News Blog Articles New dairy footage exposes ongoing cruelty in industry

New dairy footage exposes ongoing cruelty in industry

October 26th, 2016

Dairy farming is once again in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons say SAFE and Farmwatch.  New footage obtained by Farmwatch investigators shows that a year on from the explosive 2015 exposé of the New Zealand dairy industry, calves continue to be mistreated.

In the 2016 calving season investigation in the Waikato and Taranaki, calves are seen being pulled out of cages, and thrown into transport trucks and roughly dragged away by their hind legs and mother cows are recorded desperately trying to stay with their calves.


The footage exposes that it is business as usual in the dairy industry; an industry that continues to cause animal suffering.


The brutal throwing of calves, together with their appalling treatment at the Down Cow slaughterhouse, created a public outcry in November 2015, with concern reported internationally. While one of the workers involved was prosecuted, animals continue to suffer.


As a result of SAFE and Farmwatch’s 2015 investigation, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the dairy industry were forced to respond. They have attempted to deflect attention to the Down Cow slaughterhouse cruelty, while minimising the harsh treatment of the calves on farms and during transport. In an attempt to allay the public’s concerns, official statements portray that mistreatment is not widespread. This is not, however, reflected by what has been observed in the new footage, with the majority of interactions filmed between workers and calves involving mishandling.


Following last year’s exposé of cruelty in the NZ dairy industry, in August this year MPI released regulations on the treatment of bobby calves. The new laws are mediocre at best for the two million bobby calves slaughtered every single year, especially as many of these regulations don’t come in to force until 2017.


Significant Issues remain:

  • The throwing of calves is not explicitly banned, as it is in Europe.
  • Starving calves for up to 24 hours prior to slaughter is permitted.
  • Four-day-old calves can still be transported for up to 12 hours.
  • No monitoring programmes are in place.

 It is likely that the farmers and truck drivers who were ignoring the previous rules will continue to do so again.

John Darroch of Farmwatch says that rather than stopping cruelty to calves, the industry appears to be doing their best to hide the loading of those calves. The cages used for holding calves, before they are thrown into trucks, have been moved down long driveways, out of sight.


“I have nothing against farmers. I know they work incredibly hard and are going through a stressful time with the dairy downturn,” says Mr Darroch, “but this does not excuse the abuse of calves which I have now witnessed over the past three years. In failing to implement better standards, the New Zealand dairy industry is putting our international reputation at risk.”


“The dairy industry causes widespread animal suffering, from the separation of mother cows from their young babies, to the brutal treatment of these vulnerable young animals on their way to the slaughterhouse,” says Mandy Carter, SAFE head of campaigns. “Since MPI is the body charged with promoting primary industries, it has an obvious conflict of interest when it comes to protecting animal welfare. We urgently need an independent voice for animals to ensure that the needs of animals are prioritised.”

SAFE urges people who agree that the cruel treatment of cows and their calves is unacceptable to join the thousands of caring individuals who are already using alternatives to milk and other dairy products by taking the dairy-free pledge.


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