Over 80% of Kiwis say imports should respect NZ animal welfare standards


20 July 2023

New poll reveals overwhelming support among New Zealanders for animal welfare standards to be applied to imported products, reports non-profit Animal Policy International

83% of Kiwis agree that imported products from outside New Zealand should respect the same animal welfare standards as those applied in New Zealand, according to a new poll released by non-profit organisation Animal Policy International.

Results were consistently high across regions, household income and party vote 2020 with 88% of Labour and Green voters, 78% of National voters, 91% of Maori Party voters, and 79% of ACT voters in favour. The poll also shows that people believe it is important to protect the welfare of farmed animals in New Zealand (90%) and 71% agree that the Government should do more to promote a 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.

"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," says Mandy Carter, Co-Executive Director of Animal Policy International. "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."

Whilst New Zealand is a major global exporter, we also import many animal products from other regions with lower standards such as the US, 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 in New Zealand. Therefore, animals may be subjected to conditions that are illegal on our shores and will suffer as a result.

Animal Policy International points out that trade restrictions aimed at protecting animal welfare can comply with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules due to a public morals exemption provided in GATT article XX. Instances of trade restrictions protecting animal welfare already in practice include the EU's import restrictions on cat and dog fur, seal products and standards around welfare at the time of slaughter. Additionally, The European Union has 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," says Carter. "It will also help New Zealand fulfil 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."