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The following policy statement was officially adopted by the National Committee of the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand at its meeting of 15 November 2003.
The Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand recognizes a number of geographically defined feral livestock groups throughout New Zealand as individual breeds unique to this country. Most originated in the latter half of the nineteenth or very early in the twentieth century. Many of these have now been re-domesticated and include cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and rabbits.
Throughout recent decades various ‘identifications’ of these animals, based almost entirely on physical similarities to known livestock breeds, have been suggested, along with their ‘histories’, few if any of which have been the result of valid research of original sources of information. Many of these have become accepted as fact by rare breed enthusiasts as well as members of the general public – both in New Zealand and overseas – although several have been proven recently to be incorrect.
At no time has the administrative Committee of the Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand formally accepted any of these identifications or histories as having any official status or support – sometimes in the face of considerable pressure for it to do so. The Society disassociates itself from all such unofficial designations as applied to any of our feral animals. This includes those for breeds that have been exported overseas by individuals (who may or may not be Society members) in respect of which claims of identity and history have been made.
With the advent of DNA testing it may be possible in the future to establish the relationship of most of our feral livestock to existing domestic breeds. However, at this time the priority is to preserve the existing genotypes of these breeds and ensure their conservation – not primarily as relics of the past, but as something valuable and unique to this country that we are fortunate to have with us today.
The Rare Breeds Conservation Society of New Zealand recognizes New Zealand’s feral breeds as playing a vital role in achieving its primary aim of preserving genetic diversity within the world's livestock species. This is where their true value and their future lie.
Christchurch, November 2003.
"It is prudent for breeders of all animals to back off from the more speculative descriptions of their animal's origin. The evolving application of DNA technology to establish ancestry could disprove the promotional puff used by some breeders. Legal action might follow a disappointing conclusion to a DNA test."
Dennis Barr in Paddocks and Perches (official newsletter of the Rare Breeds Trust of Australia), October 2003.
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