New animal welfare regulations explained
THE GOVERNMENT’S RELEASE OF NEW animal welfare regulations has been accompanied by a lot of misinformation and anxiety amongst operators, says RTF senior policy analyst and National Livestock Transport & Safety Group (NLTSG) advisor Mark Ngatuere. “To some extent this uncertainty is to be expected and is often the case when change is involved. Essentially the new regulations strengthen the ability to place responsibility directly where it lies – which is very often not with the transporter. And in that respect the regulations provide a lot more support to operators than before,” says Ngatuere.
“As a consequence, RTF and NLTSG suggested that MPI make people available to talk to industry directly through a series of meetings.
“There has been a fair bit of recent history in terms of policymaking that has sought to place an unfair level of responsibility on transporters, which understandably makes the industry very wary. We saw during the development of the new bobby calf regulations that, unless the industry pushes back on issues of perceived unfairness, we’re liable to find ourselves carrying the can for what should be the responsibility of farmers or other sectors.”
With regards to the 2018 regulations there are areas that RTF and the NLTSG identified as of interest to transporters, says Ngatuere.
First is the use of electric prodders. The new regulations state that an electr ic prodder must not be used o n an animal ex cept where cattle, deer or pigs weigh over 150kg and – especially with deer and pigs – only in certain circumstances.
There has been concern regarding the 150kg limit and the
difficulty of a transporter guessing the animal’s weight with any accuracy and given the difficult environment they are required to work in.
However, according to Ngatuere, there is a degree of discretion available to the regulator and those issued with an infringement have the defence available that the animal appeared to be over the minimum weight at the time of transportation – or there were personal safety considerations that warranted the use of the prodder. MPI has acknowledged that health and safety overrides all other considerations.
The issue of pre-existing conditions is another hoary old chestnut. The regulations applying to transport are backed by provisions that apply to senders of livestock, eg farmers.
NLTSG expressed to MPI the importance of senders ultimately being responsible for presenting unfit animals for transport, particularly as they’re the ones who spend significant time with the animals before transportation and have greater knowledge of their health and any conditions they may have.
Says Ngatuere: “While this is important, and the NLTSG has done a great job consistently advocating this point, there does still exist transporter responsibility to reject unfit animals if they find them – unless they’re presented with a vet certificate for travel.”
In response to the obvious anxiety felt across the industry on these issues, RTF and the NLTSG arranged for operators to have the opportunity to meet with MPI staff and discuss exactly what the new regulations mean.
Meetings were subsequently held in Feilding, Whangarei and Invercargill, each involving around 60 transport industry attendees. There are also plans for meetings in Canterbury and the Waikato.
“The NLTSG and RTF are extremely grateful that Leonie Ward, the manager of MPI’s Animal Welfare Sector Liaison Team, made herself available to attend those meetings and respond to operators’ concerns. It is invaluable for transporters to hear straight from the regulator and helps to dispel a number of myths around the new regulations,” says Ngatuere.
“We also appreciate the effort that RTA regions have put in to facilitate these meetings.”
From the meetings it was obvious that further confusion has centred around where responsibility lies on an animal giving birth while being transported and where responsibility lies in cases of back-rub.
“Leonie did a great job of explaining that it is indeed unreasonable to expect the transporter to be able to accurately assess how close an animal is to giving birth in the few moments available as an animal is being loaded onto the truck.”
The responsibility for that lies squarely with the sender, who should not be knowingly transporting animals in that situation, unless they have a vet certificate stating the animal is fit for transport. If, however a transporter is informed that an animal is very near to giving birth and doesn’t have the necessary vet certificate and they do still decide to transport it, then the transporter does share in the responsibility for the animal giving birth on the truck.
“The right response in that situation is to inform the sender of the animals that you cannot cart the animals.”
The back-rub issue is another where myth had supplanted fact in some quarters, with many operators believing that they risked being issued infringements for pre-existing back-rub conditions.
“The regulations are actually pretty clear on this point,” explains Ngatuere: “The specific clause states that a person must not transport a cattle beast, deer, sheep, goat, or pig in a manner that causes backrub. Once again, the responsibility for pre-existing conditions lies with the sender and – as has been the case for a while now – if the transporter is not satisfied with the overall fitness of the animal or ability to transport without causing injury then they shouldn’t cart it.”
The golden rule that all transporters, farmers, meat processors, stock agents and vets need to have in their mind is that animals must not be transported unless they are fit enough to withstand the entire journey without suffering unnecessary or unreasonable pain or distress, Ngatuere points out.
“If i n your j udgement an animal that you identify when loading shows signs of physical suffering, then it ’s your right and responsibility to leave it behind.”
The regulations can be viewed at www.legislation.govt.nz under Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018. Further explanation of the new regulations is also available by clicking through the Animal Welfare Regulations link on the Animal Welfare page under Industry Information on the RTF website.