SAFE won't rule out more international ads video

Henry Cooke/Fairfax NZ

SAFE protest the length of time it takes MPI to address animal cruelty complaints.

The animal rights group that placed an ad condemning New Zealand's dairy industry in The Guardian are not ruling out further ads if the Government don't act.

At a protest in front of the Ministry of Primary Industries building in Wellington on Friday, SAFE (Save Animals From Exploitation) called for an independent body to be set up to deal with animal welfare.

About forty protesters showed up in the wind and rain with matching placards, eliciting many toots from passing drivers.

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The SAFE ad that ran in the British Guardian newspaper.
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The SAFE ad that ran in the British Guardian newspaper.

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The group allege that the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) underfund animal welfare and are too in bed with the dairy industry to toughen standards.

"We see a real conflict of interest. Of course MPI is tasked with promoting the industry - but also tasked with protecting animal welfare," SAFE head of campaigns Mandy Carter said.

"The animals need someone looking out for them and not just the bottom line."

Safe campaigns officer Shanti Ahluwalia said the animal welfare enforcement division of MPI was drastically underfunded.

SAFE protesters outside the Ministry of Primary Industries building in Wellington.
HENRY COOKE/FAIRFAX NZ

SAFE protesters outside the Ministry of Primary Industries building in Wellington.

"Currently only $7 million dollars - that's a third of the flag referendum - is allocated to animals every year," he said.

"Every year we get $20 billion dollars from animals. [...] That means they only get 0.03 percent of the money they are bringing in."

Animal welfare education and enforcement was boosted to this level in the last budget.

SAFE and FarmWatch secretly filmed bobby calves being abused at farms earlier this year. 

Bobby (male) calves are routinely slaughtered as they are off little use to dairy farmers, but the video showed them being kicked and illegally bludgeoned to death.

The organisation supplied the footage to MPI on 14 September and, when they hadn't heard about any progress, supplied it to media in late November.

They followed the media release with an ad condemning the NZ dairy industry in UK newspaper The Guardian.

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"What are our was with that was for the Government and industry to realise we are serious this time. We're hoping that we've done enough to force them to take action," Carter said.

An MPI spokesperson said they began an investigation immediately after receiving the footage.

"Anybody seeing this type of abuse would be appalled. We share that view. MPI is making significant progress with the investigation, however no further comment is appropriate at this time," they said in a statement.

"SAFE supplied some footage to MPI on 14 September. MPI immediately commenced an investigation. MPI did not receive all the footage aired on the Sunday programme at that time. We believe some of the footage appears to have been filmed well before it was supplied to MPI. We find this disappointing and not in the animals' best interests."

MPI argued that the penalties for animal abuse are very tough.

"The maximum penalty for wilful ill-treatment is 5 years in prison and $100,000 for individuals, and a maximum of $500,000 for a company."

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said animal welfare was best dealt with by MPI, not a seperate agency.

"MPI's roles of growing exports and protecting animal welfare are closely intertwined, because our reputation is so important to markets," he said.

"Having these roles in one place means we have expertise and skills under one roof, rather than have many different departments operating in silos. 

"Combining these resources means MPI has more capacity as the number of warranted compliance officers has increased. For example, fisheries officers are multi-warranted and can deal with animal welfare cases.

"Last year the global charity World Animal Protection ranked New Zealand first equal, out of 50 countries, for our animal welfare regulatory system. That carries more weight than the disappointing actions of a few cowboys."

 - Stuff

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