New Zealand's international reputation could be harmed if
our planned update of animal welfare legislation falls too far
behind public opinion in European Union countries, University
of Otago law student Danielle Duffield warns.
Miss Duffield (23) is a final-year law honours student and
animal welfare advocate who was last year awarded a $US5000
scholarship by the US-based Animal Legal Defence Fund (ALDF).
The ALDF strives to protect the lives and interests of
animals through legal means. As an agricultural producer, New
Zealand relied on its reputation as a ''leader in animal
welfare standards,'' she said in an interview.
An article in The New York Times late last year had
challenged New Zealand's ''clean green'' reputation.
Similar challenges to the country's international image could
arise if New Zealand failed ''to improve animal welfare
standards for farm animals to keep up with the EU''.
New Zealand's Animal Welfare Act, of 1999, had been ''quite
progressive'' at the time but many problems now had to be
The legislation recognised ''five freedoms'', including the
opportunity to display ''normal patterns of behaviour''. But
a key problem with the existing law was that minimum
standards for animals specified in the accompanying ''codes
of welfare'' were not fully consistent with the law's ''five
The Ministry for Primary Industry consulted the public last
year on changes to the legislation, and the Cabinet is
expected to consider them early this year.
An earlier EU directive to phase out battery cages had fully
come into effect last year, meaning the EU was ''a decade
ahead of New Zealand'' in moving away from from battery
cages, she said.
Germany, Austria and Switzerland had already banned the
larger colony cages.
''These bans on cage systems entirely will take effect around
the time of New Zealand's move into colony cages -leaving New
Zealand's farming systems morally backwards in the eyes of
New Zealanders were also increasingly concerned about animal
welfare and recently released hen codes were ''unlikely to
meet these public expectations''. Farmers were concerned
about the high costs of cage changes but that cost would be
minimised by ''making just one transition'' - from battery
cages to cage-free systems, she said.