SAFE slams 'meaningless' animal welfare reform

SAFE slams 'meaningless' animal welfare reform

An animal rights group says the Government's animal welfare reforms are "meaningless" and the consultation period is too short.

Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) has particularly criticised recommendations concerning the treatment of bobby calves and animals in factory farms.

The public has been able to provide feedback on the 85 proposed changes since yesterday, with the consultation window closing on May 19.

But SAFE campaigns officer Shanti Ahluwalia says that's not long enough for the public to get through the 100 pages of suggested changes.

He also says they don't go far enough to protect animals.

"It is clear that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) does not want proper consultation and simply wants to rush through their meaningless changes.

"We should not have to choose between fixing rules for bobby calves or for animals in factory farms. It is absurd to believe that we can give proper consideration to over 100 pages of regulations in the five-week timeframe they have given us."

SAFE believes MPI is ignoring its legal obligations, because in creating laws concerning animals, the department should promote animal welfare and consultation rules -- but they haven't.

But MPI director of biosecurity and animal welfare Julie Collins says the department had workshops with animal advocacy groups such as SAFE and the Companion Animal Council, farming and industry groups and others with an interest in animals.

Along with the National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC), the NZ Vet Council and the RNZSPCA, MPI looked at the 1200 minimum standards in the existing 18 codes of welfare for animals where changes could be made.

In all, 85 rules were decided could be improved through legislation. Proposed changes would affect factory farms, rodeos and live exports.

Ms Collins says public consultation is the next step in making sure the "best rules possible" are put in place.

SAFE has taken particular exception to a rule around bobby calves (young male cows) being able to be transported after four days, saying it is well short of the standard 10-14 days in Europe.

Sows could also be kept in farrowing crates, despite them breaching animal welfare legislation.

MPI says four days is the current minimum period for transporting bobby calves, but they also need to have hard hooves and dry navels before they can travel.

A 2015 NAWAC review of farrowing crates, used to hold pregnant sows found there is no better alternative which accounts for the welfare of the sows and piglets.

However, MPI is watching international and New Zealand research into alternative systems and will consider change if there is "clear evidence".

Despite this, SAFE has called the process "farcical" which shows MPI can't be trusted to look after the welfare of animals.

It says an independent authority for animals is needed.