Devil in the detail on animal welfare reform

By Ann Thompson

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Federated Farmers has given provisional support for the Ministry for Primary Industries' (MPI) review of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and development of a national animal welfare strategy, but is waiting for more details.

When drafting its submission, the Federation asked members for their opinions and many responded saying the "devil would be in the detail".

Federated Farmers agrees.

The Federation welcomes many of MPI's proposals, including one ensuring anything put into standards is practical and economically viable. The Federation's submission noted that where these make sense, are achievable and help farmers' bottom lines, farmers will happily comply.

There are three proposals, however, the Federation is wary of: classifying surgical procedures in the Animal Welfare Act itself; placing stockmanship into regulation; and specifying the intentional drowning of any land animal as an offence.

Classifying surgical procedures in the Act will require debate in Parliament. The Federation is concerned this could lead to emotional grandstanding by politicians and voting along party lines which could be manipulated for political gain.

Instead of debate, the surgical procedures proposal requires careful questioning of experts. This can happen only outside the House. The Federation would prefer surgical procedures be classified through regulations, decided by Cabinet after consulting the appropriate experts.

Federated Farmers shares MPI's concern around declining stock skills, but does not believe regulating them will lift skills. Stockmanship is a broad issue with as many theories as practitioners. Rather than specifying good practices, it would be better to regulate poor stockmanship, dealing with the owner of the neglected or poorly treated animals, leaving stockmanship improvement to industry training organisations.

Finally, the Federation does not condone ill-treatment, including drowning, of animals, but this proposal could unintentionally include pest management.

As an example, many people cage-trap pests, from possums to rats, but may not have a firearm licence to shoot them and are unlikely to call a vet to euthanase them. In these cases drowning may be the only option.

Federated Farmers believes inhumane drowning of animals can be dealt with in the current Act, without spelling it out.

- Hamilton News

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