1 dead swan, 2 floating ducks, and some beer cans in a willow tree

by May Safely Graze contributor, Dr Lynley Tulloch

Just a few days after the opening of duck shooting season on 4 th May, 2024 I planned a kayak down a section of the Waikato River. The air was crisp as a Granny Smith apple and smelled dank. Before my journey had even begun my eyes caught sight of a beak and feathers wrapped in a black bag by a rubbish bin. Sure enough, there was a bag of dumped ducks, buzzing with flies and decomposing in the half-baked sun. The ducks with their broken wings and raw flesh were like ripe strawberries on the turn. They lay in their unsung grave, victims to the ‘sport’ of duck shooting.

The dumping of ducks is illegal according to the New Zealand Fish and Game Council. It can carry a fine of up to $5000. Drinking alcohol while hunting is also frowned upon by he New Zealand Fish and Game Council. However, judging by the amount of beer cans also in the rubbish bin the no-drinking rule seems to have been taken with a grain of salt. 

It left a bad feeling. There was something terribly sad about the single wing that fluttered uselessly on the tarmac. I took a picture because I hoped it would say the thousand words that now caught like a river rock in my throat.

The thousand words of ducks on the wing; of the breath of wind; of the sandy bottom of the river; of the heights of clouds.

The story ended here.  In a rubbish bin. Dumped. Like no one cared.  Except they did. I cared. And so do many other animal lovers who loathe duck-shooting season.

I got in my kayak and glided away from the death of ducks. The ducks didn’t deserve to die and I vowed to get them some justice. But the horror was not yet over. To my side in the water was a putrid body of another duck. Then a few strokes of the paddle revealed yet another dead duck. This duck lay on his back with his feet facing skyward. The world has turned upside down and the clouds now scudded across the bottom of the river. This duck would never fly again.

It was fair to say that this horror made my blood run as cold as the river itself. Further upstream I found bags and bags of bottles and beer cans dumped just up on the bank. They spilled out and into the water, bobbing like the dead duck they were merging with. This duck had lost all the feathers on his neck.



Save Animals from Exploitation (SAFE) has drawn on international studies which show that 20 to 40% of water birds that are hit by shotgun pellets are never retrieved. With around one million water birds shot in Aotearoa New Zealand each year this would equate to the maiming or around 200,000 birds who go on to suffer prolonged pain or death. 

I’m trying to see things from the perspective of the ducks and other waterbirds that are killed every season. With every turn of the river I don’t see a ‘sport’. I see death, pain and fear. I know the human perspective unfortunately too well. For humans this is a great weekend and fun. Maybe they will eat the birds – maybe they won’t (cue dumped ducks). The birds on the other hand, despite being framed as ‘game’, are victims of a cruel attack.


This is their home, the one they live in all year round, raising young and forming flocks. Who are we to invade it, loaded with guns, duck decoys and whistles, boats, motorised engines, waders and beers?

Who indeed? For the ducks and other water birds we are not their equals in a sports game, and this is not fun. This is their lives.  Paddling in despair I came around the bend of the river to find a dead black swan. Her graceful arching neck was now collapsed like a piece of sinewy rope. She floated in the river currents, her eyes looking skyward to a world now lost to her. It’s not commonly known that you are allowed to shoot swans during duck shooting season. Fish and Game Regulations on the Auckland / Waikato season give an indication of the variety and amount of water birds hunted. This includes eight bags of Mallard and Grey Duck and ten bags of Paradise Sheldrake duck in a single day. Also up for grabs are quail, pukeko, pheasant and geese. As if this isn’t enough, some of these ducks are native to Aotearoa New Zealand. In fact, three native duck species, in decline or endangered, are allowed to be shot under the outdated Wildlife Act 1953. They are the Grey Duck (Parera), the Shoveler (Kuruwhengi) and the Paradise Shelduck (Putangitangi).

The river was now eerily quiet as I paddled along to the next landing. A few ducks hid in the undergrowth while duck decoys bobbed realistically near maimais. Each maimai  a death trap, decorated with ferns and flaxes so the ducks don’t know of the danger within. Gun shots rung out in the distance, and I longed for the end.


Finally I reached the landing. But just before I got there another ghoulish surprise waited. A dead sheep, all flesh removed and head and skin hanging on a pole over the water stared down at me. It was like a haunted house. I had seen people camping not far from this poor sheep during the opening weekend of duck shooting. It is likely that the sheep remains came from their meal.

It is time to ban duck shooting and make a stand against this violence to waterbirds. Please sign the petition to ban duck shooting in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Dr Lynley Tulloch is an Early Childhood Education Lecturer at the Auckland University of Technology (AUT).   She is a long-time animal activist.  



The Eternal Spirit that is called ‘I’
When I was alive lived in a male cow’s body
My understanding was filtered and limited by this
My vision, hearing, smell, taste, and emotions too.
They were different from yours
But my existence was just as important to me
As yours is to you
I was a sentient being.
The night before the crash I lay in the fields
Under a black sky twinkling with stars
If not quite contentment, there was at least a neutral state in me
A passive acceptance that does not question its fate
I just was.
I was an innocent being.
In the morning a large truck arrived near our paddock
I remember the sting of the electric prod as I stumbled up the ramp
The shouts of the people, their laughter, the loud banging of doors
My friends showed their unease, I did too, but we tried to be staunch
An hours -long trip followed, over winding roads
I was tired and increasingly fearful.
I peered through the openings in the side at green fields
When suddenly there was a lurch, and I was looking up at the blue sky.
For a second I felt nothing at all, then I saw everything in double
I was struggling to breathe, but there was blood in my lungs
I tried to call out but there was blood in my throat
And pouring out of my mouth
I lost control of my bowels
Then I was flooded with searing pain and panic.
I had two broken legs and internal injuries
That were not survivable
Amidst the bustle of men in hi-viz jackets and noisy machinery
I died in agony
The last thing I saw was two people standing silently by
They were crying for me
They blessed my last moments
And my eternal spirit will remember them.

Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze

How You Can Help To Prevent New Zealand Live Export Being Reinstated

This time last year the new New Zealand Associate Minister of Agriculture was a leader in the dairy-farming community, and the President of Federated Farmers.  Now as an MP he will be spearheading the new government’s promise to reverse the previous Labour government’s ban on live export.  

The Industry is throwing a million dollars behind a campaign to persuade the NZ people that this is a good idea.

Read why it is not – and how you can help to keep the ban in place!

Andrew Hoggard MP, new Associate Minister for Animal Agriculture (Animal Welfare) in New Zealand



Spinoff article by law professor Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere.



Support the Animal Justice Party of Aotearoa NZ’s campaign to keep the ban in place.




National Day of Action Against Live Export – February 25th 




New film on the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1 live export carrier.  



Important New Film On The Sinking of the Gulf Livestock I live export carrier

In this article Sandra Kyle interviews New Zealand independent film maker Carlie Jackson.  Carlie has just completed a film on the sinking of the Gulf Livestock I, a live export carrier that sank in the South China Sea in 2020, killing 43 crew and nearly 6,000 cows.


Carlie was born in rural Waikato, New Zealand, in 1971.  She grew up on a dairy farm, developing a deep love of animals along the way, often believing she could communicate intuitively with them.

Carlie had a number of life-changing experiences, beginning from the tender age of 3 years, when she fell into an old farm trough.  Her father pulled her lifeless body out just in time but this near-death experience profoundly affected her childhood. From that time onwards Carlie felt her insight into animals grew, and she would often have precognitive dreams about them. She had another profound near-death experience as a teenager, that fundamentally changed her view of existence, time, and consciousness, and this continues to drive all she does today. 

From the young age of 19, Carlie single-handedly raised 2 sons (now in their late twenties and early 30s).  She has always leaned towards a creative path in life.  From painting on canvas to illustrating children’s books and making short films, her creative flair was forever at work.

Today she lives with her husband Greg on the same farm she grew up on, where she now runs an animal rescue sanctuary, rescuing and caring for many abandoned animals.  She describes the dairy farm-turned-sanctuary as ‘her happy place’.  (Edited from Carlie’s bio on FilmFreeway). 


How long have you been a vegan/animal activist Carlie?

I have been a vegan for about 20 years (since my early 30s) and vegetarian through my teens and twenties before that.

I think the first seed of animal rights activism started early for me, on the dairy farm my parents owned, and it was also the catalyst for turning me vegan.  My earliest memories are of suffering animals.  I remember trying to defend bobby calves around age 4.

I recall witnessing the cruel treatment of calves by truck drivers who would literally throw them onto the trucks, often breaking their bones.  I remember hearing the tormented cries, including from the mother cows, and seeing the unwanted calves left on the roadside pens, as they did back then in the 70s. As a young child, I would try to intervene and defend them from the truck drivers.

Over the years I attended many protests, made animal rights videos, and a few animal rights TV productions.  I also attempted to start an animal justice party during 2020, but decided to focus my energy toward the film instead, and leave it to the people who were cut out for politics, while I focussed creatively to make a difference.

Why did you form Stonewall Productions?

Prior to forming my production company I spent many years as an artist, and also illustrating children’s books. I wrote two books, one about single parenting (‘Solo Angels’), and a children’s book with an animal rights focus (‘I am Not Bacon’) .

I spent several years in the TV industry producing and presenting shows before I fell in love with film.  I decided that film was potentially a more powerful medium than books to reach a wider audience, to move more hearts and to hopefully shift the thinking of the status quo (particularly with regard to animal rights), so I taught myself to both film and edit.


Waking from the dream.  Arleearna Drake standing beside her on
screen grandmother ( Lisa Stevens).  Māori mythology is woven through the film about
the power of the ocean, and respect for the sea.


When did you decide you wanted to make a feature film about Gulf Livestock I?

I almost felt like the film chose me, if that makes sense!

At the risk of sounding weird, I actually woke from a very lucid dream several months prior to the tragedy. I woke deeply upset from the dream, recounting it to my husband, and because it was so vivid, I felt it was significant and wrote it down in a dream diary I keep.

I often dream about animals who are in distress.  I have found abandoned kittens after dreaming about their exact location. Maybe it is due to my ancestral ties to this land where I still live today, who knows?

When I heard the news about the sinking months later on my car stereo, I was incredibly distressed. The way the news rolled out was just as I had dreamt it. “Thousands of frightened cows falling into the sea after the ship capsized.”

The decision to make a film about this came literally within days of the tragedy. I was infuriated about how our government and media were handling things, including their continuous reference along the lines of “they were just cows,” dismissing their suffering, and focusing almost entirely only on the human loss of life.


From left, Phil Palmer, Roman Jackson, and Mike Cater playing NZ and Australian Crew getting ready to
leave Napier Port


Can you outline the process of making the film for us? 

Blood, sweat and tears literally for almost 3 years!

Initially, I went to the New Zealand Film Commission to apply for funding. They said because I was a “nobody” they couldn’t help me, and that they preferred not to fund films that involved animals or the ocean, apparently because those things are problematic to film. (!!)

