SAFE dairy ad 'applies human emotions to animals'

Manawatu dairy farmer James Stewart: "What seems like a cruel practice is a reality of dairy farming. I'm sorry but ...

Manawatu dairy farmer James Stewart: "What seems like a cruel practice is a reality of dairy farming. I'm sorry but that's what we have to do."

An "anti-farming" animal rights charity is "applying human emotions on to animals" with their global anti-cruelty campaign, a dairy farmer says.

Federated Farmers Manawatu-Rangitikei president and dairy farmer James Stewart said he was disgusted by the recently released video of abuse to bobby calves, but said the practice of separating a calf from its mother, highlighted in the international ad, is simply the reality of dairy farming.

The Save Animals From Exploitation (SAFE) ad, which ran in British newspaper The Guardian's Saturday edition, said New Zealand dairy was "contaminated with cruelty". 

The SAFE ad that ran in the British Guardian newspaper.

The SAFE ad that ran in the British Guardian newspaper.

Below a picture of a glass of milk containing a bloodied calf, the ad read: "In New Zealand millions of newborn calves are taken from their mothers so that people can drink milk meant for them."

It pointed readers to their website where a recently released video of calves being horrifically abused could be viewed.

Animal rights ad on New Zealand dairy is 'emotional scaremongering'
UK ads shame 'cruel' dairying
'Murdering' farmer turns over new leaf
Farmers need to let cows be mothers

SAFE are a New Zealand-based animal rights charity. 

Prime Minister John Key sad the ad was "a form of economic sabotage."

"If you were to take an ad in New Zealand at least you could make the case you're trying to influence other law makers and the New Zealand public. To take an ad in an international paper - what end is that other than to try and stop consumers buying our products?" he said. 

Farmer Stewart said the industry needed to stamp out the abuse seen in the video, but defended the practice of removing calves from their mothers at birth as a global standard.

Ad Feedback

"It's mainly the male calves. Obviously on dairy farms it's the female calves you are mainly interested in, to breed as replacement calves. We have no need to rear bull calves," he said.

"What seems like a cruel practice is a reality of dairy farming. I'm sorry but that's what we have to do."

"[SAFE] are all about problems but there's no solutions. Their solution is stop farming animals. That's all well and good but it's not what the market wants."

"They're imposing their veganist views on us all."

SAFE head of campaigns Mandy Carter said the campaign was always going to have a mixed reaction, but that a public campaign was necessary for any movement from the Government.

"Some people really don't understand why we've done this, but there's been a largely positive reaction. We are sick and tired - and so are lots of New Zealanders - of the government not doing anything when we report animal cruelty to them."

"I totally understand that some people feel threatened by what we've done, but this isn't about individual farmers, this is about systemic cruelty within the industry."

Carter said SAFE reported the cruelty shown in the video several months ago but had not seen any action from them prior to the video's wider release.

The international ad would keep people talking about the issue.

"It needed something else. Every time we do an exposure there's an uproar at first and then slowly life goes back to normal."

Federated Farmers dairy head Andrew Hoggard agreed that the ad kept the issue in the headlines.

More could be done to stamp out cruelty, particularly an increase in government oversight around the small percentage of calves who went into pet food.

But he said he saw the international ad as selfish activism.

"They care about their causes so passionately that they don't focus at all on other damage that this may do, how it may hurt other people."

The ad ends a year when dairy farmers "had the crap beaten out of us" with low international prices and bad weather, he said.

"It feels like we've gone 12 rounds with Joseph Parker, to be honest."

"This sort of tops it off."


Kiwis deserved to know what was in their food so they could make a informed decision, SAFE's Carter said.

"We just want people to know. Until a week ago basically most Kiwis were under the impression that it was a lovely life for cows, you know, rolling green hills of sunshine. We wanted to show the other side - the animal's side."

Stewart agreed that consumers have a right to know how their food was produced, and that it was produced without cruelty, but caution was needed.

"You've got to be careful what you wish for. The pork industry would be a classic example. They got the regulations changed there and now most of the pork we eat in New Zealand is imported, and there's no control on how that is produced."

The majority were being condemned by the actions of a few, Hoggard said.

"No one likes to be with the worst person in your group. When you do that with one bad person in an ethnic group we call that racism."

But Hoggard didn't think the ad would have that huge of an effect.

"I've heard people say that the people who read The Guardian probably weren't eating meat anyway."

 - Stuff

Ad Feedback
special offers

Digital editions


View the latest editions of NZFarmer, NZDairyFarmer, AgTrader and our regional farming publications.

Ad Feedback