New legislation in New Zealand dictates that animals can feel both positive and negative emotions, and takes steps to improve animal welfare in research

Animals have formally been recognised as ‘sentient’ beings in new legislation passed in New Zealand.

The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, passed in May, also says that owners must “attend properly to the welfare of those animals”.

“To say that animals are sentient is to state explicitly that they can experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress,” quotes Dr Virginia Williams, chair of the country’s National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee, as saying.

“The explicitness is what is new and marks another step along the animal welfare journey,” she added.

The legislation also marks progress in connection with animal testing for research purposes.

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It dictates that checks must now be made as to whether there has been “assessment of the suitability of using non-sentient or non-living alternatives in the project,” and “replacement of animals as subjects with suitable non-sentient or non-living alternatives”.

The Independent reports that president of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, Dr Steve Merchant, said: “Expectations on animal welfare have been rapidly changing. The bill brings legislation in line with our nation’s changing attitude on the status of animals in society.”

Photo title: A Tui bird, one of New Zealand's native honeyeaters.

Photo credit: © Sid Mosdell

  • Mark

    Animals’ emotions deserve some modicum of respect, whether or not we think they’re “cute.” This gives me some hope on a gloomy day. Thanks for keeping my eyes on the prize!

  • Paul

    I am a New Zealander and I see a different side to this story. This is a good news story if in the end there is a change to consumer purchasing practices and more ‘ethical’ products are purchased. But that is highly unlikely to happen. Look at New Zealand’s strong anti-mining lobby: all they do is get in the way of mines operating in New Zealand and have no affect at all on the demand for gold and gold-bearing products from New Zealand consumers. This in effect means that as an economy, New Zealand exports its pollution to other places because the gold has to come from somewhere. Now New Zealand will probably become a net exporter of animal testing. A broader and more balanced policy and marketing approach might work.

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  • Danyl Strypey Bruce

    I’m also a born and bred human animal from Aotearoa (NZ). This is an incremental step in the right direction in the treatment of non-humans in our country, thanks for reporting it. However, I’m looking forward to the positive news story where the right of every living thing to *not* be tortured and killed in the name of “science” is recognised in law, and all vivisection (animal testing) is abolished for ever.

  • Jade Hawks

    Standing ovation for all 3 comments (and major cheering because they are from men! LOL) about the time has come to legally recognize “non-human” life forms are just as important and needed on this planet (if not more so!) as humans! We need to stop living with one foot in the past (justifying our continual cruelty to non-human species) and get both of them firmly planted in the NOW! Making this shift in consciousness may well be what’s needed to save all of us from extinction! Though weeding out the humans might make the planet better off overall……:-) Blessed Be!!