Animal News Update (Watch)
Updated: Apr 14
In today’s top stories, scientists potty train cows for the dairy industry, the terrible conditions at a colony cage egg producer are exposed once again, and the EU passes a resolution to phase out animal testing.
A joint project by a German Institute and the University of Auckland has shown that calves can be toilet trained. The aim of the research, which was conducted in indoor labs in Germany, was to capture the cow’s nitrogen rich urine, which in the high concentrations we’ve created through modern agriculture - has a disastrous environmental impact. Regarding their ability to be toilet trained, one kiwi researcher said "The cows are at least as good as children aged 2 to 4 years”.They also added that “Cattle, like many other animals or farm animals, are quite clever and they can learn a lot”.
This desperate attempt to prolong the dairy industry has proven that months old calves are as intelligent or capable as young children up to the age of 4. And though we don’t think intelligence has anything to do with how we should treat others, it’s good to see the industry admit that cows are not these intellectually inferior, lifeless milk machines. Of course, such silver bullet approaches will not solve the environmental issues of this industry. The researchers said it would be “significant” if they “could collect 10 or 20 percent of urinations”.
Avoiding how difficult this would be to implement at scale, it still leaves out the majority of cow’s waste, methane emissions, nitrate fertilisers, coal burners, top soil damage, and so on… With research like this becoming more common, it’s clear the industry is well aware that the status quo is no longer acceptable.
The cruelty of colony cage farms has been exposed, again. In 2019, Newshub released exclusive Farmwatch footage inside a Northern Eggs farm, a colony cage egg producer in Whangarei. The company said at the time that this “activist footage” was not representative of their operations, whilst refusing to allow the media to look inside their sheds. Following on from the expose, MPI launched an investigation into the farm and found no breach.
In May this year, a former worker shared more documentation of the colony farm. Speaking to Animal Matters, the whistleblower said that animal suffering appeared to be part and parcel of the industry: Following this new release, MPI again "found no evidence of breaches of the Animal Welfare Act”. MPI had previously said "The footage of two dead birds is not something anybody wants to see but MPI is cognisant this farm can be responsible for the care of up to one hundred and seventy five thousand birds at a time.”
It’s clear that to MPI, the more animals in your care, the lower the expectation to maintain animal welfare. The egg producer similarly said "Whilst it is confronting to see images of any dead animal, mortality does occur in livestock operations.” Colony farms force chickens to live in crowded metal wire cages for their entire lives, and have suffering built into them. If you haven’t yet, please sign SAFE’s petition to ban colony cages in Aotearoa.
And the MPI failures don’t end there. Katriona Cole, has killed 55 deer and 2 horses by failing to provide them food and water. MPI was notified about the condition of the animals by a kind hearted member of the public back in 2020. As a result, inspectors made repeated visits to the property in question. In one visit, MPI found 2 dead horses in a locked yard with no feed or water, as well as 160 starving deer. Despite this, MPI left the animals under the woman’s guardianship, satisfied merely with serving her with some ‘notices’.
In another visit, they had to release 45 deer from a holding paddock where they had no access to food or water, and found another 6 dead deer in the same paddock. Still, animals were left to suffer with the abusive caregiver. MPI’s decision to leave the animals under this person’s care is a clear show of their disregard for animal life. MPI has a history of failing to hold abusers accountable and leaving animals in dangerous situations that predictably lead to further deaths. Even the judge thought MPI was giving this animal abuser too much leeway, and postponed sentencing until December so that “MPI can consider a further ill-treatment charge related to 120 more deer.”
Māra kai, food gardens, are being pushed by Māori rangatira me ngā mareikura, advocating for whanau hauora and kai sovereignty, by supporting and enabling others to grow their own kai. Though their kaupapa is by no means whēkana anake, we share a lot of common whakaaro, most noticeably the respect and high regard for healthy plant-based kai, ko te honore o te kai māra. *play first clip* Te Ururangi, is just one among a growing Maori movement, guided by the Maramataka, using māra kai to grow community resilience. Ka mau te wehi, he mahi whakahirahira.
