The New Zealand Animal Law Association has released a report which concludes that the way animals are used in rodeos prima facie contravenes the basic purposes and protections of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
The report, The Legal Status of Rodeo in New Zealand, was written by Auckland barrister Catriona MacLennan.
It says section 10 of the Act imposes obligations to meet the physical, health and behavioural needs of animals on all persons who are owners or in charge of animals.
At the launch of the report in Wellington, Ms MacLennan said the Act protected animals from ill-treatment and required their needs to be met.
"Rodeo breaches those provisions by deliberately placing animals in harm's way for entertainment. Spurs and electric prodders are intentionally used to inflict pain, contrary to the Act's ban on the ill-treatment of animals," she said.
A correct application of the Act would mean rodeos are unlawful in New Zealand.
However, section 13(2)(c) of the Act provides that it is a defence to any prosecution for an offence if the defendant proves there was a relevant Code in existence at the time of the alleged offence and the minimum standards established by the Code were in all respects equalled or exceeded.
The report says the Animal Welfare (Rodeos) Code of Welfare 2014 is flawed and outdated.
"There is growing widespread acceptance that rodeos would be illegal but for the Rodeo Code. This is ironic as the power to make the Code is provided by the Act and therefore the Code cannot permit behaviour which the Act prohibits. The Rodeo Code is an evidence example of a problematic Code the legality of which is questionable, both procedurally and in particular substantively."
The report says the short 11-page report which accompanies the Code lists just nine references. One of these is a Letter to the Editor and six of the cited articles were published before 2006, with the oldest dating from 1987.
"The evidence on which the current, 2014 rodeo code was written was extremely flimsy and is now outdated. No Nwe Zealand-based research or studies have ever been commissioned by the authors of the Code. An urgent review is required," Ms MacLennan said.
Associate Minister of Agriculture Meka Whaitiri told those at the report launch that the Government did not intend to ban rodeo and more evidence was needed for a ban.