What now for New Zealand's Codes of Welfare?

An association of New Zealand lawyers (The New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA)) has been successful in privately prosecuting  New Zealand’s first rodeo case,, and in challenging a Code of Welfare in respect of the use of farrowing crates for pigs.

Rodeo and the use of electric prodders

A District Court found a farmer guilty of using an electric prodder on two distressed cattle during  two separate rodeo events, one in 2016 and the other in 2017. The two events involved steers who were used for a team roping rodeo competition.

It was reported that while waiting in the chute, the animals became too distressed to take part in the rodeo, and knelt down on the ground.. Both animals had no room to move away and did not react to the actions of rodeo cowboys who tried to get them up, using manual methods. The Rodeo Code of Welfare requires that animals in this situation must be released by opening the gate. Instead of doing so, the farmer applied a charged electric prodder to the animals, which jolted the animals and caused them to stand up. They were then sent into the rodeo arena.

The Court found him guilty of ill-treating an animal by way of using an electric prodder on two distressed cattle and he has been remanded for sentencing.

The offences had originally been reported to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI). MPI decided to issue a warning letter to the farmer. Following the successful prosecution undertaking by the NZALA, the NZALA  reportedly said  it undertook the private prosecution to counter a “false sense of immunity” among rodeo cowboys.


Farrowing crates for pigs

The New Zealand  High Court has ruled that the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) acted illegally when they failed to phase out the farming practice of farrowing crates for sows.

In New Zealand Animal Law Association v The Attorney-General – [2020] NZHC 3009 – Justice Cull noted that the practices of using farrowing crates and dry sow stalls, which were recognised  as being non-compliant with the Animal Welfare Act 1999, were previously permitted under an “exceptional circumstances” exemption.

In 2015, Parliament signalled repealed the “exceptional circumstances” exemption and enacted regulation-making powers that prescribe time frames for transitioning from non-compliant practices to practices that fully meet the obligations of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

Following decisions and recommendations of the welfare committee, the Minister of Agriculture recommended to the Governor-General two regulations and amendments to minimum standards that did not require a transition time frame. It allowed the practices to continue indefinitely. The Court ruled that the two regulations and amendments to the minimum standards “circumvent Parliament’s intention in enacting the 2015 amendment, are contrary to the purposes of the Act, and are thereby invalid”.

“The rule of law has prevailed”, says NZALA President Saar Cohen-Ronen. “The judgment raises serious concerns about the welfare committee’s conduct. At best, they lacked proper understanding of their legal duties and were let down by MPI’s legal advisors. At worst, they acted in bad faith by letting economic factors and industry pressure outweigh their duty as scientists and independent advisors.”