New Zealand has set an amazing standard by legally ruling on what pet owners and nature lovers have always known to be true: that animals have feelings just like humans do.
This shows an incredible shift in policy and the public’s view of animal welfare where previously only a few animals were protected.
The Animal Welfare Bill states that animals, like humans, are “sentient” beings and prosecutes people for animal cruelty and bans animal testing. Furthermore it goes on to stipulate that hunting and capture of any animal is to be illegal.
“To say that animals are sentient is to state explicitly that they can experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress,” said Dr Virginia Williams, chair of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee.
“The explicitness is what is new and marks another step along the animal welfare journey.” Williams Said.
A submission on the bill by the SPCA in Auckland stated that a declaration of sentience was required “because most New Zealand law treats animals as ‘things’ and ‘objects’ rather than as living creatures”.
Nelson SPCA manager Donna Walzl said the changes were “wonderful” and “It’s great to finally see it brought into legislation. It’s awesome.” She said that animals that come into the SPCA’s attention often exhibited human-like emotions.
“You can see that they do have separation anxiety and that’s showing emotion. It’s almost a human emotion,” she said.
The bill was introduce to parliament by primary industries minister Nathan Guy in May, 2013. Find out on the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill.
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