NEW ZEALAND - Two animal welfare groups have released undercover videos of dairy (bobby) calf treatment, showing what one of the organisations called "systemic cruelty and deliberate violent abuse of helpless calves".
Farmwatch and SAFE NZ released the footage, filmed by hidden cameras at several different locations, on TVNZ's Sunday show over the weekend.
The Ministry for Primary Industries said that it had been provided with the footage in September and had immediately started an investigation.
MPI Deputy Director General Regulation and Assurance Scott Gallacher said the nature of the footage aired on the programme was unacceptable.
“Anybody seeing this type of abuse would be appalled. We share that view,” Mr Gallacher said.
Using violence against animals or causing unreasonable pain or distress is illegal, with sentences for wilful ill-treatment going up to five years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, the MPI reiterated.
The MPI said it could not comment on the specifics of the investigation as it may prejudice its outcome, saying that it must build a robust case before proceeding with any enforcement action, and that it has a strong record of successful prosecutions.
New Zealand-based dairy co-operative Fonterra said in a statement that it had seen the footage and that any mistreatment of animals is completely unacceptable to Fonterra and its farmers.
"While bobby calves will always be part of the dairy industry, they must be treated with care and respect. Behaviour in this footage in no way represents the vast majority of New Zealand farmers who care about their animals," the company said, adding it would be taking "strong action" if any of its members were involved.
Transport operators will be "held to account"
Chief executive of industry body DairyNZ, Tim Mackle, said cruel and illegal practices are in no way condoned or accepted by the industry as part of dairy farming.
“We are shocked and farmers are too,” he said. “We will be asking questions of everyone involved.
"Farmers don’t see what goes on when calves leave their farm and we need to be holding the transport operators and processing plants to account to ensure bad practices get stamped out of our industry.
“Our surveys show that 95 per cent of farmers are compliant with all animal welfare codes and they take great care of their animals including calves. We obviously want to see that even higher because the dairy industry takes its animal welfare responsibilities seriously and we are committed to farming to high standards,” he said.
“There is a range of industry initiatives already in place and we will be boosting our actions with other groups to ensure the care of calves.”
Federated Farmers’ dairy section chair, Andrew Hoggard said: “Federated Farmers strongly, and each season, reinforces to its members that the highest standards of animal welfare must apply when dealing with all calves.
"The federation will also put resources behind any industry initiatives to review the handling, transport and processing of bobby calves.”
TheCattleSite News Desk