Just a quick note on the Animal Justice Fund, administered by SAFE, funded from Jan Cameron’s (founder of the hugely-successful outdoor equipment company, Kathmandu) fortune which allocates $2 million for whistleblowers. Between $5 000 and $30 000 can be awarded in each instance that leads to a successful prosecution or ‘significant animal welfare outcome.’
To date, at least six workers have ‘dobbed in’ bosses for animal cruelty. But none want to accept the reward.
All were for dairy farms and piggeries. None of the workers were still employed by the farms they were laying complaints against, so the cases and information are considered ‘historical’ and hence a low priority for investigation. Four of these cases were referred to MAF. According to SAFE’s Hans Kriek:
Paddocks were in bad shape, there were stones and lame cows. There were high mortality rates amongst calves. Dying animals were being left to rot in paddocks. With the pig farms we had the usual complaints … that the conditions were terrible and enclosures weren’t cleaned out and the animals were standing a foot deep in their own muck.
Yet, no breaches of the relevant welfare codes were found in any case. Continue reading
A report in the Dominion Post this week about a particularly nasty case of criminal neglect of sheep in the Manawatu highlights much of what is wrong with the enforcement and prosecution of animal welfare offences on farms in New Zealand:
75 sheep were found dead and another 25 had to be put down [immediately] because of alleged ill-treatment. SPCA officials raided the farm in August after being tipped off about the sheep. The 66-hectare farm is now under strict monitoring by vets and four SPCA inspectors. It is still being run by the farmer and has several hundred sheep.
Although full details have not yet been divulged by prosecutors, pending the laying of charges, it appears that the sheep were emaciated from starvation and severe neglect. The file is about to be sent to Crown Law for prosecution.
For reasons that will become clear, it is important to note that this was a raid carried out by the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Under the Animal Welfare Act 1999, three bodies are statutorily-empowered to investigate and prosecute animal welfare cases; the Police, the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) and the SPCA. Only the Police and MAF are fully state-funded, the SPCA relies for 98% of its income on private donations. Continue reading
Late last year, I posted on the euphemistically-named ‘cubicle’ farming of dairy cows proposed in the South Island’s pristine McKenzie Basin.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has today recommended that Environment Minister, Nick Smith use his call-in powers under the Resource Management Act 1991 (the RMA) to make a decision on the consents. The Act states:
Section 141B – Minister’s power to call in matters that are or are part of proposals of national significance
In deciding whether a matter is or is part of a proposal of national significance, the Minister may have regard to any relevant factor, including whether the matter—
(a) has aroused widespread public concern or interest regarding its actual or likely effect on the environment
Why is this of interest in a blog about animal law?
Well, although about 75% of the large number of submissions received by the Canterbury Regional Council mentioned deleterious effects on the cows, the question has been raised as to whether animal welfare issues can be legitimately considered as an ‘effect’ of dairy farming for the purposes of resource management consents.
The Council has received legal advice that they can not, nor can they provide grounds for a ministerial call-in.
The Council’s Chief Executive, Dr Bryan Jenkins, has said that the animal welfare issue is more appropriately dealt with under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the AWA). He also suggested that a stronger argument can be made for damage to New Zealand’s reputation in international dairy markets being an ‘effect’.
This is all the more incredible if we look at the statutory definition of “environment” in the RMA: Continue reading
Just last week, we posted about the SPCA’s difficulties in pursuing prosecutions under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (the AWA). An article in the Herald on Monday (‘Hundreds of Cases of Livestock Mistreatment Reported’) highlights just how little the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), is doing by way of prosecutions. But, as the Police generally do not prosecute animal welfare offences, MAF is the other main body, along with the SPCA, that is empowered to prosecute under the AWA.
In the year to November 2009, MAF received 689 complaints about the mistreatment of animals, and investigated 615. They brought two prosecutions.
In 2008, there were 948 complaints in total, of which 824 were investigated. No prosecutions were brought.
So, out of 1439 investigations in two years, only two resulted in prosecutions. This is a rate of less than 0.4%.
Curiously, the story was re-spun the next day with the title: ‘Big Fines for Farmers Who Let Their Livestock Starve’ moving the sentences imposed to the head of the article and the fact that there were only two prosecutions in two years to the second half of the piece. Continue reading