'New Zealand dairy cruelty' claims target UK consumer in Guardian ad campaign

SAFE executive director Hans Kriek says the government is slow to act when animal cruelty is exposed.
KIRK HARGREAVES / FAIRFAX NZ

SAFE executive director Hans Kriek says the government is slow to act when animal cruelty is exposed.

A global ad campaign to out animal cruelty on New Zealand farms has been called an attack on the country's dairy-based economy.

Animal welfare group SAFE has run a graphic ad in British paper The Guardian shaming New Zealand's dairy industry for its treatment of calves.

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The advertisement ran in the Saturday edition of the paper under the header "New Zealand dairy contaminated with cruelty" and was part of a $10,000-plus advertising campaign that included the one-off print ad and two weeks of online advertising.

SAFE executive director Hans Kriek said the group "learned from the past" that the Government and farming industry were slow to act when animal cruelty was exposed.

"I think we've made the point that we can reach an international audience, that we can get people concerned enough to speak out...and I'm sure the international markets will have something to say about this as well."

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The ad ran in The Guardian newspaper in the UK, drawing an angry response from Federated Farmers.

However, Federated Farmers dairy industry chair Andrew Hoggard said the group was "targeting the New Zealand economy".

Information in the ad claiming New Zealand farmers took baby calves away from their mothers, reflected standard global practise..

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"That happens in every single dairy industry, everywhere in the world.."

A recent investigation by Farmwatch and SAFE uncovered abuse in the dairy industry, including calves born mid-winter with no shelter, and a slaughterhouse worker violently kicking and hitting calves before bludgeoning them and slitting their throats.

Hoggard said the video had disgusted the industry and it was working to stamp out the behaviour of a minority who are "basically thick and don't get it".

"I'm pretty bloody disappointed that they're going to tarnish an industry and putting the eleven and a half thousand families'...livelihoods at risk."

Kriek said there would be no further advertisement in the campaign. The group now hoped to sit down with the industry to come up with solutions.

"Obviously now they realise their international reputation could be damaged there's a lot of willingness to make improvements."

He said SAFE might be seen as disloyal to New Zealand, but "we obviously don't have the ability to destroy the New Zealand dairy industry".

"The reality is that this is the best wake-up call that we can give the industry and the Government that they need to take their animal welfare more seriously."

Dairy NZ chief executive Tim Mackle said the ad campaign was "a sign of bad faith".

"We're extremely disappointed SAFE have chosen to advertise internationally – it's totally unnecessary." 

 

Action had been taken in response to the animal cruelty footage but SAFE had still gone ahead with "alarmist adverts".

 

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said the ad was "very disappointing"  but he didn't believe it would damage the industry's reputation.

"Most people are fair minded and know this is not how the overwhelming majority of New Zealand farmers and operators behave."

He said the government put $10m in new funding and passed the Animal Welfare Amendment Bill "to improve compliance and enforcement".

"Last year we also banned the use of blunt force trauma on bobby calves."

Dairy dramas

This is not the first time Kiwi dairy has grappled with with bad publicity abroad

* In 2014 Fonterra was fined $300,000 for an incident, which saw milk-products pulled off shelves when it emerged they were potentially contaminated with Botulism. 

Fonterra was late in notifying the correct authorities and it caused an international scare, particularly in China. Further testing showed that the risk of botulism never existed.

* In 2008 Fonterra's partner in China, the Sanlu dairy processing company, was at the centre of a baby milk melamine poisoning scandal. Six babies died, hundreds more suffered kidney problems. Sanlu went bankrupt. 

 - Stuff

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