New Zealand Officially Recognizes Animals As 'Sentient Beings'
New Zealand just took a huge a step forward for animal welfare by legally recognizing them as “sentient” beings.
The amendment to New Zealand law on behalf of the The Animal Welfare Amendment was passed on Tuesday. The new bill states that animals, like humans, are “sentient” beings — meaning they are able to perceive and feel things.
“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.”
The bill also includes banning cosmetic testing on animals, which was recently put into law last month.
It also provides for a penalty scheme to enable moderate offending to be handled more effectively, and gives animal welfare inspectors the power to issue compliance notices, among other capacities.
Nelson SPCA manager Donna Walzl said the changes were “wonderful” and that “it’s great to finally see it brought into legislation. It’s awesome.” She added that, “Hopefully there will be some sterner penalties out there and that obviously creates a bigger deterrent for people to do those things.”
The new bill is one of many positive strides that New Zealand has made recently when it comes to animal welfare and environmental issues. Last fall, they joined the fight against whaling in Japan, and in 2012, they granted personhood to Whanganui River.
“Expectations on animal welfare have been rapidly changing. The bill brings legislation in line with our nation’s changing attitude on the status of animals in society,” said New Zealand Veterinary Association president Dr Steve Merchant.
It looks like it’s time that the U.S. follows its example.