NZ Animal Law Association challenges agriculture minister on rodeo ban inaction

The organisation and an animal rights advocate are taking the government to court – again

NZ Animal Law Association challenges agriculture minister on rodeo ban inaction

The New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) has challenged Minister of Agriculture Damien O'Connor on his inaction regarding the banning of rodeo events.

The association, along with animal rights organisation SAFE, filed court proceedings against O’Connor and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), according to a media release by SAFE.

“Every year they cause torn ligaments, broken bones, bruising and internal damage. These injuries can be so severe that bulls and horses are killed,” SAFE CEO Debra Ashton said. “The government has been too slow to take action on rodeo, so now we’re taking this issue to court.”

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The core of NZALA and SAFE’s claim is that rodeo activities are a breach of the Animal Welfare Act 1999. The current filing marks the second bid by both organisations to challenge Codes of Welfare in court, SAFE said.

“In 2018, NZALA put the regulators on notice about the problematic legal status of rodeo. It is now time to ask the court for guidance on this legal issue,” NZALA President Saar Cohen said. “As lawyers, we are concerned that rodeo activities such as steer wrestling or calf roping are allowed to continue despite being inconsistent with the Act.”

The public has become increasingly critical of rodeo activities in the light of rodeo animal deaths in recent years, SAFE said. Over the 2019-2020 season, two bulls died in rodeo events while another was euthanised during the 2020-2021 season.

An opinion poll conducted by Horizon Research for SAFE in June 2020 revealed that 51% of the surveyed parties would support New Zealand banning the practice of using animals in rodeo events, with 66% agreeing that the pain and suffering dealt to the animals for entertainment purposes was not worth it.

Last year, NZALA came away with a “legal first” victory in the country’s first-ever rodeo prosecution and in the inaugural court challenge to a Code of Welfare.

NZALA and SAFE also filed judicial review proceedings against O’Connor and NAWAC regarding the ongoing farming practice of using farrowing crates for mother pigs in 2019. Last November, High Court Justice Helen Cull decided in favour of NZALA and SAFE, ruling that the minister and NAWAC had violated the Animal Welfare Act 1999 in failing to eliminate the practice.


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