NZ dairy firm in Chile investigated over slaughter of calves

Revealing insight opens discussion on animal treatment in New Zealand

A New Zealand dairy company based in Chile is being investigated by authorities for the inhumane slaughter of ‘bobby' calves, leading to discussion over similar treatment of baby animals in New Zealand.

Bobby calves cruelty

For the purpose of producing milk, cows need to be kept continually pregnant and give birth, but once their calves are born there is no further use for many of them. They are treated as mere waste products with little or no attention given to their welfare. These are bobby calves - vulnerable young animals no longer needed and brutally discarded.

Described as animal abuse, and a "savage massacre" by politician Fidel Espinoza, the company in Chile, Manuka, is accused of letting calves starve to death. They also allegedly forced workers to slaughter the calves by cutting their throats or beating them with heavy objects before burying them in secluded pits. In February graphic footage emerged of the cruelty.

Manuka runs 37 farms with 25,000 cows and employs 340 staff in Chile. Director Mark Townshend (former Director of Fonterra) says that the farm has strict procedures on slaughter and that "the farm manager may not have carried out the correct protocols."

However, one South American newspaper reported that in the past the company has been fined more than one million Chilean pesos (NZ$2207) for various offences related to the "implementation of euthanasia solutions made by non-veterinarians".

SAFE has requested a copy of the company's protocol, but has as yet, not received a reply.

SAFE's Hans Kriek says the allegations are shocking and horrific, but that there have also been incidences of similar cruelty in New Zealand. "It appears that some of our own more dubious farming practices have been exported overseas. The law states that farmers must minimize pain and distress to animals, but it is not illegal to kill bobby calves by bashing them on the head and we know of examples of this kind of cruelty in New Zealand".

Mr Townshend also confirmed this, reportedly describing the routine slaughter of bobby calves as the "commercial reality [of dairy farming] that nobody wants to talk about. I think the article is probably confusing what is a very normal process with what could have been some sub-standard practice on one of our farms."

January 2014