Two workers involved in calf abuse no longer employed
Two Waikato firms identified in footage showing abuse of newborn male calves have confirmed the workers involved are no longer employed.
In an investigation by Farmwatch and welfare organisation Safe (Save Animals From Exploitation), investigators used hidden cameras to record abuse of calves in the dairy industry.
The graphic footage shows bobby calves being thrown on to trucks and kicked and bludgeoned before they are clubbed to death at an abattoir.
Sheryl Cleaver, managing director of Te Kauwhata pet-food company Down Cow Ltd, confirmed the employee filmed abusing calves at the slaughterhouse was no longer with the company. Cleaver said the man, whom she declined to name, had been hired as a casual worker for the calving season and his contract, which began in July, ended in October.
Waitoa Haulage said in a statement that the staff member seen loading calves roughly in the footage had been sacked.
Down Cow's Cleaver said she was horrified when she saw the footage of her employee.
"The gentleman in the factory - we can't be supervising him 24 hours of the day and he was doing that without our knowledge. So when we were around, he was doing what he should be doing.
"He's no different than somebody stealing from an employer. He does it behind your back," Cleaver said.
"He's gone and if we had known back when this video had been taken, he would have been sacked immediately."
Cleaver said the procedure when killing calves at Down Cow, in Springhill Rd, is to shoot them in the head.
"I was sickened by what he did. We hired him because he had worked for someone we know. He was nice to our faces."
Cleaver said their company services 50-70 farms annually and the effects to the business won't be known until next calving season.
"We have received abusive messages as well as messages of support," Cleaver said.
Cleaver had yet to hear from the Ministry Primary Industries, but suspects her business will be shut down.
"If they put us out of business, I will have my life back," she said.
Cleaver is furious Safe and Farm Watch did not inform her immediately of what they had found.
"Had we known, we could have remedied the situation earlier than we had. I wish they had told us," Cleaver said.
"This stuff that went on TV our lawyer requested that we have coverage. This guy gave us three photos that were all of the guy that kicked the calf, is the calf dead? Because it looked dead. So when you looked at the photos you didn't know which way to say.
"Like if you go up to a calf and you think it's dead, you will kick it to make sure. That's what we were shown initially three photos and you have to come to a conclusion. Our lawyer asked for coverage and we got nothing. Then we were told on Saturday that it was going to TV anyway."
The footage taken in the winters of 2014/15 also show bobby calves being thrown on to a Waitoa Haulage truck. The business has no links to Down Cow.
In a statement, Waitoa Haulage said the company is saddened and disappointed by the footage.
"The Sunday programme has implied that we treat all calves in this manner and this is not our company policy or culture and that is why the casual employee concerned was dismissed partway through the 2015 bobby season.
"We have processes and training in place and our full-time drivers are experienced and empathetic stock handlers. However, we also employ a number of workers through bobby calf season on a casual basis," the statement read.
The company said its policy and practices are to adhere to industry animal welfare guidelines from collection of the calves, to transportation through to unloading at designated plants.
Safe executive director Hans Kriek said the footage was horrifying.
"Bobby calves are basically regarded as trash.
"They are literally left like rubbish, to be picked up at the side of the road. They are just waste products to the industry and are treated accordingly. These animals pay a heavy price for our insatiable appetite for dairy – and massive industry profit."
Farmwatch said its investigation uncovered multiple abuses, including calves born mid-winter with no shelter, calves killed by farmworkers thrown into piles, animals left in crates on the sides of roads in extreme weather, and a slaughterhouse worker violently kicking and hitting calves before bludgeoning them and slitting their throats.
These actions are unacceptable, said Ministry for Primary Industries spokesman Scott Gallacher.
"Anybody seeing this type of abuse would be appalled. We share that view," Gallacher said.
The footage was given to the ministry by Farmwatch on September 14 and the ministry is investigating after animal welfare officers watched it.
The ministry had to build a case before it could take any action.
The maximum penalty for wilful ill-treatment is five years in prison and a $100,000 fine for individuals, and a maximum fine of $500,000 for a company.
SAFE PROTESTS OUTSIDE FONTERRA
Animal rights activists staged a small protest outside Fonterra's central Hamilton offices on Wednesday, riding on the back of reports of the abuse.
Activist and Safe member Paul Judge said the point of the action was to continue the discussion around ill-treatment of animals within the industry.
"Our only drive is to raise awareness. We know we can't stop livestock farming, but we can raise people's awareness so there's a gradual change."
"There's something incredibly contradictory about talking about animal laws when they are in an industry designed to kill them," said protester Lynley Tulloch, who founded a bobby calf rescue programme.
Five people turned up to the protest and were asked by security to move on to the public footpath when they approached the Fonterra building's entrance, which they did. They were told to contact a Fonterra liaison officer, who did not immediately pick up his phone.
Fonterra was asked for comment on the protest, but instead referred to a statement on the company's website, which responds to the footage, first aired on TVNZ's Sunday programme.
"Fonterra has seen the footage of bobby calves being ill treated - any mistreatment of animals is completely unacceptable to Fonterra and our farmers," it reads.
"We're taking immediate steps to deal with it alongside the rest of the New Zealand dairy industry. We've requested a meeting with Safe, and will let them know that we share their concern for the treatment of animals, and to seek further information from them on the footage.
"We're in contact with representatives from the meat industry to discuss what we have seen in the footage to express to them our concerns around the treatment of bobby calves."
Judge said he was aware of the response from farmers and Fonterra.
"The main point the farmers say is it's a bunch of rogues in the industry. The fact is the whole process of factory farming is cruel."
Safe has no plans for further protests in the Waikato, Judge said.