My wonderful dad, who was unwell at the time – and underwent a major amputation – believed so much in my efforts, he offered to fund the film.

I knew we wouldn’t be able to board a real live export ship to film on (although I did approach numerous companies to try!) so we had to improvise cutting between a small boat we ended up using, to real footage that I had obtained from a live export ship.

I started researching early on about the horrific condition the Gulf Livestock 1 vessel was in, and how it had not passed its seaworthy inspection just 12 months prior to leaving Napier Port.

My upset about the tragedy grew even worse when I was told by MPI that it was in fact, a port vet who did the final inspection of Gulf1 before it left Napier Port, and not an engineer. I have this in writing from MPI.

Initially I felt I wanted to lean the film towards a drama as opposed to a documentary, as my concern was that a full-on doco might drive viewers away from watching, if they feared too graphic images.

So, I wrote the script as a drama, based on the true story. Then it was only toward the end of editing the film I decided it must become a docu-drama, because this was the only chance to embed the tragedy into the minds of people, and to remind our government in the event that they might try to bring it back – which they now, very disturbingly, are attempting to do.


Sandra Kyle plays her real life role as an animal rights
activist, as well as the on-screen mother to crew member Chris Gordon. A final
goodbye before leaving Napier Port.


Most of those playing key roles are activists rather than experienced actors?

Yes, most of the actors in the film are activists, friends and people known to me, which was a deliberate decision I made for a number of reasons.

Firstly,  I preferred to work with people who had a true passion for having this tragic story told, because I believed that would produce the real fire-in-the-belly required to bring the characters to life.

This was a self-funded film, and I couldn’t afford ‘real actors’ anyway, even though I communicated with Lucy Lawless and a few other known actors.  I am glad I did go within unknowns, because each and every actor delivered so beautifully and powerfully. I was wiping tears as I filmed!

I was so humbled by the dedication and delivery of all the actors, and I am so grateful to them all. It’s a very vulnerable situation for them to be in, and they did themselves proud.


Monica Reid with onscreen husband (Chris Gordon) saying a final goodbye
before leaving port.


I think there were many obstacles along the way for you Carlie?

Yes, absolutely. Mammoth obstacles, that I’m still reeling from today.

In a sense I felt like I bled much of my own pain into the film, as we often do as creative people. We pour our pain into something tangible. It has all added an ethereal feeling to the film as well.

The loss of my father during the final stages of editing was an enormous blow for me.  I was very close to my dad, and was at his deathbed when he passed. I also had to take a break from the production process while I underwent major cardio-thoractic surgery to my lung, as a result of which I was in crippling pain for a year.  What’s more, my son, who is also an actor in the film, left for the Ukraine to fight on the frontline not long after we had finished filming.  As a mum, this was a horrific time for me.

On the lighter side of obstacles, because I didn’t have the kind of major funding required – which normally for a film like this would require at least a few million dollars – I had no ‘crew’ as such, other than a group of amazing actors!  I had to write, produce, direct, film and edit the entire feature film myself.

When will it be released?

There are a few technical issues within the film that are currently being fixed, so that it will be cinema ready from April.  Unfortunately, the NZ Film Festival declined playing the film this year, on the basis that ‘it didn’t fit with their genre of films for 2024.’  It is currently lodged with ‘Doc Edge’ a film distribution hub in NZ, who are making a decision on whether to release it nationwide across all cinemas. Their decision will be made in April, so all things crossed!

If for any reason Doc Edge choose not to distribute the film, I will self-distribute through cinemas that are willing to show the film around New Zealand, Australia and the Philippines, as well as online from early May 2024.

Any funds raised from the film will go to support more campaigning against the Live export industry, as well as other animal rights projects.

Have you got any other projects in the pipeline?

Yes, two projects this year.

I am currently putting my own personal story into a film this year called “Ancestral Fires” centered on a near-death experience I had as a teenager. I am also working on a documentary around the experiences of soldiers on the front line in the Ukraine, and their collective stories about coping with the trauma of war.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I believe if you feel a deep calling to do something that could potentially change history for the better, it  is important to honour it. Rather than waiting for permission or approval, find the support and just do it.  Life is too short.

I believe it is a moral obligation to Life itself, for each of us to leave a legacy in our lives, and to hopefully leave our planet, the animal kingdom and humanity in a better state than it was. Whether it is to immortalise a story in a book, a piece of music, art, film, or poem, every small offering is important.

I would also like to add that my greatest respect goes to the animal rights activists across New Zealand, who continue to speak out loudly and boldly about the atrocities happening to animals across many industries. It will be the actions of these strong people who will change history.

One of my favourite animal rights sayings in terms of motivation, has always been:

“If not us, then who?….If not now, then when?”

Thankyou, Carlie! 










Please can you spend one minute to forward this letter to Christopher Luxon to oppose reversing the Live Export ban!

It will only take a minute of your time!  We need as many people as possible to send for the government to take our opposition to this cruel practice seriously.

Here is the link:


Text of the letter is as follows:

Rt Hon Christopher Luxon

Hon Todd McClay, Minister of Trade, Minister of Agriculture

Hon Andrew Hoggard, Associate Minister of Agriculture (Animal Welfare, Skills)


Rt Hon Winston Peters

Hon David Seymour

Dear Prime Minister and Ministers,

I am writing to express my deep concern regarding the coalition agreement to overturn the ban on the live export of animals by sea. My reasons are set out below.

