Defending the Kingdom | Issue 19

Defending the Kingdom | Issue 19

Factory Farming: If it's so bad, why isn't there a law against it?

“But, it can’t be that bad if it’s legal!”

We irritating bleeding hearts hear this quite regularly in regards to Factory Farming and its continued legality in New Zealand. We even do stuff like rally against it – like we did a couple of weekends ago in New Zealand’s five biggest cities. Indeed we Kiwis do have an Animal Welfare Act, which came into force at the end of the 1990s. Theoretically, it sounds great. It sounds bulletproof.

Section four sets out the physical, health, and behavioural needs of animals, which are definitely not accommodated for in current intensive farming practice. They include proper and sufficient food and water, adequate shelter, and opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour. Under section 10, everyone in charge of an animal must ensure these needs are met, with the stated purpose of ensuring that owners of animals and persons in charge of animals attend properly to the welfare of those animals. 2010’s amendment of section 28 covers the “wilful ill-treatment of animals.” It states that a person commits an offence if that person wilfully ill-treats an animal with the result that the animal is permanently disabled; or the animal dies; or the pain or distress caused to the animal is so great that it is necessary to destroy the animal in order to end its suffering; or the animal is seriously injured or impaired. And there are serious penalties for violation of these laws, too. An individual person who does it can be fined up to $100,000, or sent to prison for up to five years. A body corporate can be fined up to half a million dollars for a breach of these provisions.

So if that is the law, and it has been for 15 years now, then why is Factory Farming still a thing? Why are the loudmouths still bitching about it, if there are laws in place to stop it? The reason is the loophole in the Animal Welfare Act, in Part Five: the defence of compliance with minimal codes of welfare. And the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee may, in “exceptional circumstances,” recommend minimum standards and recommendations for best practice that do not fully meet the obligations of the provisions. “Exceptional circumstances” include being difficult or expensive to transition. These factors are considered more important than maintaining the integrity of the law. Even though I have a piggy bank in my room, I doubt the real piglets being tortured nationwide care too much about the cost of stamping out Factory Farming for good.

So if you want to see change, then in September you need to vote for the political parties that have policies to stamp out Factory Farming: Labour, the Greens, Mana, and the Internet Party. Only through legislative and policy change, and higher minimum standards for the welfare codes, can we save the animals, and ensure a kinder future for them.
This article first appeared in Issue 19, 2014.
Posted 9:16pm Sunday 10th August 2014 by Elisabeth Larsen.