Moby, Joaquin Phoenix and Billie Eilish urge world leaders at climate talks to curb animal farming. Some high profile celebs have cosigned a letter to the president of the upcoming UN conference on climate change. The letter, coordinated by the Humane Society, urged Mr Alok Sharma to “formally and publicly recognize the role of animal agriculture as one of the largest contributors of climate change, and to reflect that in the…” upcoming conference agenda. Aimed at ‘uniting the world to tackle climate change’, the conference is ironically headed by the UK, one of the most environmentally destructive forces in the world.
Though animal agriculture is the second highest emitter of greenhouse gases and is responsible for more deforestation and sequestration loss than any other sector, it's not specifically mentioned in the conference document. Instead, it is lumped under vague messages such as ”more sustainable”, “nature positive” and “resilient” agriculture. Beef is equated with soy and palm oil production, despite beef creating 7 times the emissions as palm oil, and 20 times as much as tofu (which is a very concentrated form of soy). Interestingly, transport gets a full day at the conference, despite the fact that animal agriculture creates even more emissions. Hmm.
The letter, signed by the likes of Billie Eilish, Steven Fry, Ricky Gervais and Moby, asks the UN to endorse financial investment in transitioning to plant based agriculture. James Shaw recently made headlines for deciding to fly to this conference; here’s hoping something meaningful comes from it.
In a perfect example of what might be holding the United Nations back from addressing animal agriculture, documents recently exposed by Greenpeace show some of the aggressive lobbying tactics used by the animal ag sector. The documents show the animal industry asking the UN to support more meat production at the upcoming UN Food Systems Summit. The industry bodies want more intensive livestock systems, and threatened to withdraw from the summit if others did not share in this “common goal”. The livestock sector complained about the addition of environmentalists and animal welfarists to the summit, who they accused of trying “to further an ideological anti-livestock stance”.
Meanwhile in Aotearoa, it’s been announced that we’ll be having our own climate hui in taranaki. Rise Up for Climate Justice is organised by various environmental protection and peace groups, and seeks to “take direct action against major climate polluters” -- visit their facebook page or website for more information.
The Lake Waituna Control Association has dug a channel opening the Waituna Lagoon up to the sea for the third year in a row. This is done in order to prevent flooding of the surrounding farmland, a hassle to farmers in the area, who have complained about losing animals to these floods. Maybe don’t put animals where you know they’ll drown? -just saying.
This channel was built despite concerns being raised by the Awarua Rūnanga, the Department of Conservation and Southland Fish and Game regarding the severe ecological damage this causes to the ecosystem. Rachael Kelly writes, the lagoon "holds a delicate ecosystem filled with unique marine and birdlife” and that “The lagoon failed five out of six ecological targets in the summer of 2019 to 2020 because it was opened to the sea during spring, which is an important time for Ruppia growth" - a plant vital for the biodiversity of the ecosystem.
Lake Waituna Control chairman Ewen Pirie said in response, "I believe they [F&G, DOC and iwi] are exaggerating the effects." And just like that, the concerns of all of these groups were swept aside for industry interests. Here's a radical solution: move the animals off these farms that are dangerously close to lagoons. Re-wild the habitat to a flourishing state that doesn't require constant human interference. And place the needs of people, animals and the land before monetary interests. #extreme
Although we’ve heard nothing from our official animal welfare spokesperson, Meka Whaitiri, the green’s animal welfare spokesperson has shown far more enthusiasm in her role. Animal ally Chloe Swarbrick sent a written question to Meka Whaitiri asking, ”Does the ministry have plans to increase the number of animal welfare inspectors working full time across the country?” Meka replied, saying “I am advised that the Ministry for Primary Industries routinely reviews ways to work more efficiently and effectively, including in the delivery of animal welfare compliance activity.