1 Reversing the ban will harm New Zealand’s billion-dollar Image

The ban on live export plays a vital role in upholding New Zealand’s image as a clean, green country with high animal welfare standards, which is worth billions to our economy. The ban is a testament to our commitment to good welfare practices. Reversing it jeopardises our reputation and could impact global trade agreements with potential economic and diplomatic fallout. Our ban has already influenced discussions in Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Distressing footage during live export journeys going viral can also be disastrous for our reputation. Australia’s international reputation as a progressive country that cares about animal welfare suffered severely as a result of leaked footage of their live sheep export. New Zealand farmers have a strong reputation that would become compromised with similar footage.

2 Live export makes a minimal contribution to our Economy

Live exports constitute a mere 0.6 percent of primary sector exports, contributing minimally to our $53 billion record in primary sector exports last year. It should be noted that the $53 billion was in large part thanks to our global image. The economic loss from maintaining the ban is inconsequential compared to the damage to our reputation if the ban is overturned.

Furthermore, China’s drive for dairy self-sufficiency directly undermines the profitability of New Zealand’s live animal exports in the future. New Zealand could, instead, be investing in high value and knowledge-intensive products from our biomaterials, such as biocosmetics or sports nutrition, both of which are growing export markets and play to New Zealand’s branding strengths.

Overturning the ban is therefore counterproductive, and not in the best interests of our economy.

3 ‘Gold Standard’ voyages do not address the defined problems.

The much-taunted ‘gold standard’ for live exports, including improvements to ships, cannot address the fundamental concerns at the heart of live export. The length of the voyage is the main issue.  Improvements cannot overcome the injuries, infectious diseases, stress, fear, seasickness, boredom, lack of free movement, anxiety, fatigue and dehydration that are an inherent part of the experience of animals during long-distance journeys.

Improvements also cannot completely remedy the serious risks associated with unpredictable weather conditions, including storms and extreme temperatures. Tragically, we saw this in 2020 when the Gulf Livestock I sank during Typhoon Maysak, resulting in the drowning of 41 crew and nearly 6,000 of our New Zealand cows.

4 The journey at sea is only part of the issue. 

Once the animals arrive at their destination, they fall outside the protective umbrella of the New Zealand Animal Welfare Act. This omission opens the door to potential mishandling and suffering during long overland journeys and ultimately in slaughterhouses, that are unregulated by animal welfare standards. Animals are left vulnerable without the legal safeguards that our Act provides, amplifying the urgency to maintain the live-export ban.

The majority of our animals are exported to China, a country where there are currently no nationwide laws that explicitly prohibit the mistreatment of animals, and which has an Animal Protection Index rating of E (the lowest being a G). Re-initiating live exports to China severely compromises our farmers’ strong reputations as well as our global image.

I support the live export ban.

In conclusion, Prime Minister, and Ministers, reversing the live export ban jeopardises New Zealand’s billion-dollar image and economic success.

The short-term minimal financial contribution from live exports does not justify the cruelties and risks to the animals or our economy. Upgrading ships does not address key defined problems as they cannot shorten the journey or offer any form of protection once animals are off-boarded.

As one of the many New Zealanders who support the live export ban, I am extremely proud of our world-leading approach to this and the fact that other countries have followed, or are considering following, our lead, and banning this practice.

Upholding the ban aligns with changing global ethical practices and will safeguard our reputation as a leader in animal welfare, as well as protecting the economic advantages that depend on that reputation.

Please acknowledge that you have received this letter. Thank you for your consideration of this critical issue and we look forward to your timely response.

Top 20 Vegan Cities In The World

HappyCow has published its list of the Top 20 vegan cities in the world in 2023.

Founded by frequent traveller and vegan Paul Brent in 1999, HappyCow charts the growth of veganism worldwide.  

Their ratings come from a number of criteria, including the number of vegan restaurants, vegan friendly businesses, and the vibrancy of the local vegan community. 

Topping the list for the fourth year running is London.  A number of other European capitals make it on the list, including Paris, where vegan cuisine is having an impact on traditional French pastries and cheeses.  In the US Portland is the most vegan-friendly city.

The full list is as follows: 

1. London
2. Berlin
3. Barcelona
4. Amsterdam
5. Hamburg
6. Portland
7. Los Angeles
8. Paris
9. Bangkok
10. Lisbon
11. Tokyo
12. Warsaw
13. Brighton
14. Singapore
15. New York City
16. Taipei
17. Munich
18. Ho Chi Minh City
19. Prague
20. Edinburgh


See also:  Vegan cities Top 20



EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF HELL. A Short Story By Lily Carrington.

From a hatchling until her death in an automated slaughterhouse, a factory-farmed chicken’s life is hell from beginning to end.  Another powerful and compassionate story from young writer and animal activist Lily Carrington.  


Day One…

She tumbles out of her eggshell and lands on something hard. A cacophony of chirping overwhelms her, like a door opening to a deafening crowd. The brightness of artificial lights blinds her at first. She blinks. She’s in a crate, cold plastic slats pressing painfully into her brand-new baby feet. She does a little shake, her feathers sticking to her skin like wet clothes. Her blue eyes are wide, her heart beats out a speedy rhythm in her chest. All of a sudden, a hand lunges down towards her. Before she can run, fingers clamp around her small frame like a vice, lift her into the air, then send her flying. She slams down onto another unforgiving surface, a conveyor belt. After a moment of panicked kicking and flapping she regains her balance and stands, wobbling among countless other chicks as the conveyor belt moves along steadily beneath them. She is grabbed again, carried, dropped, grabbed again, and then blinding pain sears through her beak. She screams internally, the agony unbearable. After an excruciating few seconds, the machine releases her beak, but the pain barely recedes. She falls into another crate. Her head lolls forward, eyes half closed as pain continues to surge through her body in waves, threatening to drown her. The crate is lifted and stacked on top of another. Then another is stacked on top of that.

