New dairy regulations lack vision

Following our exposé of cruelty in the NZ dairy industry, the Ministry for Primary Industries released new regulations on the treatment of bobby calves in August.

The announcement comes after the investigation by SAFE and Farmwatch which exposed workers throwing calves onto trucks and a slaughterhouse operative kicking and brutally beating calves. All was filmed by secret camera, and caused massive uproar in New Zealand and overseas.

The regulations include some changes to transport and shelter rules for the animals. However, the rules simply do not go far enough and even worse, they will do little to prevent cruelty from happening in the first place.

The new regulations simply update previous codes of welfare that were not easily enforceable, and add new rules that are mediocre at best.  Transporting of calves will be limited to ‘just’ 12 hours – still a grueling journey for vulnerable baby animals; and will be prohibited over the Cook Strait. From August 2017 calves will be provided with shelter and loading/unloading facilities for trucks. Also touted as an improvement from 2017, is that calves are to be fed in the 24 hours prior to slaughter (instead of the current 30 hours).

Tightening up laws only goes so far. There are two million bobby calves slaughtered every single year so the real challenge is going to be how the dairy industry will prevent cruelty happening in the first place and, of course, taking calves from their mothers and sending them to slaughter from as young as four days old is unethical and cruel. 


The regulations

The regulations created by the Ministry for Primary Industries are an update on previous codes of welfare that were not easily enforceable. The new regulations are a combination of new standards and old standards with improved enforcement capability.

Changes in the regulations with immediate effect:

• Calves must not be transported for more than 12 hours (previously no limit).*

• Calves must not be transported across the Cook Strait. *

*The first draft of the proposed rules suggested eight hours, but the final regulation was weakened.

Changes in the regulations subject to a delay:

• Calves must be fed in the 24 hours prior to slaughter (down from 30). Subject to a delay until 1st February 2017.

• Loading and unloading facilities must be provided when transporting calves. Subject to a delay until 1st August 2017.

• Shelter must be provided for calves before, during, and after transport. Subject to a delay until 1st August 2017.

Existing rules with enforcement improvements:

• Calves must be at least four days old before transport.

• Calves must not be killed by blunt force trauma, except in emergencies.

Issues that remain:

• Throwing calves is not explicitly banned, as it is in Europe.

• Calf inductions are not explicitly banned.

• Starving calves for up to 24 hours prior to slaughter is permitted.

• No monitoring programmes will be put in place.

• Calves are still separated from their mothers.


Take Action:

  • Try dairy-free. You can help calves by joining the thousands of caring individuals that have told us they are committing to go dairy-free.

1 August 2016