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25 June 1996
The Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to ensure that no New Zealand animal products will be restricted entry into an overseas market on the basis of animal welfare issues.
This is because issues of ethics and animal welfare are not covered in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and Sanitary Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreements, unless they are shown, by scientific analysis, to impact on health. This is despite efforts by the European Union to have animal welfare included. However, the inclusion of animal welfare may be considered at the next SPS review.
“Animal welfare is likely, however, to impact on consumer perceptions of New Zealand agriculture in general,” says Dr David Bayvel, MAF’s Animal Welfare and Environment national manager, in a paper given at the Second Pan Pacific Veterinary Conference in Christchurch today (Tuesday June 25).
The conference, a joint venture between the New Zealand Veterinary Association and the Australian Veterinary Association, is being attended by more than 1150 veterinarians from around the world, and will provide vets with a week of opportunities to refresh old skills and learn new ones, exchange knowledge and discuss issues.
Dr Bayvel said 80 percent of New Zealand’s revenue for beef, veal, lamb, mutton and venison came from welfare sensitive countries such as the USA, Britain, Germany and Canada. Industry analysts suggest that favourable animal welfare images would be the market focus in the 1990's, with the production of leaner meat, a secondary issue. Where necessary, he said, local research findings will be used to either support current animal management practices or phase out those no longer agreed acceptable in support of New Zealand’s positioning as ‘clean, green and humane’ on the international market.
Consumer awareness of animal welfare issues, particularly in premium priced markets in Europe and North America, has been heightened significantly by the media campaigns and political lobbying efforts of an ever-increasing number of animal welfare and animal rights groups. Dr Bayvel said while these groups undoubtedly had an impact on public sentiment, it was unclear to what extent opposition to any particular farming practice affected purchasing behaviour, and particularly, a preparedness to pay premium prices.
He said a 1994 attitudinal research study conducted in New Zealand suggested that 62 percent of those surveyed would pay ten cents or less, extra, per dollar for an ‘animal friendly’ product, but only 25 percent would pay 50 cents extra for every dollar. These figures are supported by a British Gallup opinion poll reported in the Daily Telegraph in 1995 which said that, whereas, 72 percent of interviewees disapproved of keeping hens in ‘batteries’, a mere 18 percent took the trouble of finding out how the animal in question was treated when it was alive before buying meat or other food.The poll also considered the 18 percent was an exaggeration.
Dr Bayvel said that New Zealand Animal Welfare codes of practice will have enhanced legal status, under the proposed Animal Welfare Act, and regular reviews would ensure that they are updated to reflect new scientific findings, and changes in both animal husbandry and social attitudes.