Animal welfare supporters aim for law change
Animal welfare campaigners are gunning for a law change to legally recognise animals as sentient beings that feel human emotions of suffering and happiness.
They want the clause added to the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill which is currently before Parliament.
"The fact of the matter is that the act is not broken and it does not need a major overhaul - the policies in principle on which the act is based remain valid," says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.
But conference organiser Bob Kerridge wants two things added to the act:
"The declaration that animals are sentient and therefore capable of feeling and put into place a commissioner for animals who will really care for their welfare," says Mr Kerridge. "I think if we do that we're going to go a long way to making it a better world for animals."
Joyce D'Silva successfully campaigned in Europe to have animals legally recognised as sentient beings - that is able to feel emotions like suffering and joy.
"If you can build that in as the foundation of the Animal Welfare Act then a lot of other good things fall out of that. Banning cruel systems, stopping cruel practices, proper enforcement, etc ," says Ms D'Silva.
"Happiness and pain yes, animals are sentient. I think the appropriate place to have the debate and the discussion is at the Select Committee," says Mr Guy.
The Animal Welfare Bill covers many areas in the treatment of animals, but the Greens say there are gaps missing.
"In particular we are concerned about the loopholes in the bill that will allow systematic cruelty towards animals," says Greens MP Mojo Mathers.
The use of sow stalls - which severely prohibit movement of female pigs during pregnancy - are banned in the UK but still in use here. They're being phased out by 2015 alongside the phasing out of battery hen farming by 2022.
"It's important that there is a transition because these are businesses and of course we would hate that the price of eggs might jump up overnight. So you've got to give these businesses time to adapt," says Mr Guy.