Dairy Cruelty Conviction

SAFE welcomes the news that another farmer has been convicted of cruelty to a dairy calf following footage released by Farmwatch and part of SAFE’s dairy campaign.

A Waikato man was fined $750 for his involvement in dragging a newborn calf by her hind leg along the ground for 40 metres, as her mother followed in distress. The cruelty, when released as part of an investigation with SAFE and Farmwatch caused an uproar with the New Zealand public with concern that yet again the dairy industry has been exposed for abusing animals.

According to reports, an independent vet viewed the footage and determined the dragging would have caused the calf significant distress and pain, including possible nerve damage or torn muscles.

"This was an unnecessary way of moving the calf, as gently lifting it or quietly guiding it would have been the quickest and most successful way of getting the calf where it needed to go," the vet noted.

The conviction follows that of the slaughterhouse worker who was caught on hidden camera in 2015 brutally kicking, punching and throwing baby dairy calves.

Although SAFE is pleased to see MPI taking animal welfare cruelty cases seriously, there are still several issues:

  • Few workers have been prosecuted. Farmwatch documented many separate incidents of cruelty over 2015 and 2016 of workers hurting animals, but MPI has reportedly given warnings or “education” to most of those caught roughly handling animals. It is not clear whether MPI will follow up to ensure best practice is implemented on an ongoing basis.
  • It should not be up to volunteers and non-profits to expose issues of animal cruelty. Without Farmwatch filming, these kinds of incidents go completely unnoticed, and unpunished. SAFE is concerned that there are likely many more animals suffering.
  • Investigations by MPI take far too long to proceed.
  • MPI is woefully underfunded by the Government with far too few inspectors (around twelve) to cover the geographically challenging locations of many of NZ’s farms. There should be more funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act
  • Prosecuting only goes so far and acts as a minimal deterrent. More time, effort and funds need to be put into preventing cruelty to vulnerable animals in the first place.
  • There is a clear conflict of interest when the same ministry is tasked with both promoting the interests of industry and at the same time, animal welfare. This is why SAFE continues to call for a separate, independent animal welfare body.

It is clear that real change is needed in MPI, and the treatment of dairy cows and calves, to even come close to addressing these serious animal welfare issues.

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26 May 2017