Farm Ireland

Saturday 24 February 2018

New video footage shows potential abuse of young calves in New Zealand

Picture: FarmWatch NZ
Picture: FarmWatch NZ
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

New undercover footage has emerged of young ‘bobby’ calves in New Zealand, which one animal rights group says may lead to prosecutions.

New Zealand dairying has been hit in recent years as footage emerged of young unwanted male calves, known as ‘bobby’ calves being abused.

Now, Farmwatch - a New Zealand animal rights group - has released more footage, which it says indicates that cruelty towards bobby calves is still a widespread problem throughout the industry and not just a matter of a few bad exceptions.

It says the new footage has revealed the calves are still being subjected to the same cruelty that was discovered during an investigation last year.

Earlier this year, one man was convicted of abuse of bobby calves in New Zealand and was sentenced to home detention – an outcome the Minister for Primary Industries in New Zealand is challenging.

'Little has changed'

Farmwatch spokesperson John Darroch told that the new footage shows little had changed since regulation changes.

"This treatment of animals was illegal and is still illegal under the Animal Welfare Act," he said. "Workers were doing it then, and they're still doing it now.

"If it were only a few people doing this, it would be impossible for us to get this footage."

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New Zealand’s largest farming organisation, Federated Farmers said it wasn’t happy with some of the footage.

Dairy Industry Group Chairperson Andrew Hoggard said that he found the loading of the calves into trucks, in the latest video, to be on the rough side, but that with mandatory use of loading facilities next year, these types of scenes should hopefully be a thing of the past.

'The Calf Being Dragged was Unacceptable Handling'

“The calf being dragged was unacceptable handling. If I saw that on my own farm I would give the employee in question a severe dressing down, and likely disciplinary action would follow.”

However, he said that with the calves being loaded onto calf trailers in the paddock, those farmers didn’t do anything that he doesn’t do himself.

He also said that while some of the footage showed poor and rough handling, the rest was common farm practice.

“Mashing up footage of standard farm practice with examples of cruel or rough behaviour is an attempt to mislead, and portray all farming as cruel. So it is extremely important this nuance is highlighted.”

He went on to say that Federated Farmers will always condemn animal cruelty where it occurs.

'The Footage Warrants a Full Investigation'

The Minister for Primary Industries said it is launching an investigation into the latest footage.

MPI Manager Compliance Operations, Gary Orr, says the footage warrants a full investigation.

"Throwing, dropping and dragging calves in the way the video shows is unacceptable.

"The behaviour we have seen is deeply disappointing given that MPI and industry have worked very hard to promote best practice in animal welfare, in every part of the bobby calf supply chain, leading into this bobby calf season.”

He also said that New Zealand has introduced new legislation to strengthen the welfare of bobby calves.

“This activity has had some positive benefits and we have seen improved behaviour and handling throughout the season – which makes the actions of the individuals captured in this footage even more disappointing.”

He also said that the Ministry has a number of live prosecutions related to the current bobby calf season.

It is estimated that at least 4,500 bobby calves died on route this season to processing plants and animal welfare rights groups in New Zealand claim that around two million unwanted bobby calves are killed soon after birth in the country.

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