Animal Law Association, SAFE challenge legality of rodeo events in High Court

Two animal welfare groups are challenging the legality of rodeo events in the High Court.

The Animal Law Association and animal rights group SAFE believe rodeo activities violate the Animal Welfare Act, and said the Government's been too slow to act. 

Both the Animal Law Association and SAFE are seeking a judicial review of the animal welfare code that sanctions rodeo, because they say it normalises the mistreatment of animals in the sport. 

"There are serious questions about the validity of the 2014 Code," said the welfare groups' lawyer Victoria Heine.

Around 35 rodeos are held in New Zealand each year and include events like calf roping, bull riding, and saddle bronc.

The court heard how rodeo is contentious and attracts strong public interest.

"It is a practice on which strongly and often opposing views are held, and for that reason, process matters," Heine said.

The groups allege the Agriculture Minister and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee didn't publicly notify or consult on the Code when it was renewed in 2018. 

But the Crown defends its process.

"It would be an administrative burden that would greatly outweigh the benefit of being able to make amendments of a minor nature," said Crown lawyer Ken Stephen.  

It's not the first time the two animal welfare groups have filed legal action against the Government. In 2020 they successfully won a case that found the Government acted illegally by failing to phase out the use of farrowing crates for mother pigs. 

The Crown acknowledged that case on Monday. 

"Justice Call came to the right decision in the pig case. There was, as you put it sir, a blunder," Stephen said.

The groups hope the court will find another blunder in this case, which could see rodeos phased out.