The New Zealand deer industry is committed to the welfare of stags during velvet removal, and has undertaken extensive scientific research into this subject.
These research findings underpin the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Stags during the Removal of Velvet, published by the government's Animal Welfare Advisory Committee. The Code was developed in association with the New Zealand Veterinary Association and animal welfare groups.
The Code of Practice, in turn, forms the basis of a training and certification programme managed by the National Velvetting Standards Body (NVSB).
This programme specifies that in New Zealand, velvet may only be removed by a veterinarian or by a certified farmer who has successfully completed the veterinarian-supervised training programme.
Key points of the NVSB certification programme are:
- Velvet is removed using a local anaesthetic so that the stag feels no pain and the whole procedure is designed to minimise stress.
- Hygiene standards are set out for facilities and equipment.
- Farmer training is carried out by a ‘supervising veterinarian’ and covers both the theory and practice of velvetting.
- Farmers must pass a written theory exam, an oral test and a practical assessment by an independent veterinarian before gaining certification.
- On-going training and monitoring involves an annual assessment by the supervising veterinarian.
- Random independent audits are carried out annually by the NVSB on both certified velvetters and veterinarians to test compliance and to ensure the programme’s integrity.