Friday, 04 December 2015 06:01

Bobby calf footage shocks NZ dairy

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THE New Zealand dairy industry is grappling with an animal welfare crisis after footage was released of cruelty against bobby calves.

The practices revealed in the video by an animal rights group have appalled the country’s dairy industry bodies.

Both DairyNZ and Federated Farmers have spoken out against the practices – but say 95% of farmers are compliant with animal welfare codes.

The practices were revealed in video footage recorded by animal rights group Farmwatch and released as part of a SAFE public campaign launched against dairy farming.

DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle said cruel and illegal practices were in no way condoned or accepted by the industry as part of dairy farming.

"We are shocked and farmers are too," said Mr Mackle. "We will be asking questions of everyone involved. Farmers don't see what goes on when calves leave their farm and we need to be holding the transport operators and processing plants to account to ensure bad practices get stamped out of our industry.

"Our surveys show that 95% of farmers are compliant with all animal welfare codes and they take great care of their animals including calves.

“We obviously want to see that even higher because the dairy industry takes its animal welfare responsibilities seriously and we are committed to farming to high standards.

“There are range of industry initiatives already in place and we will be boosting our actions with other groups to ensure the care of calves."

NZ’s Federated Farmers' dairy section chair, Andrew Hoggard said "farmers have to farm within strict animal welfare rules and the vast majority care for their animals humanely and responsibly".

He says the footage released by SAFE and Farmwatch includes some appalling behaviour, by a minority of farmers but also by transport companies and slaughterhouse workers.

"This is something we and the industry will not tolerate,” Mr Hoggard said. Federated Farmers each season strongly reinforces to its members that the highest standards of animal welfare must apply when dealing with all calves.

“The federation will also put resources behind any industry initiatives to review the handling, transport and processing of bobby calves,” he said.

Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand executive director Kimberly Crewther said that compliance with the New Zealand codes of welfare is important to dairy companies.

"These codes are internationally recognised as robust. Where there are breaches we fully support and expect Ministry for Primary Industries' compliance action," she said.

The NZ Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is investigating the alleged mistreatment.

ADF swift to respond

Austrina Dairy Farmers  was quick to respond to the NZ media reports issuing a statement on December 1 to reassure the sector and dairy consumers:

“The Australian dairy industry has been shocked by the cruelty shown in the footage. Any mistreatment of animals, including this cruel behaviour, is completely unacceptable.

Australian Dairy Farmers (ADF) and its farmer members take their responsibilities for animal welfare seriously and are committed to continuous improvement in their animal husbandry practices. All animals, including calves must be treated with care.

This footage in no way represents reality for the majority of people in the Australian dairy industry responsible for calves and cows.

We want to reassure our customers and consumers to know we are actively engaging with farmers, manufacturers and transporters to ensure such practices do not happen on Australian dairy farms.

The Australian dairy industry supports the draft Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle as well as the Land Transport Standards and Guidelines.

These were developed in partnership with the animal welfare groups and government, and provide industry with clear animal health and welfare standards.

The dairy industry expects that all persons managing livestock abide by these standards and is committed to working with farmers to ensure best practice is observed on farm.

ADF, in collaboration with Dairy Australia, and other industry partners continues to work closely with transporters and the meat industry to ensure our cows and calves are well looked after. We also continue to work with industry, government and animal welfare groups such as the RSPCA to ensure the wellbeing of our herds in all farming systems.”

Dairy Australia’s guidelines in relation to the welfare of bobby calves can be found at
www.dairyaustralia.com.au/Animal-management/Animal-welfare/Bobby-calves.aspx 

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