Animals are now legally recognised as 'sentient' beings in New Zealand

The legislation included a ban on the use of animals for cosmetic testing

The New Zealand Government has formally recognised animals as 'sentient' beings by amending animal welfare legislation.

The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill  was passed on Tuesday.

The Act stipulates that it is now necessary to 'recognise animals as sentient' and that owners must ‘attend properly to the welfare of those animals'.

"To say that animals are sentient is to state explicitly that they can experience both positive and negative emotions, including pain and distress," said Chair of the National Animal Ethics Advisory Committee, Dr Virginia Williams, according to animalequality.net

"The explicitness is what is new and marks another step along the animal welfare journey," she added.

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In addition, new material has been added to the section of the Act pertaining to animal testing for other research purposes.

The Government now demands that checks be made as to whether there has been 'assessment of the suitability of using non-sentient or non-living alternatives in the project' and 'replacement of animals as subjects with suitable non-sentient or non-living alternatives'.

"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, " according to the President of the New Zealand Veterinary Association, Dr Steve Merchant.