Southland Animal Welfare Allegations Raise Issues

NEW ZEALAND - A vet has taken Federated Farmers to task for defending a Southland farm that had one of the worst cases of "systemic animal neglect and mismanagement" seen in 20 years.
calendar icon 13 October 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

In a letter to Agriculture Minister David Carter, the vet criticised Federated Farmers for complaining about the way Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry staff behaved during Southland farm visits in May, reports The Southland Times.

MAF animal welfare inspectors visited the Lochiel farm in May following a complaint from the public, with 12 lame dairy cows killed after an investigation.

Federated Farmers has formally complained about how Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry staff behaved during Southland farm visits in May.

The letter from the vet said that the situation on the farm was among the "worst case of systemic animal neglect and mismanagement" they had seen in their 20 years in the industry and the investigation was "entirely warranted and very professionally carried out" by the ministry's animal welfare team. He questioned why Federated Farmers would defend the farmer over the "multiple criminal acts" carried out over a prolonged period of time.

Federated Farmers has not only rejected the serious, but anonymous animal welfare allegations being levelled against it, but is raising serious concerns about the conduct of an internal investigation into the behaviour of Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry (MAF) personnel, from earlier in the year.

“This is a big smokescreen, designed to take the attention off a live investigation by MAF into alleged bullying,” says David Rose, Federated Farmers board member.

“These anonymous accusations are so over the top and totally wrong, that it’s hardly worth responding to them specifically.

“For the record, Federated Farmers absolutely does not condone the maltreatment of livestock. Over many years, we have worked closely with MAF on animal welfare issues. We actually have a Memorandum of Understanding with MAF on how we can constructively work together.

“Yet earlier this year in Southland, farmers raised with us, major concerns about the conduct of MAF enforcement officers. This allegation was so serious, that we raised them with the Minster who agreed to a confidential internal investigation to establish what took place.

“After negotiations with MAF officials, we secured a written confidentiality agreement to ensure a free flow of information around these allegations of bullying, as well as terms of reference.

“We are appending the ‘Use of and Confidentiality of Information’ we have with MAF with this release.

“This agreement was critical for all parties to get to the bottom of things and 16 Southland farmers contributed written statements to the investigation.

“Furthermore, the Terms of Reference we have with MAF states ‘this investigation is to be undertaken on the clear understanding that all information supplied by farmers and associated parties, written or otherwise, is supplied in confidence’.

“We took this agreement seriously but it appears others have not.

“Given the selective release of information under the Official Information Act (OIA) related to an incomplete investigation, we now want to know what else has been released.

“Federated Farmers has little choice but to follow this up with appropriate entities,” Mr Rose concluded.

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