Association sport

Animal Law Association and SAFE challenge legality of rodeo events in High Court

Both the Animal Law Association and SAFE are calling for a judicial review of the animal welfare code that sanctions rodeo because they say it normalizes animal abuse in the sport.

“There are serious questions about the validity of the 2014 Code,” said social groups lawyer Victoria Heine.

Around 35 rodeos are held in New Zealand each year and include events like calf roping, bull riding and saddle bronc.

The court heard how controversial rodeo is and arouses great public interest.

“It’s a practice about which strongly and often opposing opinions are expressed, and for that reason the process is important,” Heine said.

The groups allege the Minister of Agriculture and the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee failed to notify or publicly consult the Code when it was renewed in 2018.

But the Crown defends its process.

“It would be an administrative burden that would far outweigh the benefit of being able to make changes of a minor nature,” said Crown attorney Ken Stephen.

This is not the first time that the two animal welfare groups have taken legal action against the government. In 2020, they successfully won a case that found the government acted illegally by failing to phase out the use of farrowing crates for mother pigs.

The Crown acknowledged the case on Monday.

“Judge Call made the right decision in the pig case. There was, as you said, sir, a mistake,” Stephen said.

The groups hope the court finds another error in the case, which could lead to rodeos being phased out.