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New Zealand: Animal Welfare Legislation Recognizes Animals as Sentient, Bans Cosmetic Testing

(May 19, 2015) On May 5, 2015, the New Zealand Parliament unanimously passed the Animal Welfare Amendment Act (No. 2) 2015, which includes an amendment to the long title of the principal legislation, the Animal Welfare Act 1999, in order to specifically recognize animals as sentient. (Animal Welfare Amendment Act (No 2) 2015, s 4, New Zealand Legislation website; see also Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, New Zealand Parliament website (last visited May 19, 2015).)

The amended long title now states that the statute is an Act

(a) to reform the law relating to the welfare of animals and the prevention of their ill-treatment; and, in particular,—
(i) to recognise that animals are sentient:
(ia) to require owners of animals, and persons in charge of animals, to attend properly to the welfare of those animals:
(ii) to specify conduct that is or is not permissible in relation to any animal or class of animals:
(iii) to provide a process for approving the use of animals in research, testing, and teaching:
(iv) to establish a National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and a National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee:
(v) to provide for the development and issue of codes of welfare and the approval of codes of ethical conduct:
(b) to repeal the Animals Protection Act 1960. (Animal Welfare Act 1999, Long Title, New Zealand Legislation website [scroll down page to view text of long title].)

Previously, animals were explicitly referred to as sentient in the New Zealand Animal Welfare Strategy, but not in the legislation. (MINISTRY FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRIES, ANIMAL WELFARE MATTERS: NEW ZEALAND ANIMAL WELFARE STRATEGY 3 (May 2013).) The Strategy “sets out a high-level framework for how animals are treated in New Zealand and provides a formal foundation for New Zealand’s animal welfare legislation and policy.” (Animal Welfare, Ministry for Primary Industries website (last reviewed May 7, 2015).) The amendment to the long title of the Act to make it clear that animals are sentient beings resulted from the select committee process regarding the amendment bill; it had not been part of the original bill. (Animal Welfare Amendment Bill (107–2), As Reported from the Primary Production Committee, Commentary & cl 3A, New Zealand Legislation website (last visited May 19, 2015).)

Other Highlights of the Legislation

The amendment bill, which was first introduced in the Parliament in March 2013 following a government review of the legislation, contained other significant provisions that

• Provide for regulations to set mandatory animal welfare standards

• Broaden the range of enforcement tools, including new tools that will enable animal welfare inspectors to prevent animal suffering as well as punish perpetrators

• Remove uncertainty around the ill-treatment of wild animals by targeting acts of wilful or reckless ill-treatment (but not affecting ordinary hunting, fishing, and pest management)

• Improve the transparency of research involving animals. (Press Release, Hon. Nathan Guy, Animal Welfare Amendment Bill Passes Final Reading (May 5, 2015).)

The amended legislation also “bans the use of animals to test finished cosmetic products or ingredients that are intended for use exclusively in cosmetics.” (Id.; Animal Welfare Act 1999, s 84A.) When this particular change was added to the bill by a government supplementary order paper in March 2015, Minister of Primary Industries Nathan Guy stated that “[t]o the best of our knowledge there never has been any animal testing for cosmetics in New Zealand, but this amendment will send an important message that this kind of testing is unacceptable to New Zealanders and will never happen here.” (Press Release, Hon. Nathan Guy, Law Change to Ban Cosmetic Testing on Animals (Mar. 31, 2015); Supplementary Order Paper No. 69, Hon. Nathan Guy, Animal Welfare Amendment Bill (Mar. 31, 2015).)