The petition is supported by leading animal organisations New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA), Helping You Help Animals (HUHA) and the New Zealand Anti-vivisection Society (NZAVS). Other groups are expected to add their support in time.
The Animal Welfare Act 1999 was designed to grant all animals a set of basic freedoms, including freedom from pain and distress, and the freedom to display normal patterns of behaviour. The Act is strong on paper, but applied selectively. Gaps in oversight, monitoring, and enforcement leave millions of animals unprotected.
SAFE CEO Debra Ashton said the current regulatory system is not upholding those legal rights for animals.
“It’s time to give animals an independent voice who will scrutinise systemic animal abuse occurring in Aotearoa,” said Ashton.
“We still have hens in cages, farrowing crates are yet to be phased out, and farmed animals without adequate shelter. Extreme weather events cause immense suffering to animals every year, and animals continue to suffer in the entertainment sector.”
“There are Government bodies to represent the interests of vulnerable members of our community, including children and even the environment. Animals also need to be represented at the highest level.”
NZAVS Executive Director Tara Jackson said “A properly implemented Commissioner for Animals would mean so much for animals suffering in science. There are so many ways we could improve our science and remove animals, but we need leadership from the NZ Government. A commissioner could provide that leadership.”
HUHA CEO Carolyn Press-McKenzie said “Daily, we see animals across New Zealand fall victim to ignorance and circumstance. Cruel practices such as tethering and inappropriate confinement are often normalised. As hard as we try, we struggle to secure the support that so many vulnerable animals need. Implementation and protection of their physical and emotional safety through effective and enforceable processes is long overdue .”
MPI is responsible for seizing export opportunities and growing the agricultural sector. The Ministry also oversees the welfare of farmed animals and animals used in research, testing and teaching, which brings an inherent conflict of interest.
Animal entertainment industries, like racing and rodeo, are allowed to monitor their own animal welfare standards with little external oversight.
Ashton added “We are calling on people to help us make history for animals by signing our petition for a Commissioner for Animals in New Zealand.”
“It’s an important step towards greater independence for animal welfare, and our hope is it’ll bring us closer to the establishment of a dedicated Ministry for Animal Welfare.”