Ostrich and Emu Welfare Code Launched

7 July 1998

A guide to good welfare and husbandry practices for ostrich and emu bred and reared in captivity has been published.

Produced by the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC), the Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Ostrich and Emu will be launched by the Minister of Agriculture Dr Lockwood Smith today (Tuesday July 7).

The code was drafted by representatives from both the ostrich and emu industries, and endorsed by AWAC, which has already developed 20 other animal welfare codes.

AWAC vice-chairman Neil Wells said the code will help ostrich and emu farmers establish good welfare practices in the industries infancy, particularly as both industries anticipate there will be an increase in the number of newcomers as they move from the establishment (breeding stock) stage into the commercial marketing phase.

"It’s important that standards are in place before new entrants arrive, not only legally, but because good welfare practices produce direct economic benefits by ensuring international economic success for our animal products.

"The two New Zealand associations came together to establish high animal welfare standards because both industries overseas have been subjected to high profile activities from international animal rights groups. However, most of the concerns are based on practises in the ostrich industry in South Africa where the industry has been in existence for decades," says Mr Wells. AThe New Zealand industry was anxious that some of the South African practises, such as live feather plucking, did not become established here."

There are very few differences in raising ostriches and emus, apart from those arising from one bird being larger in size than the other. Ostrich and emu are kept in situations which vary from extensive grazing to systems involving housing in pens and yards. Irrespective of the type of husbandry practised or the climate condition to which either are exposed, the basic behavioural, anatomical and physiological needs of either bird are considered in the code.

The code also covers aspects of care for chicks, juvenile, yearling and mature birds, intensive rearing, protection from hazards, provision of food and water, fencing and yard facilities, health, inspections, transportation, hatchery management, and humane slaughter. The code also highlights the importance of accurate record keeping, stating, where appropriate, the source of stock, the breeding history of each bird, the history of any disease or injury treatment, which is particularly important in meat production establishments.

Ostrich and emu have been studied under natural conditions for years, but under confined conditions in New Zealand only relatively recently. Consequently, AWAC will review this code as new knowledge emerges. A breach of a code provision whilst not an offence in itself, can be used in evidence to establish the guilt of anyone accused of cruelty towards an animal. Under the Animals Protection Act 1960, it is an offence to allow animals to suffer unnecessary or unreasonable pain or distress.

AWAC was established nine years ago by the then Minister of Agriculture, to facilitate the development of animal welfare policy and practice in New Zealand and provide a credible, balanced and independent forum for the discussion of animal welfare issues. AWAC consists of members appointed by the Minister, representing a range of interests. Current membership includes nominees of the RNZSPCA, MAF, Federated Farmers, the New Zealand Veterinary Association, National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee, as well as members with expertise in animal welfare law, animal behaviour, animal welfare science, conservation and consumer interests.

For media enquiries contact:

Neil Wells, AWAC deputy chairman, ph 09 811 8020

For a copy of the code contact:

Kate Horrey, AWAC secretary, ph 04 474 4100



Last Updated: 09 September 2010

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