Eleven months later…

In the darkness of a shed, her beak still hurts when she eats. But now she has worse pains that compete for her attention. Her skin stings in the raw patches where her feathers are missing, pecked out by other chickens when she attempts to approach the pop holes. Now her feathers have started just falling out by themselves. Her legs falter beneath her, becoming more fragile every day. Her feet ache from standing on hard plastic. Her lungs burn from the stench that permeates the air. Huddled in a gloomy corner, her gaze darts
around, left, right, left again. She blinks, and lets her haggard body gradually sink onto the grimy floor. She breathes slowly, heavily. Her eyelids close halfway, but not fully. Her body feels as if it’s full of bricks, but her mind zaps with anxiety, preventing her from sleeping. She will never know what it’s like to feel safe.

Seven months later…

She is weaker still. An unusual commotion brings her to her feet. Chickens are being seized and crammed into crates. She becomes immediately alert, as fear tightens its hold on her. She rushes clumsily to the rear of the shed where the other chickens have gathered into a mass of squawking, flapping, feathers. Soon she too fails to escape the determined hands as they lunge and grab. As she panics wildly, fingers tighten around one of her legs and jerk her upside down. Her leg snaps and searing pain engulfs her. But the hand doesn’t let go.

“Keep flapping and I’ll break your other one too!”

She’s shoved into a crate, and desperately tries to readjust. Trying, but failing, to escape the pain in her leg. More chickens are
squashed on top of her. She can barely breathe.

Five hours later…

Her world tilts upside down as she is wrenched from the midst of the chickens in her crate. Her mangled leg is forced into the unyielding grip of a metal shackle. The pain is overwhelming. But the world does not stop for her, and the line of shackles moves onwards.

Taking her, in all her flapping desperation, to the electrified water baths. Without hesitation, she is dragged headfirst into the bath. She thrashes under the water. In the shackles, her pale feet twitch and spasm. She is still underwater, and still she thrashes. Then finally, finally, finally, her body goes limp. At the other end of the bath, she emerges. Her bare throat arrives in the hands of the throat cutter. The knife points into her flesh, presses, and cuts her open, then her blood pours out.

See also: 






Lily Carrington is a dedicated animal rights activist who is driven by a strong sense of justice for all beings. She is fighting for a world where all non-human animals are granted respect, compassion and freedom. Lily lives in Hamilton, New Zealand, with her Mum and 10 companion animals.  She has recently graduated from school.

‘We need to start being honest’. An interview with AJP Aotearoa NZ General Secretary, Danette Wereta

In this series of articles May Safely Graze editor Sandra Kyle interviews the leadership team of the newly-registered Animal Justice Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.  Next is General Secretary, Danette Wereta.


1 Tell us a bit about yourself and your background, Danette.

I was born in New Zealand and lived in Melbourne, Australia for 10 years in my 20’s.  My son was born in Australia and we moved back when he was little.  My work background is in leadership, strategy, culture, change management, and customer engagement, with over 18 years experience working in numerous industries in New Zealand and Australia, including financial services, government, energy, sales, and distribution. 

 I have an MBA from Canterbury University. I have been in Senior Leadership for over six years, and am the Board Chair for Ao Tawhiti and the Climate Action Campus. 

2 How has your background helped you to do your job in the AJP?

My studies and career path have all been helpful and pertinent.  In particular, in 2022 I worked in a start-up, which was completely different from my previous roles (in which I led large operational teams of 100+ people). I learned a lot piloting a new business, and found that a new Party has many similarities. You need to get the basics right, be clear on your purpose and position, have goals and planned pathways to achieve them, and set up repeatable processes to ensure they’re scalable. The “so what” becomes very important. 

It also has the same energy and feels like, as the old saying goes, you are “building the plane while flying it”. 

My governance experience from being on Boards also helps, and of course, years of leadership means different tools in the belt can be applied in different situations. 

3 Do you have a personal philosophy? What drives you?  

My philosophy is that we aren’t here to get big mortgages, fancy cars, or race to the bottom – consuming unnecessarily, causing irreparable harm and damage.  We have a lot to learn from the animals who exist alongside us, who are also themselves, who are also connected. It makes you question – what in fact is success? What brings joy and happiness? How do we find balance – giving and taking the way our mother earth intended it. 

4 What do you consider your main strengths are?

I am an extremely curious person who is both strong and compassionate.  My childhood was difficult, and that has given me much empathy.  Growing up, my companion animals never let me down, and I’ve always had a strong connection to all animals. 

5 Why did you became a part of the AJP?

The animal rights movement is huge, and we are all doing critical work. I have always admired and supported different NGOs, advocacy groups, and communities. 

I saw AJP step into a vital swim lane that was empty in NZ, and it was the opportunity to use the skills acquired in my career in a super meaningful way. It feels corny saying this, but it really felt completely aligned. For the first time, I could really make a difference by taking everything I know and applying those skills to create value in a space I care most about. 

We need people to shine a light on what is wrong, to bring awareness, and also solutions.  We need people championing change, and we need AJP working in Parliament to ensure that our laws provide the proper protection and support animals deserve. We need to ensure that laws are in place to help the incredible people in the field do their job when things go wrong, and we also need to be upstream to mitigate things going wrong. 

What is right and wrong is often compared to what is legal and illegal, so it’s easy to think that how we treat animals is ok. We need an independent Commissioner for Animals to give animals a voice against abuse, exploitation for entertainment, and harm to their natural environment. We need systemic change to re-evaluate our understanding of animals, and to treat them as individuals. 

