In a Judgement released today, the High Court has ruled the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) have acted illegally when they failed to phase out the farming practice farrowing crates for mother pigs. The ruling relied on NAWAC’s own internal view that farrowing crates were inconsistent with the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
SAFE and the New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA), who filed the Judicial Review Proceedings, welcome the High Court’s judgement.
The Court has ruled that the regulations and minimum standards which allow farrowing crates are unlawful. It’s the first time a Code of Welfare has been challenged in court.
SAFE CEO Debra Ashton said this is a historic day for animals.
“After exhausting all other avenues to free mother pigs from cages, we had no other option but to take this landmark case to Court,” said Ashton
Ashton says this case was about giving mother pigs the freedom to live more natural lives and respecting them as sentient, instead of treating them as simply ‘units of production.’
NZALA’s president Saar Cohen said “The rule of law has prevailed. The Judgment raises serious concerns about NAWAC’s conduct. At best, they lacked proper understanding of their legal duties and were let down by MPI’s legal advisors. At worst, NAWAC acted in bad faith by letting economic factors and industry pressure outweigh their duty as scientists and independent advisors. Worst of all for NAWAC, they caused a major embarrassment to the Minister who relied on their advice without question.”
NZALA and SAFE filed proceedings in February last year. Their intention was to compel the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) and the Minister of Agriculture to act lawfully, to improve their legal procedures and to adopt a more robust legal understanding of their duties.
Notes for editors:
– SAFE and NZALA sought a judicial review of regulations and standards relating to pigs farrowing crates and mating stalls. The High Court found the regulations and minimum standards circumvent Parliament’s intention in enacting the empowering legislation in the Animal Welfare Amendment Act (No 2) 2015, are contrary to the purposes of the Animal Welfare Act 1999, and are unlawful and invalid. The Court made declarations that the relevant regulations and minimum standards are unlawful and invalid and directed the Minister to reconsider.
– SAFE submitted a petition in March 2018, which was signed by over 112,000 people who all wanted farrowing crates to be banned.
– The Animal Welfare Act 1999 clearly states that all animals should have the ‘opportunity to display normal patterns of behaviour.’
– The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) 2010 Code of Welfare (Pigs) states that it “considers that the confining of sows in farrowing crates for extended periods does not fully meet the obligations of the Act.”
– The Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018 state that sows can be confined in a stall for one week after mating (regulation 27), then confined again in a farrowing crate five days before they give birth and up to five weeks after they give birth (regulation 26).
– The Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018 came into force in October 2018. They were reviewed and written under the previous National-led Government.