7 Apr 2009

Decision on dogs at meatworks goes to top

7:09 am on 7 April 2009

The Government is to decide how sheepdogs are used in the movement of stock at meatworks.

A draft code of practice on commercial animal slaughter from the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee will go to the Minister of Agriculture for approval.

The committee says that to reduce stress on stock, dogs should not be used to move sheep from the slaughterhouse holding pen to the killing area.

It also says that meat processing plants could be designed to slaughter animals in a less stressful manner.

Separately, the British supermarket chain Tesco has told meat processors it wants to see less stress on sheep about to be slaughtered.

Representatives of the supermarket giant noted on a visit to New Zealand that dogs were quite aggressive towards the sheep as they were transferred to the killing area.

Silver Fern Farms, which owns or leases 24 meat processing facilities throughout New Zealand, wants to minimise the use of sheepdogs at its plants. It says that requests for a change have come not just from Tesco but from right across the company's customer base.

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) is finalising its guidelines for a draft code of welfare for animals that are being sent to slaughter.

Committee chair Peter O'Hara says by the time the animals get to the meat works, they are already very stressed and dogs should not be used in forcing pens that lead to the slaughter area.

"It is certainly possible to design yards and races so that stock will tend to move of their own accord and don't need a whole lot of pressure," he says.