Some months ago there was an outcry when Sunday depicted cruel and inhumane treatment of bobby calves during transport.
Last Friday new animal welfare regulations were announced by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI).
The new MPI regulations require that bobby calves:
1) Must be at least four days old before being transported for sale or slaughter;
2) Must not be transported for more than 12 hours
3) May not be killed by the use of blunt force trauma
4) May not be transported by sea across Cook Strait
5) Must be able to walk safely on and off transportation
6) Must have access to clean, dry, ventilated shelter to protect calves from adverse weather including extremes of heat and cold
7) Must be fed at least once in the 24 hrs prior to slaughter
Whilst there is more that could, and perhaps should, be done - for instance it's hard to see that bobby calves which are neo natal animals can go without food for up to 24 hours without being under unnecessary distress, let's acknowledge MPI's swift response to the groundswell of public opinion on this matter.
Just last month the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill became law. New Zealand law now recognises what pet owners and scientists have known all along, that animals, like humans, are "sentient" beings.
In other words that animals have feelings and can experience both positive and negative emotions including pain and distress.
The law change last month also bans the use of animals to test finished cosmetic products, or ingredients that are intended for use only in cosmetics.
With just on 70 per cent of New Zealand households having at least one pet and as a country earning around $25 billion a year from exporting animal products such as meat, milk and wool, as Nathan Guy commented in welcoming the unanimous support for the new law in Parliament "How we treat animals matters, not just to animals, but to ourselves and overseas markets."
One huge anomaly remains though.
Among other things, amendments to the Animal Welfare Act broaden the range of enforcement tools enabling animal welfare inspectors to prevent animal suffering as well as punish offenders and it gives animal welfare inspectors the power to issue compliance notices.
How we treat animals matters, not just to animals, but to ourselves and overseas markets.
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When MPI officials are doing their job monitoring and making sure that the new regulations around the treatment of bobby calves are being adhered to they receive a salary paid by Government, as they should.
When SPCA animal welfare inspectors are preventing animals suffering, or bringing perpetrators to justice, or even just assisting as in the dramatic horse rescue near Otaki on Friday their salaries are not paid for by Government, they are paid for by SPCA Op shops around New Zealand and public donations.
New Zealand has a proud reputation around animal welfare.
If how we treat animals really does matter, not just to animals but to ourselves and overseas markets we wouldn't let the ridiculous situation of a charity being expected to enforce the law with next to no Government funding continue for a moment longer.