An overwhelming number of New Zealanders believe imported products should meet the same animal welfare standards as those in this country, a new poll has found.
The survey of 1100 adults, released by non-profit organisation Animal Policy International, shows 83% felt imported products from outside NZ should respect the same animal welfare standards as those applied in NZ.
Results were consistently high across regions, household income and party vote from 2020, with 88% of Labour and Green voters, 78% of National voters, 91% of Māori Party voters, and 79% of ACT voters in favour.
The poll also shows that people believe it is important to protect the welfare of animals farmed in NZ (90%), and 71% agree that the government should do more to promote greater awareness of farmed animal welfare internationally.
The Horizon Research poll conducted nationwide in June 2023 was commissioned by Animal Policy International following a petition from NZ Pork to the government.
The petition, which called for imported pork to meet the same welfare standards as locally produced meat due to concerns over low-welfare imports, was recently declined by the Primary Production Committee.
Currently, almost two-thirds of pork consumed in NZ is imported from other countries that are, according to NZ Pork, using practices that are illegal in NZ.
“New Zealand recognises animals as sentient beings in law, deserving of lives worth living, which is why farmed animal welfare laws exist. The double standard that is currently in place for imports is untenable,” Mandy Carter, Co-Executive Director of Animal Policy International, said.
“Trade is a bigger deal than ever with the new EU-NZ trade deal just been signed, and this poll makes it clear that people believe importing low welfare products is unacceptable. The support is there – now action must be taken to reflect public opinion.”
Carter said NZ is a major global exporter, but it imports many animal products from other regions with lower standards, such as the United States, Australia, China, Vietnam and Thailand, (beef, pork, poultry and lamb meats, fish). In the US there is no federal ban on sow stalls, which are already banned here.
Animal Policy International said trade restrictions aimed at protecting animal welfare can comply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Instances of trade restrictions protecting animal welfare already in practice include the European Union’s import restrictions on cat and dog fur and seal products, and standards around welfare at the time of slaughter.
The EU has also recently reaffirmed applying other EU welfare standards to imports: an Impact Assessment report (April 2023) includes a measure to apply standards to imported animal products in a way that is compatible with WTO rules.
“A commitment to free trade cannot be an excuse to ignore the morals of Kiwis. It is the right thing to do: it will respect public opinion, generate positive changes worldwide, and create fairer market conditions for local farmers,” Carter said.
“It will also help New Zealand fulfill its ambitions as a global leader in animal welfare. We hope that political parties will focus on this issue in the lead up to the general election and beyond.”