legal obligations, then it’s commonly reported as “the chicken industry”, rather than “one farmer” in the chicken industry? Critiquing – it’s worth emphasising that it’s MUCH more than simply criticising.
So what do you think? Does the article about New Zealand’s most popular meat demonstrate balance? And what difference would a clear legislative definition of sentience make, on the lives of the chickens, the producers, and the public?