Appalling treatment of dairy cows in new exposé

Undercover cameras have captured a dairy farmer violently, and repeatedly, hitting cows with various weapons including a steel pipe. SAFE says this case highlights the serious failings of New Zealand’s animal welfare enforcement since the perpetrator was previously investigated by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) early in 2018.

Farmwatch investigators gathered the evidence between May and June 2018, showing the physical and verbal abuse of cows by the man who is in charge of the farm in Northland. Evidence was given to MPI earlier this week, asking them to do another investigation.

Farmwatch says that the hidden camera footage is harrowing to watch.

“It’s clear from the footage that the cows on this farm are terrified of this farmer. They are scared to go into the milking shed and visibly cower when he is near,” says Farmwatch spokesperson John Darroch. “I felt sick when I saw the footage of this farmer beating cows. It was worse than I had anticipated.”

Numerous complaints to MPI of animal abuse came from a farm hand and another farm worker. However, when they did go to investigate, they neglected to take a vet to examine the animals and reported back to the chief complainant, that all the cows were fine.

"Farmed animals are clearly not safe when MPI doesn’t carry out an effective investigation, even when brave whistleblowers risk themselves by making complaints,” says Head of Campaigns, Marianne Macdonald. “The system which is supposed to protect animal welfare is broken.”

SAFE was first alerted to this farmer when a photo was shared of a cow he’d spray-painted to say, ‘I am an arsehole’.  Shared on the NZ Farming Facebook page, it received over eight thousand positive responses. When we shared this post, many complaints of physical abuse of cows were received about the farmer who had written the message.

While this could be just one farmer’s sick sense of humour,  we were alarmed at the support and amusement the post got from so many in the farming community. If this behaviour is condoned by many farmers, it begs the question – how many others are allowing their anger to be taken out on animals in their care?

Complaints were also received by Farmwatch, which promoted the undercover investigation.

MPI’s failings, in this case, are beyond belief. MPI should have carried out a thorough investigation the moment they were told that animal abuse was occurring at this farm. It should not have taken a group of volunteers to stop this person from abusing animals. Without the work of Farmwatch, these cows would still be being beaten today.

We need to dismantle the current broken system and replace it with an effective independent body to protect animals.


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28 June 2018