On ABC last night there was a excellent video “Animal rights campaigner spreads message“. It is worth watching for people who (unlike me) haven’t been seen some of the material before. It concerns a animal rights activist in aussie, wealthy backers, and a certain amount of bloody silly self-righteousness from groups that don’t enforce their own legislation and standards.
There are some absolutely ironically hilarious parts in this video.
JAMES KELLAWAY, AUSTRALIA EGG CORPORATION: I question the authenticity of this footage. We need to carefully analyse and question it. I don’t want to disregard it, but we need to question it. Why? Because it has been shot by someone with a vested interest and a motive and motive – a motive to shut down egg production.
What he doesn’t stress of course, is that he also has a even stronger vested interest in questioning this footage. After all it is shot at a farm producing eggs.
In New Zealand, the best summary material I’ve found was from “Falls the shadow“* by Peter Beatson which is the notes for a oral presentation to the New Zealand Law Commission on 28th August 2008. Essentially from my reading of it, we have a reasonably good basic act, some moderately dubious regulation of top of it in terms of welfare standards, and pathetic enforcement.
How pathetic? Really really pathetic – read the section “Inadequate resources” starting at the end of page 14. I’ve pulled a few quotes below to give an idea of the issue .
…there are around 150 million farm animals being processed in this country each year. MAF has only five inspectors to monitor their well-being and to enforce the codes of welfare. One inspector, for example, has to police a region encompassing the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Coromandel, Auckland and Northland (Fox 2008). The inspectorate has a working budget of only $180,000 a year (ibid), and the entire animal welfare establishment has a budget of only between $2.5 and $3 million a year. When you consider that the product of those animals accounts for the majority of our export trade and earns the country over $20 billion a year (Carter 2008), ….
A similar resourcing problem is experienced by the SPCA. It has the statutory responsibility for investigating and prosecuting alleged acts of cruelty to animals (11000 last year) and to house animals that have been confiscated in the course of those prosecutions. To carry out this work, it maintains around 100 officially accredited inspectors in the field which is 20 times more than the MAF inspectorate. Even so, like MAF its resources are often stretched very thin. For the entire West Coast, for instance, there is just one unpaid volunteer SPCA inspector. The SPCA does the state’s work for it, thus saving government coffers an estimated $5 million a year (RNZSPCA Annual Report 2007) or twice the budget allotted to the official state welfare apparatus.
Even outside times of drought and flood, it is clear that MAF is massively under-resourced to police the institutionalised brutality that occurs in the animal production sector. It is also manifestly inequitable that the SPCA should shoulder the statutory responsibility of policing and prosecuting breaches of the Act in regard to companion animals, and housing the animals involved, while having to rely on charitable donations and volunteer inspectors. Wherever one stands on other debates, it would seem undeniable, considering the Minister of Agriculture’s own words on the subject, that the New Zealand government wants to have a clean international image for animal welfare without earning it. Putting it crudely, it doesn’t put its money where its mouth is.
As in Australia, this is the situation that leads to the animal rights movement getting into egg farms illegally. They shoot the footage to make the public aware of this situation and others, inform the SPCA about where to look, and put up with harassment of the police.
The police have the powers since 1999 to also do enforcement in this area. However they seem to prefer to push it to the under-funded SPCA, while using their funds to push silly charges on activists and to spy on them.
This is why there are an increasing number of animal rights activists and a increasing vegetarian/vegan community. Since Rochelle has been exposing me to these videos and frameworks, I’ve stopped eating factory farmed food for a different reason to hers. In my opinion, the conditions are almost guaranteed to generate public health risks at some point.
Hat-tip to Rex Widerstrom for the video and Rochelle Rees for the reading links.
* I’ve given a google cached document here because the link is broken on Peter Beatsons page at Massey Uni.