After disturbing footage of animal abuse on a Northland dairy farm was released yesterday, SAFE and Farmwatch are pointing to the numerous and severe failings of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). They are demanding that MPI be stripped of its animal welfare responsibilities and an independent Animal Welfare Ministry be set up.
“The Ministry needs to explain why they failed to act when they had specific information, a year ago, about abuse taking place,” says SAFE spokesperson Hans Kriek. “Instead they allowed this farmer to continue beating his cows.”
Since Newsroom broke the story, both SAFE and Farmwatch have received messages from whistle-blowers, detailing new cases of cruelty being inflicted on dairy cows.
“Some of the incidents described are even more brutal than the beatings exposed at the Northland farm. Animal abuse appears to be significantly more common than many farmers are willing to admit,” says Kriek. “There is also a culture of silence in many rural communities, with people scared to report cruelty they’ve witnessed for fear of reprisals.”
“The system is broken. MPI is tasked with monitoring animal welfare, but this strongly conflicts with its role of promoting the animal agriculture industry. A fox can’t guard the hen house. MPI has shown repeatedly that they cannot be trusted to uncover animal abuse or even enforce the law.
“Both SAFE and Farmwatch direct people to MPI to report cases where farmed animals are in danger. However, the fact that witnesses are coming back to us, even after making official complaints to MPI, tells a damning story. Either MPI is refusing to take any action to follow up on complaints or doing a half-hearted farm visit that doesn’t lead anywhere,”
“For the last five years, Farmwatch and SAFE have been doing the job that MPI hasn’t – investigating conditions on New Zealand farms. When we exposed the abuse of bobby calves in 2015, MPI acted as if it was a complete surprise. However, a leaked internal report the following year showed that the Ministry was fully aware of what was going on in the dairy industry.”
Yesterday the Associate Minister of Agriculture, Meka Whaitiri, released her framework for action on animal welfare in New Zealand.
Kriek says “dialogue is welcomed with Minister Whaitiri, however animals are suffering now, and need action now.”
SAFE is calling for a fully resourced, independent Ministry for Animal Welfare and for CCTV cameras to be placed in all dairy sheds and slaughterhouses.
Concerned people are encouraged to visit SAFE’s website safe.org.nz to take action.