The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) has published its annual report for 2018 describing its work programme and achievements. NAWAC is an independent committee formed to give advice on animal welfare to the Minister of Agriculture.
The committee particularly notes the publication of proceedings of their November 2017 workshop to discuss the implications of sentience for the care and welfare of animals. It also celebrates the issue of a new code of welfare for the temporary housing of companion animals. Codes of welfare expand on the requirements in the Animal Welfare Act 1999, with minimum standards and recommended best practice designed to provide for animals' overall physical, health, and behavioural needs.
NAWAC also provided independent advice to the Minister of Agriculture on the development of the Animal Welfare (Care and Procedures) Regulations 2018.
NAWAC chairperson, Dr Gwyneth Verkerk, says that 2018 was a busy year for the committee and its secretariat within the Ministry from Primary Industries (MPI).
"Our work on animal sentience, which became legally recognised with the 2015 amendment to the Animal Welfare Act, has been particularly important, setting the direction for how we interpret and account for it as we carry out our work. Animal sentience, meaning that animals have the ability to experience a range of emotional states or feelings, is not a novel concept. It sits within our inherent understanding of animal behaviour, for example, dog owners often reference the emotional state of their dogs as "happy". As our scientific understanding of animal sentience grows, the imperative to account for animals' emotional state when considering their welfare also grows.
"As NAWAC works to develop and promote standards for good animal welfare through the codes, we will continue to consider how these standards can improve welfare by promoting positive emotional states. We encourage everyone who owns or works with animals to take the time to understand animal sentience."
During the year, the committee was challenged to find ways to become more inclusive and open in its deliberations. It is committed to continue to develop more effective public engagement and transparency in its processes and to incorporate mātauranga Māori principles into its work.
"As a committee operating under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act , our meetings are public except where a particular discussion might require that we go "into committee". We will be reviewing our agenda processes to put as much meeting content as possible into the open sessions. We will also be considering ways to advertise our meeting agendas more widely than has traditionally occurred, working to publish committee minutes online and developing a dedicated committee website", says Dr Gwyneth Verkerk.