New Zealand Animal Law Association helps animals prevail in ‘legal firsts’

The cases involved the first rodeo prosecution and the first Code of Welfare court challenge

New Zealand Animal Law Association helps animals prevail in ‘legal firsts’

The New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) has helped animals prevail in two animal cruelty cases that are considered “legal firsts” in the country, according to the New Zealand Law Society.

The organisation triumphed over a farmer in New Zealand’s inaugural rodeo prosecution, and was victorious in the first court challenge to a Code of Welfare.

In a private prosecution that went before the Whangarei District Court, Northland farmer Derek Robinson was found guilty of shocking distressed cattle with an electric prodder in two separate instances at the Mid-Northern Rodeo in 2016 and 2017. Robinson had violated the Rodeo Code of Welfare prior to a team roping competition by using an electric prodder on distressed steers instead of opening their gate.

His actions were reported to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) following an exposé on Radio New Zealand. In a statement published by the New Zealand Law Society, NZALA said that it had pursued the prosecution of Robinson to challenge rodeo cowboys’ “false sense of immunity.”

The result of Robinson’s case also serves as an entry point through which the MPI can enforce the Rodeo Code in court. The NZALA voiced its intent to continue collaborating with the MPI to uphold its statutory obligations.

High Court victory for pigs

The NZALA, along with SAFE, also successfully challenged the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee in the High Court over the continued use of farrowing crates for mother pigs.

The use of farrowing crates and dry sow stalls had been recognised as being breaches of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. Parliament announced its plan to set time frames for the phasing out of non-compliant practices in 2015, but based on a consultation with the welfare committee, the minister of agriculture recommended two regulations and amendments that eliminated the time frame requirement. As a result, the farming practices could continue indefinitely.

“After exhausting all other avenues to free mother pigs from cages, we had no other option but to take this landmark case to court,” SAFE CEO Debra Ashton said.

In her ruling, High Court Justice Helen Cull said that the regulations and amendments “circumvent Parliament’s intention in enacting the 2015 amendment, are contrary to the purposes of the act and are thereby invalid.”

NZALA and SAFE praised the decision, although President Saar Cohen-Ronen said that the judgment “raises serious concerns about the welfare committee’s conduct.”

“At best, they lacked proper understanding of their legal duties and were let down by MPI’s legal advisors. At worst, they acted in bad faith by letting economic factors and industry pressure outweigh their duty as scientists and independent advisors,” Cohen-Ronen said.

Ashton said that the victory in the High Court was “a historic day for animals.”

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