As a child growing up on a dairy farm, I dreaded Wednesday and Sunday mornings in Spring, waiting for the bobby calf truck to arrive. The thud of the young animals landing in the truck sickened me.
It’s brilliant that the Ministry of Primary Industries has released proposed Animal Welfare Regulations which would make it an offence not to provide facilities for young calves to walk onto and off transportation by their own action.
There are a number of other proposed regulations affecting bobby calves related to their transportation (see pages 60-72 of the consultation document).
Fines of $300 or $500 would apply for infringements of these regulations. The Ministry of Primary Industries is also seeking public feedback on whether some of these actions should be treated as prosecutable regulation offences, where a criminal conviction could apply, as well as maximum penalty fines of $5,000 for an individual and $25,000 for a body corporate.
This is the first time a substantial number of animal welfare regulations will have been made in New Zealand. In most cases the proposed regulations apply current minimum standards, but the new regulations would allow instant fines to apply where the standards are not met.
The proposals that update practice, beyond minor changes, primarily relate to the performance of surgical and painful procedures and the management of bobby calves.
The activities covered in the regulations have the potential to improve the welfare of: dogs, cats, eels, crabs, rock lobster and crayfish, goats, horses, hens, llama, alpaca, pigs, cattle and sheep. (See details please see pages 26-72 of the consultation document.)
Topics covered include the treatment of crayfish in restaurants, stocking density of hens, treatment of pigs, stock transport, and use of pain relief when docking cattle and sheep tails or disbudding cattle, sheep and goats.
As the consultation document notes (on page 4): "We are a nation of animal lovers - more than two thirds of households own a companion animal, among the highest level of pet ownership in the world. At the same time, exports of meat, wool and dairy products contributed around $23 billion to New Zealand's export revenue in the year ended June 2015.
"Our global reputation as safe food producers depends on us continuing to produce animal products within strong animal welfare standards. Even isolated cases of poor animal welfare could have a negative effect on our reputation as a responsible produce or animals and animal products."
If you have a view on animal welfare in New Zealand, it would be great if you made a submission on the proposed regulations. More details about the proposals are available here, and submissions are due by 19 May 2016.
Comments can be provided by e-mail to Animal.WelfareSubmissions@mpi.govt.nz, or by post to:
Animal Welfare Policy
Ministry for Primary Industries
PO Box 2526