6 What does your position in the AJP entail?  

General Secretary.  I was lucky to be voted into this position. I have big shoes to fill, and I am trying my best. There is lots to learn! Luckily, I am surrounded by a helpful and experienced team. 

In a nutshell, a political party’s general secretary is a key administrative role, responsible for overseeing day-to-day operations, implementing strategic goals, fostering communication, and ensuring compliance with political regulations.  It’s a varied and extensive position, entailing working closely with the other party leaders and officers.

7 Are there any AHA moments you had on your path towards veganism?

I grew deeply frustrated with speciesism; to me it is stating the obvious that it is wrong to treat one type of animal one way, and another so very differently.  We all feel fear, pain, and joy.

I am certain that if most people bore witness to what actually happens in slaughterhouses, and imagined their dog in that position, they would want them all shut down. Language has been used to disconnect from the truth of how we treat animals, and we need to start being honest. 

Animals’ lives are theirs, not ours. Humans are the biggest pests on the planet and when we look at history, you can see how the way we live directly impacts animals. We must take responsibility and stop the industrialization of animal farming. We are in a crisis that continues to grow more serious with each passing year. We have to make better choices. 

I have always felt intuitively connected to animals and felt like we understood each other. Over the years, I have relied on a sixth sense and often end up where an animal needs help. Unfortunately, a lot of that is providing love and light as they cross over the rainbow bridge. It’s been very heavy and extremely difficult. However, I spoke with someone who explained that it’s a gift, and I need to lean in. I should see it as an honor and embrace the role.  So, I spend a lot of time helping animals! And, thankfully, it doesn’t always end sadly. 

8 Do you think a single-issue party like AJP has any chance of being a part of the government?

It will be very hard. However, I have hope!   Hope is important. Hope is powerful. And the wave of change happens so fast these days. While it is easy to get bogged down in the horrific cruelty that we inflict upon animals, there are many beacons of light. 

9 Do you think AJP can make a difference for animals, even if it remains small? 

Yes. Everyone can’t do everything, but if we join up and work together, we can make a difference.  AJP is needed on the scene to drive much-needed political action for the animals.

10 Is there anything else you’d like to say?

 I feel extremely privileged to work alongside my colleagues at AJP, and to be learning from everyone.  We’re all here to make change for animals.  We have grit and determination and nothing is impossible.

John Feldmann said:  “I believe animals should be respected as citizens of this earth. They should have the right to their freedom, their own families and their own life”.

This is what I believe too.



Thankyou, Danette! 

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‘We Will Always Speak Up For Animals.’ An interview with AJP Aotearoa NZ Policy President Karen Singleton

In this series of articles May Safely Graze editor Sandra Kyle interviews the leadership team of the newly-registered Animal Justice Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.  We continue with Policy President, Karen Singleton.


1 Tell us a bit about yourself and your background, Karen.

I have had the opportunity to have a number of different careers, across 3 countries! Born in the North of England to a meat-eating, working-class family, I was lucky enough to study fashion and work as a designer and a lecturer before giving it all up to live in rural France for almost ten years.  I loved learning the language, and teaching others English. I worked for a French software company supporting training and the help desk, which was great fun with my improving French language skills!   I moved to New Zealand about 10 years ago and have worked as a civil servant in a number of roles, from Capability building in Emergency Management, to Strategic Policy.

I’ve always been passionate about the environment and living in a harmonious, and sustainable way with animals and the planet. I am filled with a sense of wonder of all the amazing creatures alive today, and a deep sadness for all those extinct today due to human activity.

Simple things bring me pleasure; being in Nature, helping animals and giving rescue cats and chickens a happy home, growing veggies, and always increasing my knowledge so I can help more animals. 

2  So you’ve had plenty of experience working in diverse, complex, fast-paced and high-pressure environments.  How would you describe your leadership style?  

Probably that it is based on relationship building and mentoring.  In 2021 I became an online mentor for the Vegan Society 21 day Vegan Challenge.  I have a calm nature, a strong work ethic, and a strategic and analytic thinking focus, and I think my leadership models all of this.  

3 How has your background helped you to do the job you now do in the AJP?

When I first started volunteering for AJP my former organisational and leadership experience enabled me to apply some structure to the work required, and help the team progress. It was an intensive time, with a heavy workload, and my emergency management experience certainly helped!

Since then I have supported AJP as Head of Comms, my analytical and writing skills helping to identify what we wanted to say and how best to say it – whether on social media, press releases or emails to members.

Strategic thinking has been key throughout, questioning what are we doing, why, and what the impact is we’re trying to create for animals.

My skills enabled me to work collaboratively with a wide range of people, who were strangers at first, but many are now are respected peers and friends.

Understanding leadership, project management and how government works provides a good underpinning for the Policy President role.

4 Did you have any AHA moments that led you to veganism and your work for animals?   

I’ve always shared my adult life with other animals.  Each individual has had a huge impact on me. However, it is the rescue dog who was part of the family when I was a child who started me on this journey of reflection. As a teenager I became aware that in some countries people eat dogs, and in others they don’t eat cows or pigs, which was part of my normal world.  This made me reflect on the different societal norms, and how arbitrary they are. And if eating cows was socially acceptable in the UK why wasn’t eating dogs? The solution seemed to me to either be ok with eating all animals or eat none. I choose none at all as a teenager. While I lived a vegan lifestyle, I ate a vegetarian diet. Unfortunately it took me decades to commit to a fully vegan diet but it just felt so right when I did as it fully aligned with my lifestyle and beliefs, and I wish I’d done it sooner. I’ve followed a vegan diet for about 9 years now.

