The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill, passed last month, aims to make it easier to prosecute people in animal cruelty cases, as well as banning animal testing and research.
Animal rights activists have celebrated the decision. “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.”
New Zealand Veterinary Association president Dr Steve Merchant said the bill greater clarity, transparency and enforceability of animal welfare laws, according to the country’s regional newspaper the Nelson Mail.
“Expectations on animal welfare have been rapidly changing, and practices that were once commonplace for pets and farm stock are no longer acceptable or tolerated,” he said. “The bill brings legislation in line with our nation’s changing attitude on the status of animals in society.”