Why New Zealand’s Animal Sentience Law Falls Short

In what many are considering a landmark change to New Zealand law, all animals are now considered sentient beings—meaning, animals are recognized as having and expressing feelings and emotions.

And now in New Zealand, that means that people must “attend properly to the welfare of those animals.”

But what does “attend properly to the welfare of those animals” actually mean?

To figure that out, let’s examine Section 36, “Obligations relating to traps.”

If you happen to be a person who, “for the purpose of capturing alive a mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian, sets a trap or causes a trap to be set,” you must “inspect the trap within 12 hours after sunrise on each day the trap remains set, beginning on the day immediately after the day on which the trap is set.”

And, if you are a person who attends to the trap, you must “remove, or cause to be removed, any live animal found in that trap; or attend properly to the care of the animal or, without delay, kill the animal.”

In other words, the crux of this law hinges on one phrase—“attend properly to the welfare of those animals”—and in certain instances, that means trapping, maiming, and then killing an animal.

By reading only a few sections of the bill, animal advocates may discover that the new law offers very little to the animals themselves. Some supporters of the law might acknowledge that animal testing for cosmetics has been prohibited (awesome!), as is the case for individual ingredients destined to be used in cosmetics; however, ingredients that are not to be used in human cosmetics still appear to be acceptable to test on animals.

But what about other instances of animal exploitation, like hunting?

In Part 1, Section 30B “Hunting or killing,” the law reads: “Nothing in this Act makes it unlawful to hunt or kill—(a) any animal in a wild state; or (b) any wild animal or pest in accordance with the provisions of—[list of acts here] or (c), any other wild animal or pest; or (ca) any game animal in accordance with the provisions of the Game Animal Council Act 2013; or (d) any fish caught from a constructed pond.”

So despite animals being recognized as sentient, this is still OK:

nz hunting
image courtesy http://www.nzhuntingsafaris.com/

Likewise, so is killing “a wild animal that is available for hunting in a safari park,” declares Section 30B.

And if you’ve “captured” a wild animal and intend to “facilit[ate] its imminent destruction,” that’s OK, but otherwise you can’t catch wild animals and just keep them—unless you’re keeping them in a safari park, and then you can keep them and kill them and even charge people to come kill them, too.

What’s interesting about all these difficult, obtuse legal passages is that at the beginning of Section 30A we see that a person will have committed an offence against a wild animal if he “wilfully [or] recklessly ill-treats a wild animal or an animal in a wild state.” But apparently, killing a wild animal does not count as willful or reckless ill-treatment of an animal.

Don't worry--this animal was not willfully ill-treated. It was just hunted and killed.
Don’t worry–this animal was not willfully ill-treated. It was just hunted and killed. [EDIT: this image was taken by a New Zealand hunter in the States. See below for a New Zealand boar killed in New Zealand by a New Zealand hunter.] Image courtesy http://www.ianlowehunting.com/
To further insult the animals, a person who commits an offense against a wild animal may be defended against this crime if he can prove that the crime is actually just a “generally accepted practice in New Zealand for the hunting or killing of wild animals of that type […].” So, if you can prove that the abuse you’ve committed against a wild animal is just normal and accepted, you’re free to keep abusing that specific type of wild animal in that specific way.

Here's a boar killed in New Zealand. Image courtesy http://www.hunting-new-zealand.co.nz
Here’s a boar killed in New Zealand. Image courtesy http://www.hunting-new-zealand.co.nz

Laws steeped in language and cognitive dissonance such as that exemplified in New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Amendment bill simply prove further why abolition of animal use is necessary to liberate us from this ridiculous continuum of animal exploitation.


The bill also covers topics such as proper penalties and fines for people convicted of committing offenses against animals, obligations to relieve pain or distress of ill or injured animals, animal experimentation for science and veterinary purposes, as well as when a person can manipulate an animal’s body for various purposes after the animal has been killed.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of the whole bill revolves around the complete lack of consideration for farmed animals. Can we really be so surprised? When animal exploitation is legal, and when animals are still considered personal property, the industries that profit from their exploitation will always be protected.

Image courtesy: http://www.mishkahenner.com; factory farm in Texas captured via satellite image.

We searched the document. There are no instances of farmed animals save for wild animals that happen to be farmed—and that section refers to how farmed wild animals are still OK to be farmed and then killed under the law.

Please feel free to read through New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Amendment Bill here. Why do you think the bill is positive or negative for the animals?





2 thoughts on “Why New Zealand’s Animal Sentience Law Falls Short

  1. the Amendment bill is at least a step in the right direction unlike other countries who are removing protection for animals. I see it as a hard won step in a long journey for animal activists in just another country with a closed mind set. ps the photos are not from New Zealand, but from America. I do find that a bit misleading of you. Otherwise a good article

    1. Thanks for your feedback. We don’t deny that this law is hard-won and overall a step in the right direction. We are pointing out that it is strange to grant recognition of sentience to animals and then allow pretty much all the same atrocities to happen to them as before. And, the most abused animals of all–farmed animals–are not even considered in this bill. As for the photos of hunted animals, we grabbed those from New Zealand hunting sites. We have since updated the captions to credit those companies, which are based in New Zealand. Originally we did not want to advertise their sites, but people can find them easily enough anyway by googling “New Zealand hunting,” which is what we did. The satellite image is from the States and is more to illustrate the general carnage associated with animal ag. Thanks again for your response!

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