5 Do you have a personal philosophy?  What drives you?  

Compassion and wonder. For each other, the planet and all who share this amazing world with us. My vision is of a habitable planet with a peaceful civilisation.

I want everyone (including non-human animals) to be happy and kind to each other. We are all here for a short time. Let’s help each other, and protect the precious home we all share.

6 What do you consider your main strengths are?

Calm, organised, flexible.  I get on with things and do them!

7 Why did you became a part of the AJP?

I wanted to find a channel where I could use my transferable skills to help animals.

While I would donate, sign petitions and attend a few marches, I never felt like I was doing all I could to help animals.

Being involved in the AJP is such a pleasure and a privilege. I feel, as part of a political party advocating for animals, we have an opportunity to directly influence legislation, shape national policies, and bring about systemic changes which could be transformational. To be able to use my skills to support this is incredible.

8 You are Policy President.  What does that entail?

It’s a one-year term, elected annually at the AGM.   My duties include serving as Chair of the Policy Committee, and ensuring it operates effective and efficiently, as well as acting as spokesperson for the Party on matters of Party Policy.   I also serve on the Executive Committee of the Party.

9 Do you think a single-issue party like AJP has any chance being a part of the government?

I do. I am a believer in the power of democracy and what dedicated individuals can achieve. Society changes, and norms with them. We’re now seeing political polarisation happening here in NZ, as we’ve seen happen in the UK and US, and I feel single-issue parties will gain more traction as people lose faith in parties seemingly seeking to tear apart our society, setting one group against another in one culture war after another.

In the meantime, AJP is creating a vision for the future for all of us and while single-issue parties might not often form the government, we can still play a role in shaping the political agenda and influencing policies. We can negotiate with larger parties to advocate for animals. Everything we do will raise awareness about animals and contribute to public discourse on them, and how they are treated.

10 How do you think the AJP can make a difference for animals if it remains small?

By influencing public discourse, raising awareness, and leveraging our presence. While our legislative impact might be limited, we can collaborate with larger parties, form alliances, and mobilise public support to gradually build momentum and influence towards more significant changes in the long run.

We also have the agility to focus on particular issues for specific animals to make a real difference to their lives.

As our purpose is “to work towards a society that recognises and protects the rights and well-being of animals” we won’t compromise our message. We will always speak up for animals and seek to improve their lives.

I think the Climate and Environment debate shows that more education doesn’t change people’s behaviour.  We need to target people’s hearts and values. We need to provide a clear, holistic vision that people can see and desire.

To do this it is vital we are seen as a professional organisation that can be trusted in the information it shares and provides, and, of course, through our actions.

11 Is there anything else you would like to say?

Only that I am very grateful for the support of my partner, who is also a vegan. Without him I wouldn’t be able to give so much time and energy to AJP!  Helping animals is both an individual and a community activity, and we all benefit.

Thankyou, Karen! 


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‘Research Strategies and Go!’ An interview with AJP Aotearoa NZ Executive President Rob McNeil


In this series of articles May Safely Graze editor Sandra Kyle interviews the leadership team of the newly-registered Animal Justice Party of Aotearoa New Zealand.  We begin with Executive President, Rob McNeil.


1 Tell us a bit about your background Rob.

I grew up in West Auckland, with many family companion cats at times, and eventually became a Chartered Accountant.  My real loves were languages and music, but a job in numbers gave me security and paid the bills. This career path led me to a 3-month job in Canada, where I oddly stayed for 32 years, discovering veganism and activism seven years ago, before returning to New Zealand in 2022. My guitar and my music are never far away from me. 

Luckily the area I was in in Canada was home to Anita Kranjc and the Save Movement, and I learned a lot from them. I was also lucky enough to attend multiple Animal Liberation Conferences in California, be engaged (allegedly) in direct animal rescues, lead an activism tour across North America, support farm sanctuaries, develop campaigns and run various grassroots activist groups.  Along the way I learned a lot about campaigning, social movement change theory, empathy and movement building. I still have much to learn. 

2 How has your path so far helped you to do the job you do in the AJP?

Everything I’ve done has helped me develop my skills and keep my focus through various trials. I’ve learned both from successes and failures.  Successes include stopping a backyard chicken initiative, managing undercover ag workers, and helping defeat an ag-gag bill.  Setbacks were watching the world’s biggest chicken slaughterhouse built locally, despite our campaign, being arrested and facing a 10-year maximum sentence for duck rescue (no conviction yay!), and, tragically and unforgettably, seeing activist Regan Russell’s blood washed off the streets after she was callously killed outside an Ontario pig slaughterhouse. 

3 Do you have a personal philosophy?  What drives you?  

Knowing that whatever struggles and human setbacks we have, nothing compares to the suffering of the animals on a daily basis.  “Find a small aligned crew, research a goal and strategies, and go. Rinse and repeat.” 

4 What do you consider your main strengths are?

Great mentors in my life (mostly women) have taught me about empathy, speciesism, my privilege, theories of change. I am grateful for all the mentors in my life so far. 

5 You have been there from the start of the AJP.  Why did you want to help form a political party?

It was an obvious next step for animals in Aotearoa – a party that could be a clear voice for animals, without compromise. I’ve been here since the start, although it’s the excellent team that has made it great. Watch what we can do – stay tuned!

6 What does your position in the AJP entail?

I’m Executive President (2nd term). Sounds fancy but I’m really just here to serve the Executive Committee and the Members, trying to push the agenda forward strategically to help build an organization to do great things as capacity builds.  We are all unpaid volunteers – join us!

