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Animal welfare underpinned by sound science

Animal welfare decisions must not only be underpinned by sound science but also good judgement said Professor David Mellor, Chairman of the advisory committee, which advises the government on animal welfare.

Professor David Mellor said in the 2002 Annual Report of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) that it is through rigorous scientific application and common sense that an understanding and measure of animal needs and welfare can be gained.

“It is not only experimental support for animal care and management practices that is considered, common sense, experience with practical care and management of animals, clinical observation of their health and welfare and outcomes from veterinary therapies is also vitally important,” he said.

Professor Mellor said the committee continued to work towards the final drafting of the codes of animal welfare and significant progress had been made with the objective that new codes will be in place for animals used in rodeo event, broiler chickens, circus animals, exhibit (zoo) animals, layer hens and pigs by the end of the year.

The codes set out the minimum standards of care for the welfare of animals and provide guidelines and recommendations for owners of animals or people in charge of animals.

Professor Mellor said throughout the year the committee had investigated and considered a number of welfare issues including: deer velveting, dubbing which involves the removal of the comb of male poultry, electroimmobilisation as a means to temporarily restrain domestic animals such as cattle and deer, electronic dog collars, methods of pest control such as glue boards, leg hold traps and rat traps.

The NAWAC Annual Report also provides details of research projects into animal welfare issues funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF). The following is a selection of research initiated during 2002/2003: key indicators of poultry welfare in New Zealand, evaluation of devices for monitoring stock truck microclimates, effects of age on pain sensation following castration, dairy calf welfare and performance.

NAWAC is an independent advisory committee to the Minister of Agriculture. The committee is established under section 56 of the Animal Welfare Act 1999 to provide advice to the Minister on matters relating to the welfare of animals in New Zealand and to develop codes of welfare.

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