In a High Court judgment on Friday, the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), were found to have acted illegally by side-stepping the Animal Welfare Act in moving to allow pig farrowing crates and mating stalls to continue indefinitely.
This move circumvented Parliament's earlier intentions to phase out crates and was inconsistent with NAWAC's internal findings and with the act.
The finding against animal welfare authorities confirmed what is widely known in animal advocacy circles – that there is wilful disregard of illegal breaches of the act by the authorities right across the board, from the chaining of dogs to animal hoarding, to chicken farming and rodeos.
The Judicial Review was initiated by the NZ Animal Law Association and Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE), one utilising lawyer volunteers and the other, a charity, relying on public donations.
The cries in this country to do the right thing for animals have been loud, and growing, for decades. They have gone unheeded, although they have never gone away.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor regularly speaks of our high animal welfare standards while thwarting calls for adherence to the act, as have others before him.
O'Connor is a farmer. The chair of NAWAC is a farmer, as was the last chair. Federated Farmers and other farmer representatives have and have had seats on the committee. It is these farmers that have allowed other farmers to flout the rule of law and get away with cruelty. Doing so is an attack not only on animals, but on democracy, the function of government and the faith of the people in our Government.
The chair of NAWAC told us banning rodeo was political. This should never have been the case.
Foxes are in charge of the hen houses and none of the hens are safe. Legally recognising animals as sentient in 2015 has meant literally nothing half a decade later.
As for the victims of this failure, sows and their piglets have suffered unnecessarily and unreasonably for years. It is unforgivable.
The minister and members of NAWAC are not fit and proper to be charged with protecting animals by upholding the law and therefore have no place as government officials.
Animal Law Association president Saar Cohen said the judgement raised serious concerns about NAWAC's conduct.
"At best, they lacked proper understanding of their legal duties and were let down by MPI's (Ministry for Primary Industries) legal advisers. At worst, NAWAC acted in bad faith by letting economic factors and industry pressure outweigh their duty as scientists and independent advisers."
And that leads me to rodeo.
Rodeo is violent assault against animals and clearly breaches the act. Any casual observer can see rodeos torture animals, inflicting pain and suffering via choking, throwing, slamming, somersaulting, ramming animal's faces into the dirt, twisting their necks until they collapse, spurring them in the neck, shoulders and flanks, pulling their legs out from under them while someone else pulls their head in another direction and inducing abnormal writhing and bucking via a bucking strap.
The season has just started. The Government must act today and announce charges will be brought under the Animal Welfare Act .
No other offending would be tolerated, so as not to spoil the fun. Offenders would have their season ended.
• Lynn Charlton is the spokeswoman for Anti Rodeo Action NZ.