MPI investigating animal abuse only after story appears in the media

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SAFE
Oct 18, 2018

Claims that a South Westland farmer left a cow hoisted for an unacceptably long time are being investigated by MPI, but only it appears after SAFE took the complaint to the media.

British tourist Ed Shephard was driving near Franz Josef on Friday afternoon when he saw a cow suspended by hip clamps, and returned two hours later to see the cow still in the clamps.  He returned on Saturday morning, when he witnessed the cow being suspended again.

“I used to live in one of the big dairy strongholds in the UK but had never seen anything like that before.”

“I waited for a while but she was just left there. Even when a farm worker drove past her they didn't stop. To me it looked like she was suffering and had just been abandoned.”

Concerned for the animal, Mr Shephard contacted SAFE which took the complaint to MPI.  However, at the time of the complaint, MPI told SAFE it could not investigate because it only has 23 inspectors, and the closest was in Christchurch. The MPI staffer then suggested SAFE take the complaint to the police instead.

However, after the issue was raised in the media, MPI has since launched an investigation.

The Ministry said the fact a farmer was using a hip clamp to lift a cow was not in itself an issue, but the alleged length of time was. An MPI spokeswoman said hip clamps were legal and used to assist an animal in some circumstances. However, it needed to investigate before they could say if there was an issue.

The New Zealand Veterinary Association suggests that hip clamps should be used for no longer than 10 minutes, and also advises the use of padding between the cow and the hip clamp device.

SAFE’s Head of Campaigns, Marianne Macdonald, says MPI’s inability to investigate shows its animal welfare resourcing is falling critically short.

“This is yet more evidence that MPI is not up to the job of protecting the millions of farmed animals in New Zealand. It is completely unacceptable that the department responsible for upholding animal welfare on farms can’t respond to complaints.”

“MPI’s animal welfare arm is under-resourced to the point of being a toothless lip-service. It’s not good enough that complaints are only investigated when they come out in the media.”

“The Government must urgently develop an independent agency for animals, with the power and resources to investigate complaints. MPI has a clear conflict of interest since it has a role in promoting primary industries, as well as investigating and enforcing animal welfare complaints. At the moment, animal welfare is an afterthought for MPI - and animals are suffering because of it.”

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