7 Are there any AHA moments you have had on your vegan/animal rights journey you want to share? 

There was an accidental trip to a farm sanctuary in 2017 where I met the late, great Mr Dusty Miller, a rescued turkey who was proud, fierce and gorgeous. It was definitely an ‘AHA’ moment as he stalked me, and taught me he was an individual and worthy of my respect and adoration. 

8 Do you think a single issue party like AJP has any chance being a part of the government?

Definitely – when we win just one seat we could hold a balance of power. Before special votes were counted, in the 2023 election it was quite possible had we won a seat. We just need some great strategies, and some candidates with charisma and experience. 

9 How do you think AJP can make a difference for animals if it remains small?

There are city elections to potentially contest, committees to attend, MPs to engage with, and policies and submissions that can influence other parties’ actions and the fate of animals. We can also reach many kiwis with strong campaigns and social media. 

10 Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

The animal movement has all the values and willpower it will ever need, but we lack capacity and sometimes long-term planning to become bigger and more influential over time.  We can learn through training how to improve the plight of vulnerable animals. I’m also hopeful that we can learn and share empathic listening and non-violent communication to better understand ourselves and the challenges we face, as we work together to achieve justice for our fellow animals. 


Thankyou, Rob! 

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I will never see the sun rise, I will never see it set,
I will never feel a kind touch, I will never be a pet.
I will never feel love, for I will not be loved,
As I’m led to my murder, being prodded, poked and shoved.
As they cut my tender skin, I wondered who would care,
If anybody out there, would consider my despair.
For you did not see me die, and you did not see me bleed,
You did not hear me cry, for the meat that you don’t need.
You did not watch them kill me, you could not feel my pain,
You will try not to think of me, as you blindly eat again.
I was the cow you ate on Monday, the pig you had midweek,
I was the turkey for your Christmas, I was the calf you liked to eat.
I was the chicken in your sandwich, the duck you had for tea,
I felt pain beyond belief, but you never thought of me.
Because thinking can be painful, and you refuse to see,
That for every time you eat meat, those animals must bleed.
The cow was killed for Monday, the pig was scalded too,
The turkey lived for 16 weeks, and the calf had died for you.
The chicken lived inside a cage, the duck could hardly move,
And all of this suffering, occurred for so-called food.
I fail to see a reason, as there is no need,
When humans eat my meat, it is purely for their greed.
You may think you’re above me, that you have advantage,
But a kind, innocent creature, is better than a savage.
So next time you’re out shopping, try to feel some guilt,
For those animals have died, for your eggs, your meat and milk.
My heroes are those people, who will not bite into me,
So I ask a simple favor, and please stop eating meat.
I’m asking for the cows, the pigs and all the sheep,
I’m asking for the birds, who are more than just some meat.
They can’t speak themselves, so please let’s be their voice,
Every one born into this, for them there was no choice.

For you did not see me die, and you did not see me bleed,

You did not hear me cry, for the meat that you don’t need.”



Not so long ago few people outside the animal agriculture community knew about ‘bobby calves’, the days-old dairy calves, mostly male and superfluous to the farmer’s requirements, who are either killed on farm or sent to the slaughterhouse.   I myself became vegan overnight when I learned about these bobbies.

Thanks to the campaigning of animal activists, the fate of bobby calves is now well known – and it’s a PR disaster for dairy farmers.  Nobody likes to think of frail baby animals being prised from their mothers and sent off to the Works, their umbilical cord often still attached.   It is little surprise that it’s a sensitive topic in the Industry, a very inconvenient truth that won’t go away.



In the latest of a string of changes aimed at eliminating the worst abuses and improving the image of dairying, Fonterra have stated that from June farmers are prohibited from killing calves on the farm, unless the calf is sick. In the news item that aired on New Zealand TV last night, I was gobsmacked when mid Canterbury dairy farmer Paul Everest stated “(The calves) live an awesome four days, and then they’re down to the processor.”  Yes you heard right.  The baby cows, with a natural lifespan of up to 20 years, had four entire days to enjoy their existence, confined in a shed, pining for their mothers, sucking milk from an artificial teet before going to have their throats cut.  Awesome?  I don’t think so.

A few decades ago it was common for  a farmer to  take a hammer or crowbar to the heads of calves. Once bludgeoned they were then placed at the farmgate for collection, tossed into a grave, burned, or composted, all M.I.T. approved methods of dairy calf disposal.  Then, in 2014, disturbing footage emerged of an award winning NZ farmer showing farm hands how to bludgeon calves to death in a NZ owned dairy operation in Chile.  The bloodbath created a public backlash both in Chile and New Zealand, and in 2016 blunt force trauma to the head of dairy calves became illegal in this country.  It was still fine for farmers to kill them on farm, but they had to be shot.

The irony is that this new law, that is also aimed at the eco lobby who like ‘everything to be used’, will be even harder on the baby calves.  Even more of the approximately 2 million calves killed every year in New Zealand will be forced to undertake long, uncomfortable truck journies, hungry, anxious, and unstable on their little legs, only to confront the horror of the slaughterhouse and have their lives destroyed.

This move by Fonterra is dumb.  Firstly, a prime time news item talking about sending babies to have their throat cut is no way to improve their image.  Secondly, the new law could well backfire on them.  Farmers are paid next to nothing for bobby calves by the slaughterhouse, and the cost and logistics of transporting them will be more of a burden.  Who knows?  Farmers could end up deciding they’ve had enough and go out of business.


Sandra Kyle, Editor, May Safely Graze