A characterisation of farmed animal accreditation schemes in Aotearoa New Zealand and a comparison to minimum animal welfare legislation : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Animal Science at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand

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Farmed animal welfare represents the subjective, mental experiences of animals farmed to produce animal-derived products. Welfare considerations for farmed animals exist from birth until the point of slaughter. Animal welfare is a legal priority in New Zealand through the Animal Welfare Act 1999 and its legislative instruments, the Codes of Welfare and the Animal Welfare Regulations. Animal welfare is also important for maintaining social license to operate, international export, animal productivity, and human wellbeing within the primary industries. An increased interest in animal welfare has emerged among consumers in recent years, with a particular focus on farmed animals. This increased concern has influenced the industry's social license to operate. Accreditation schemes are frameworks that outline specific requirements for producers or individuals to obtain certification. They have been created to safeguard an industries' social license and enhance consumer assurance. Over the past decade, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of New Zealand farmed animal accreditation schemes that incorporate animal welfare assurances. Unfortunately, there have been questions about the transparency of such schemes and the credibility of their claims, especially schemes whose standards may not comply with minimum legislation. To date, there has been little research on New Zealand farmed animal accreditation schemes. My research aimed to investigate and characterise the farmed animal accreditation schemes operating in New Zealand and determine how many of these are publicly accessible. I also aimed to evaluate publicly accessible schemes against minimum legal requirements of New Zealand's animal welfare legislation found within relevant Codes of Welfare. A novel methodology was developed to compare scheme standards to relevant Codes of Welfare. In this study, I identified 20 New Zealand farmed animal accreditation schemes. Seventy percent (n: 14) of these schemes had standards that were publicly accessible. Twelve schemes comprised of 13 unique standards were eligible for comparison to respective Codes of Welfare. Overall, six (46%) of New Zealand’s farmed animal accreditation scheme standards that include animal welfare requirements exceeded minimum legislation, while three (23%) aligned with minimum legislation. Likewise, three (23%) did not address their respective Codes of Welfare. This research could be used to start discussions about how New Zealand’s farmed animal accreditation schemes are being utilised to ensure animal welfare, promote more transparency within schemes, and how the claims of these schemes are being evidenced.