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To: New Zealand Government / NAWAC

Give cows a life worth living

We call on the Government to strengthen the current rules around treatment of cows and apply the 'life worth living' standard as established in animal welfare science.

The dairy cow 'Code of Welfare' regulations review in 2022 provides a rare chance to update rules around our most 'milked' farm animal.

Why is this important?

There are over six million dairy cows in New Zealand. They are literally everywhere across our landscape as farming has intensified. A more sustainable future that is kinder for cows and truly gives them a good life, a life worth living, must include a transition to more plant-based regenerative agriculture, and that's better for the planet too.

Our animal welfare laws establish animal sentience as a basis for how we treat farmed animals.(1) This means we recognise cows feel pain. They think, have physical and social wants and needs, including food, water and shelter, and the company of (cow) friends and family, just like us. They are peaceful, generous herbivores but we’re exploiting them for profit.

Our laws also recognise the need for 'a good life for cows' as a basic measure of welfare. This means they must have food and shelter. But they also need, and deserve, 'a life worth living' - with friendship, enrichment – a variety and things of interest, and ‘positive affective states’ - happiness, too.(2)

Yet dairy cows have anything but a good life and a life worth living.(3) Since the 1990s the dairy industry has squeezed cows more closely together for higher production. Cows are exposed to the harsh weather because shelterbelts were removed to fit in more cows. Intensive winter grazing can see cows crammed in at two per metre (!) and forced to sleep and give birth in mud.(4)

All calves are taken from their mothers at around four days old, and around two million of them are killed outright either at the slaughterhouse or on-farm. At least a quarter of the herd is also 'replaced' - killed, every year. And that's mostly for milk, butter and other dairy products, 96% of which get sent overseas.

We make so much money from cows in Aotearoa, we're living on the cows' back. The least we can do is ensure they have lives worth living in this Code of Welfare review.

Ultimately, cows deserve to live in a world in intact family units where they are not exploited and killed for their bodily products.

We have the power to shape a genuinely good life for cows and ensure they have a life worth living, in the 2022 Government review of the dairy cow Code of Welfare. Let’s do it.

[1] Animal sentience:

How it will be delivered

We will present this petition with a submission to the review of the cow Code of Welfare review.
We will also present it to Parliamentarians when they are considering recommendations on the submissions.



2022-04-09 17:20:17 +1200

100 signatures reached

2022-01-24 14:37:46 +1300

50 signatures reached

2022-01-13 17:34:12 +1300

25 signatures reached

2022-01-12 21:01:14 +1300

10 signatures reached