Crafar to defend cruelty claims

BY MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 07/06/2010

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Dairy farmer Alan Crafar is confident an investigation into animal cruelty on his properties will come to nothing.

He told The Dominion Post that, if charges were laid after the investigation winds up later this month, he would fight them and represent himself.

"I could get a hundred witnesses telling you the last thing we want is animal cruelty on our farms. We live and die for cows," he said.

The Agriculture and Forestry Ministry sent animal welfare officers to 22 Crafar dairy farms last October after a video was posted on YouTube showing dehydrated bobby calves starving on a Benneydale farm between Tokoroa and Te Kuiti.

A ministry spokeswoman said the investigation had included three farms – two at Benneydale and one at Taharua in Hawke's Bay. Investigations were expected to be completed at the end of the month and it was too early to comment on criminal liability, the spokeswoman said.

"Given the complexity of some of the alleged breaches and the co-operation needed to gather and investigate evidence, it does take time," she said.

The farms concerned are among the group of 16 in receivership and sold to a Chinese firm pending approval by the Overseas Investment Office.

The spokeswoman said animal welfare charges could be laid against individuals or companies.

It is understood the ministry was made aware of allegations of animal cruelty on the Taharua farm in late 2007 when information was passed on by Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

Council staff found letters from a former staff member alleging 27 cows starved to death.

Mr Crafar said he was not responsible for any animal cruelty on his farms and would defend any charges.

He said the video footage of starving bobby calves at Benneydale had been filmed by a disgruntled woman who poisoned the calves after he refused to supply her with free milk.

He said the ministry had not spoken to him about the investigation and he dismissed the Taharua allegations as being made by a disgruntled staff member. "People tell porkies sometimes."

Farms belonging to Mr Crafar had been inspected for animal neglect 35 times in the past six years.

In 2006 Mr Crafar entered a guilty plea for his Hawke's Bay farm Te Pohue Ltd, on 49 charges of animal neglect. The company was fined $10,550.

"I was advised to plead guilty there. It goes against the grain to plead guilty, but I did in that case," he said.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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