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Tuesday, 27 April 2021
Spotlight on animal welfare
This month’s announcement the Government will ban exporting live animals by sea by 2023 has drawn mixed responses.
There has been some criticism about why it is necessary to take two years to " transition" to the ban, and waffle from agriculture minister Damien O’Connor about the wind-down process being "complex" has not shed any light on the situation.
If the concern about this practice is animal welfare, and the Government wants to stop animals being harmed, then it is hard to understand why it needs to take up to two years to introduce the ban and allow the possibility of harm occurring in the meantime.
There has also been concern that there might be a backlash from trading partners, including China, a loss of income for some farmers, and the ethically questionable argument that the decision will not improve animal welfare generally because other countries with poorer practices will take up the slack.
None of this is convincing and, as Mr O’Connor’s announcement stated, live exports by sea represent about 0.2% of the country’s primary sector exports income since 2015.
The issue, which has been festering for years, came to the fore again in September last year when 6000 cattle died when the ship Gulf Livestock 1 sank.
Exporting live sheep for slaughter had been banned in 2003 after 4000 sheep died en route to the Middle East. Following that ban there was further animal welfare concern when 900 heavily pregnant sheep were flown to the Saudi desert and many of their lambs died.
Mr O’Connor said there had been no livestock exports for slaughter since 2008.
One disappointing aspect of the announcement has been the attempts by the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Mr O’Connor to distance themselves from what might happen to animals once they reach their destination. It seems disingenuous to say you care about the welfare of the animals at sea but then, like Pontius Pilate, you wash your hands and absolve yourself from responsibility for any cruelty after that.
And another thing
We welcome the Government’s decision to review progress on animal welfare and safety in the greyhound racing industry.
The Government is concerned at the lack of reporting on implementing the findings from the 2017 report of former High Court judge Rodney Hansen QC which drew attention to unacceptably high rates of dog euthanasia (1300 dogs in three racing seasons), large numbers of "unaccounted-for" dogs, and low numbers of rehomed greyhounds.
Sport and Racing Minister Grant Robertson says he isn't satisfied the recommendations from the report have been sufficiently implemented.
Hard on the heels of that announcement, came a decision from the Judicial Control Authority for Racing fining a Foxton trainer after her dog, Zipping Sarah, was found to have methamphetamine and amphetamine in her urine after she won a race in Christchurch last November.
The trainer eventually admitted the breach of prohibited substance rules, but initially tried to advance the defence that some unnamed people had touched or patted the greyhound at the winner’s podium and that some of these people had smoked methamphetamine before the race and somehow that had contaminated the dog’s urine. A desperate ploy, indeed. (The Authority did not establish how the drugs came to be present in the greyhound, only that it occurred somehow during the time the dog left Foxton and when it arrived in Christchurch.)
Such events reinforce the need for the review and Mr Robertson’s view the industry has "some way to go to achieve the appropriate standards".
He said there had been far too many incidents recently where dogs had died or been injured and warned that should the review show progress has not been adequate "a further fundamental look" at the industry might be required. Sir Bruce Robertson has been appointed to lead the review and is to report back by August 1.