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  • Writer's pictureVAWA

Animal Welfare System | Review & Renew

Updated: Feb 5

VAWA believes an independent review is needed to interrogate the animal welfare system (Executive Summary), with a view to exploring whether a new model would better protect the animals, including those used in animal agriculture. New Zealand also needs a clear and agreed vision for animal agriculture.

In August 2023, the Regulations Review Select Committee published a report on secondary legislation that speaks to some of the challenges within our animal welfare system. The Otago Daily Times published our opinion on the report.

We spoke at the July 2023 New Zealand Veterinary Conference (abstract and vimeo) about the wicked problems within our animal welfare system, why we can't validate that we are 'world-leading in animal welfare,' and how New Zealand's narrative includes welfare-washing.

We spoke to Rural Exchange in February 2023 (Spotify from 29:10), and discussed contingency plans & emergency management in farming systems - how could we have done better for the tens of thousands of hens that burnt to death last week?

After the interview, Hamish and Rebecca further explore the concepts and our views - “...not anti-farming; we need to do some stuff that is better;” 💯💯💯 There are three major challenges that will disrupt supply chains & our food security.

1) climate change.

2) pandemics.

3) energy scarcity.

Resilient systems that can feed Aotearoa will be de-intensified, #lightlocalbiodiverse &

In February 2023, Stuff* and the Dominion Post published VAWA's opinion piece that asked, "Are we world-leading in animal welfare? Or just welfare-washed?" We noted things that the public at large can do and what they need to know, such as;

"...understand that we can be both pro-animal use and engagement, including farming, and pro-animal welfare. But to achieve this requires us to view things through the animals’ eyes and meet their needs. Any changes to how we farm must be fair and just, including on the change timeline, and there’d need to be appropriate support."

In January 2023, the Otago Daily Times published a comprehensive opinion piece on some of the challenges within the Animal Welfare System and the need for a vision.

"So are we welfare-washed? Are you confused? It’s understandable if you are — there are many disparate voices. It’s often an emotional topic with not much alignment coming from the entrenched corners. So who should you listen to?"

This followed on from an ODT article in September 2022 that discussed the need for careful, considered and continual progress for animals.

"Leaders — especially industry leaders — need to drive the change for the next 100 years and way beyond; and in doing so, protect future generations, our planet and our animals. Time for a rethink and a reset, or yet another rehash?"

Animals are sentient, have intrinsic value, and their welfare matters. Aotearoa's animal welfare system - from people in charge of animals, to industry and sector leaders, to regulators - ought to protect by our animals.

Currently, the system is inherently conflicted as it is set up as a “fox in the henhouse” - animal welfare is managed by those in control of economics as well as welfare which often conflict with each other.

This dynamic leaves animals vulnerable, per the Winter Grazing Taskforce report;

"Firstly, it is clear to us that animal welfare is not sufficiently prioritised, by anyone along the supply chain..."

The complex issues within the current system make it a “wicked problem” - there is no one simple solution and it has many interlinked dependencies. Ignoring risks (eg winter grazing, live exports; bobby calves, shade) and obfuscating against progress, leaves animals compromised and farmers exposed to the next exposé.

Many of the challenges and opportunities are identified by the 2021 Nuffield scholars in their report, "Dead-ends or Transformation - Redesigning NZ farming to thrive through change."

"Deep, disruptive transformation is no longer optional, but a prerequisite for organisational and sector survival.

But when we asked people if they felt primary sector leaders were capable of transforming the model that put them there, most said no."

An effective animal welfare system and its implementation in Aotearoa requires animal welfare to be considered independently from economics, through a ministry that is immune to regulatory capture.

"Regulatory capture is an economic theory that regulatory agencies may come to be dominated by the interests they regulate and not by the public interest."

An agreed vision for animal agriculture, and an independent review and strategic reset of the animal welfare system is needed to futureproof our reputation and protect our animals’ welfare.

*Stuff redacted a paragraph following a complaint about an error; the correction would have read: "The chicken in a field is free range, and so is the bird housed in a shed with thousands of other birds with only tiny pop-holes to get outside, yet these are very different welfare experiences for the birds”.

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