As farmers we must make sure that all animals are treated with care and respect, in a healthy and safe environment.
Insisting on the highest standards of animal husbandry and welfare on our farms is good for
- our animals,
- us, our farms and farm teams,
- our industry and for New Zealand
At DairyNZ we take animal welfare seriously and work with farmers and industry partners to raise awareness of our duty of care. We work to understand consumer and market expectations in animal welfare, provide training to build skills and develop resources to support the best standards of care.
The Animal Protection Index, which ranks 50 countries across the world on their animal welfare standards, places New Zealand (along with the United Kingdom, Austria and Switzerland) in first place.
Animal Welfare Act
The Animal Welfare Act 1999 (amended in 2015) establishes welfare obligations on every person who owns or is in charge of animals.
What is the Animal Welfare Act 1999?
The Animal Welfare Act 1999 is the piece of New Zealand legislation which sets out the responsibilities of people who keep animals for any reason, including food, fibre, or animal product. It sets out offences and penalties and gives legal authority to the Minimum Standards contained in Codes of Welfare.
How does the Animal Welfare Act affect me?
Sections 10 to 14 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 set out the principal obligations and offences relating to the keeping of animals in New Zealand.
- Meeting the physical, health and behavioural needs of animals.
- Ensuring sick/injured animals are treated to relieve pain/suffering, or are humanely killed instead.
- Not keeping animals alive in unnecessary pain/distress.
- Not selling an animal in pain/distress unless it is to be killed.
- Not deserting an animal without providing for its needs.
- Not ill-treating an animal or killing it in such a way that it feels unnecessary pain/distress.
What are the 5 Freedoms?
The Five Freedoms were developed in the UK in 1965 and form the cornerstone of modern animal welfare. They are recognised internationally as representing the fundamental requirements of all animals.
The Five Freedoms are:
- Freedom from Hunger and Thirst - by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigour.
- Freedom from Discomfort - by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease - by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment.
- Freedom to Express Normal Behaviour - by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal's own kind.
- Freedom from Fear and Distress - by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoids mental suffering.
(From the Brambell Report, 1965.)
There are three codes of welfare that outline the industry agreed standards of animal care and good stockmanship practices.
They are the Dairy Cattle, the Painful Husbandry Procedures and the Transport of Livestock within New Zealand Codes of Welfare.
- Dairy Cattle Code of Welfare 2014
- Animal Welfare (Transport within NZ) Code of Welfare
- Painful Husbandry Procedures
What are Codes of Welfare?
Codes of Welfare are official documents which give the detail surrounding animal welfare requirements for different species of animal. They are industry-agreed standards under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
Why do we need to know about Codes of Welfare?
It is important that farmers know about Codes of Welfare because they set out the 'Minimum Standards' required to meet the welfare requirements of different animals. Failure to meet a Minimum Standard can lead to prosecution, so knowing about Codes of Welfare can help protect farmers from breaking the law.
What is a Minimum Standard?
A minimum standard is a statement which sets out what is required to meet the most basic welfare needs of an animal. Codes of Welfare contain a number of minimum standards, each one relating to a different set of requirements, e.g. 'food & water', 'shade& shelter', 'animal handling', etc. Because minimum standards have to be met in order to ensure basic animal welfare, they are identified in Codes of Welfare by the word 'must'.
What does a Minimum Standard look like?
The following is an example of a Minimum Standard taken from the 'Zoo Code':
"Enclosures, barriers, facilities and equipment must be maintained in a condition that minimises harm or injury to animals and if likely to cause injury or harm must be repaired or replaced, or the animal relocated immediately."
What is a Recommended Best Practice?
A recommended best practice is a guideline which offers suggestions on how animal welfare can be improved over and above the relevant minimum standard. Recommended best practices are not legally enforced, so are identified in Codes of Welfare by the word 'should'.
What does a Recommended Best Practice look like?
The following is an example of a recommended best practice taken from the 'Zoo Code': "For animals that need to be confined to holding areas, provision should be made for adequate space to enable them to freely exercise and rest in, order to maintain their health and welfare".
Who writes the Codes of Welfare?
Although most Codes of Welfare to date have been written by industry or special interest groups, anyone may write a Code of Welfare. However, before a Code of Welfare can be issued by the Minister of Agriculture, it must be reviewed and approved by the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC). The review period includes a period of public consultation, which allows anyone in New Zealand to have their say on the proposed content of the Code of Welfare in question.
Tell me more about the public consultation process.
Public consultation is a key part of the Code of Welfare development process. Public consultation periods are notified in the major newspapers and on the Biosecurity New Zealand website. Copies of draft Codes of Welfare can be downloaded from the website, or obtained directly from MAF (see details below). A six week period is usually allowed for public consultation and farmers should strongly consider submitting their views to Ministry of Primary Industries on Codes of Welfare which affect them.
What happens if I breach the Animal Welfare Act?
The action which can be taken varies with the nature of the offence, but if it is serious or a repeat offence, you may be prosecuted under the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Successful prosecution can result in criminal conviction and/or a significant fine.
Farmers should be aware that a number of people can enter a farm at any time to investigate a suspected animal welfare offence. These include officers from Ministry of Primary Industries, approved inspectors (e.g. SPCA) and the Police. Ministry of Primary Industries’ verification services at abattoirs and slaughter premises also monitor the welfare of animals that go through processing plants.
What is NAWAC?
NAWAC is the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. It is a group of up to 11 people, whose role is to advise the Minister of Primary Industries on animal welfare matters in New Zealand. This includes making recommendations on Codes of Welfare. NAWAC representatives currently include those from the farming and veterinary professions.
Who can I contact for more information?
Veterinary advice: Your local vet
Codes of Welfare: MPI website
Specific issues: NAWAC
Report a welfare problem:
- Ministry of Primary Industries 0800 00 83 33
- SPCA 0800 682 467 (Extn 1)
Legal advice: Your solicitor/legal professional