The Ministry is currently considering the number of animal welfare inspectors it employs, and the impact increasing the number of animal welfare compliance will have. In a fb post, Chloe pointed out that “there are fewer than twenty animal welfare inspectors across the entire country, charged with protecting millions of animals.” and said an increase would “undoubtedly have an *impact.*” We’re happy to see at least one politician bringing animals to the conversation. We’ve sent a question to Meka Whaitiri asking her what she’s done so far in her role as an Animal Welfare Spokesperson. Looking forward to reading another deathly boring and evasive political response.
Paw Justice have launched a petition asking for government funding for animal sanctuaries. They say “These shelters are in desperate need of financial support to feed, shelter, rehabilitate and provide medical care to unloved, abandoned or abused animals, so they can have a second chance at life.” We fully support the call for government funding for animal shelters, we just wish they didn’t use this whole “you’d rather give money to the mongrel mob?!” narrative.
The first paragraph complained about the $3 million government funding that went towards a drug-rehabilitation programme done in partnership with the Mongrel Mob, the $785 million dollars spent on the cycle and walkway bridge in Tamaki Makaurau, and the $27 million spent on killing wallabies. The petition then says “None of these things have received wide public support. Yet, money is being paid towards these causes. What about the abandoned and unloved animals of New Zealand?”
While we’re definitely against killing wallabies, a drug-rehabilitation programme that works with the most vulnerable groups is a positive step in our books. Out of the billions our government spends, the mongrel-mob partnership was specifically highlighted by the likes of Act and National in order to score political points. It was chosen because it taps into people’s (conscious or unconscious) racism, and our movement should steer away from contributing to these narratives. We’ll leave a link to their petition down below.
A memo released under the Official Information Act shows the Transport Agency blocked potential bat roosts with building foam even though they have repeatedly stated otherwise. The project, which aims to build a bypass on State Highway 3 in Taranaki, has yet to be given resource consent. It’s said that it will provide safety improvements and save motorists 4-6 minutes of driving time.
In August, the agency said that inspection teams “had not discovered any bats or disturbed any areas suitable for bat roosts.” It’s now become clear that in fact, action was taken months ago to block off what they say are “potential bat roosts” in a number of ways, including with building foam. Marie Gibbs from The Poutama Charitable Trust said it was disappointing that the agency was saying one thing and doing another, adding that "it's concerning that they've actually done what they've done and gone into the ngahere and blocked up those bat holes right before winter".
Emily Bailey, a spokesperson for Whenua Warriors, said "up until last week they were still saying they might do it in the future and then this memo says they've actually done it months ago, so how are we meant to believe anything they are saying" The conservation group had organised a 20,000 signature petition asking the transport minister to scrap the project.
The agency said their previous statements could have been “worded better”, and DOC stoodby their fellow government organisation, saying they were “comfortable with measures the transport agency was taking to avoid disturbing bats.” However, Emily Bailey said it was not in the bats’ best interest, explaining that the agency is reducing the likelihood of bats in the area in order to increase their chances of getting resource consent. In a time when we should be working hard to preserve our remaining habitats, government agencies continue to prioritize development over our precious ecosystems.
For our final story, some positive news as The European Parliament passed a non-binding resolution calling for an end to scientific research on animals in the EU. The EU legislators said medium and long-term funds should be made available to support the transition to alternative methods of testing. The Humane Society said the resolution was "a historic opportunity to take animal suffering out of the equation and shift the focus to modern, cutting-edge, human-relevant research".
If implemented by the EU Commission, this could prevent 8 million+ animals a year from being used within the 27 EU countries for research and science. In Aotearoa, NZAVS have an ongoing petition which makes similar demands, asking our government to support “scientific institutions to transition from animal-based methods to non-animal-based methods for research, testing and teaching purposes.” The petition sets out a well-thought out plan for a legal and financial framework to enable this shift. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition and urge our representatives to follow the European Union’s lead.