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High profile dairy cruelty investigation leads to further conviction

June 6th, 2018

Another slaughterhouse worker has finally been convicted following the 2015 dairy investigation by Farmwatch and SAFE that horrified New Zealanders and caused controversy internationally. The man, from Down Cow Ltd, was filmed via hidden camera dragging days’ old dairy calves across a concrete floor by their legs, and has been fined plus ordered to pay court costs. The conviction follows that of another worker who was caught brutally kicking, punching and throwing calves. SAFE says animal advocacy groups can again take credit for the latest conviction, as the cruelty would not have come to light without volunteer investigators.

“Again, it has taken investigators to risk their own safety in standing up for animals and exposing cruel treatment of the most vulnerable of animals, young calves born into the dairy industry,” says SAFE campaigns director Mandy Carter. “Without Farmwatch doing their investigation these workers could have carried on abusing animals. Although we are pleased to see MPI taking some animal welfare cruelty seriously, they are not doing anything to ensure it does not happen in the first place. How many more animals are suffering right now?”

In May, a farmer was also convicted of cruelty to a dairy calf following footage released by Farmwatch and part of SAFE’s 2016 dairy campaign. The farmer was fined for his involvement in dragging a newborn calf by her hind leg along the ground for 40 metres, as her mother followed in distress. The cruelty, when released, caused an uproar with the New Zealand public with concern that yet again the dairy industry has been caught out for abusing animals.

SAFE’s ongoing concerns around the treatment of animals in the dairy industry are:

  • Few workers have been prosecuted. Farmwatch documented many separate incidents of cruelty over the 2015 and 2016 dairy seasons of workers hurting animals, but MPI has reportedly given warnings or “education” to most of those caught roughly handling animals. It is not clear whether or how MPI will follow up to ensure best practice is implemented on an ongoing basis.
  • It should not be up to volunteers and non-profits to expose issues of animal cruelty. Without Farmwatch filming, these kinds of incidents go completely unnoticed, and unpunished. SAFE is concerned that there are likely many more animals suffering from direct abuse.
  • Investigations by MPI take far too long to proceed. The most recent conviction case was reported to MPI in September 2015.
  • Animal welfare is woefully underfunded and deprioritised by the current Government with far too few MPI inspectors (around twelve) to cover the geographically challenging locations of many of NZ’s farms. There should be more funding for enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Prosecutions only go so far and act as a minimal deterrent. More time, effort and funds need to be put into preventing cruelty to vulnerable animals in the first place.

SAFE says there is a clear conflict of interest when the same ministry is tasked with both promoting the interests of industry and at the same time, animal welfare. Therefore SAFE continues to call for a separate, independent animal welfare body.

“It is clear that real change is needed in MPI, and in the treatment of cows and calves by the dairy industry, to even come close to addressing these serious animal welfare issues,” says Ms. Carter.

“We also find that these prosecutions are often used to dodge the inherent cruelty in the dairy industry. Around two million calves are surplus to requirements and are killed at only a few days old every single year. Even when no laws are broken, these calves never even have a chance at life.”

SAFE encourages people to replace dairy products with plant-based drinks and food products, which are kinder to animals, the environment and better for human health.

 

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