Animal sentience workshop

NAWAC chair Gwyneth Verkerk

Welcome (3:11)

[This video was filmed during a workshop in front of an audience. The speaker stands at a speaker’s podium and talks into a microphone. Sometimes, she looks or points to a screen with slides containing information to support her talk. The slides aren't shown in the video.]

Gwyneth Verkerk: Thank you, and thank you Virginia very much for telling us why and how sentience was included in the amendment to the act, and I want to congratulate both you and John Hellström, who was unable to join us today, for your leadership and that achievement.

And so now it falls to myself and Grant as the current chairs of the 2 committees to lead the process of what happens next. I'll just, I have, I have to say at the outset, um, at a personal level, I've found aspects of this discussion somewhat perplexing.

As a baby boomer raised on a Southland farm and trained as a veterinarian, the existence of animal sentience has always been self-evident, carrying with it the prerequisite to treat animals fairly and provide for the needs and comfort within which lies the mantra of a good life and a decent death. So I ask myself, why are we even debating this? Nevertheless, worldviews will differ, and societal expectations change, and today we are here to think whether and how we might give more explicit acknowledgement to animal sentience within NAWAC's work which is to develop the codes of welfare for the wide ranging species we have as well as guidelines for hunting and fishing and for pest management.

From the committee's perspective this could go in a number of directions. Traditional thinking has been guided by the framework provided by the 5 freedoms, in the format of minimum standards and recommended best practices that you find in the code to reflect this. But, and without meaning to deride the 5 freedoms in any way, as they have supported numerous improvements for animals at a global level, it is a framework that was developed from a societal position that is now belonging to a previous generation.

And so I ask myself, is it time to move our thinking? Scientific research has expanded our knowledge of affective state, and as many of you are aware the 5 domains model has been proposed to give greater consideration to this, and we'll hear more about this later today.

So what does inclusion of sentience in the Act mean for NAWAC? Some questions that come to mind are: is this a signal to transform our thinking about animal needs? Do our codes and their structure pay sufficient cognisance to animal sentience? And do we need to review our decision-making frameworks? And so we've conspired to bring you all here today to gather and absorb what we know will be wide-ranging views. These are weighty questions with implications for you all, our stakeholders, and NAWAC looks forward to hearing your korero and thank you for your collective help to guide our future direction.

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Last reviewed: 22 Nov 2021