Govt reviewing bobby calves killing rules

01:14, Feb 27 2014
Bobby calves
ANIMAL WELFARE REVIEW: Bobby calves on a New Zealand farm.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has moved to stop farmers bludgeoning unwanted bobby calves to death.

Guy announced today that the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC) had been asked to consider an amendment to animal welfare standards to prevent the use of blunt force to kill bobby calves on farms.

"New Zealand's animal welfare system is among the best in the world, but I believe the time has come to review the use of blunt force," he said.

"Industry groups do not recommend it as best practice for euthanising calves, and as a humane society we have a responsibility to look after animals and avoid unnecessary suffering."

He said most New Zealand farmers cared about their animals and did a good job of looking after them.

"While I don't believe this practice is widespread, I have real concerns about this and the potential damage it could do to our reputation," he said.

The method of killing unwanted male calves on farms came under the spotlight last month after New Zealand dairy company Manuka was investigated by Chilean authorities for alleged animal abuse in the slaughter of 6000 calves unable to be used in milk production.

Manuka directors replied that saughterhouse facilities were unavailable in Chile's developing dairying industry.

Public consultation by NAWAC will begin soon on the proposed amendment to the Animal Welfare (Dairy Cattle) Code of Welfare.

A final decision will be made mid-year.

Guy said part of the consultation would consider emergency cases where a farmer might discover a suffering animal in a remote location and only have access to limited equipment.

"The Animal Welfare Amendment Bill is currently before the select committee and will further strengthen the act," he said.

"It allows for the creation of enforceable regulations that will complement the minimum standards contained within New Zealand's 16 codes of welfare."

He said the Ministry for Primary Industries already took a tough line on animal cruelty and there had been major prosecutions the past two years.

The review of methods for dispatching bobby calves on farms has been supported by Federated Farmers and industry bodies DairyNZ and the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ).

Federated Farmers vice chairman Andrew Hoggard said the review must set in stone that blunt force was an emergency measure when there was no access to approved methods, and the time to get hold of one would only add to animal suffering.

"Frankly it is not a nice task and I am thankful that in over 18 years of farming, I have only ever had to use it once and that was when I was farming overseas," Hoggard said.

He said Guy was right to say most farmers looked after and cared about their animals.

"There is no way blunt force ought to be standard operating procedure and we welcome the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee considering an amendment along these lines."

DairyNZ's strategy and investment leader for sustainability Dr Rick Pridmore said DairyNZ supported the need for greater clarity in the code requirements.

"We are keen to work with the Government to ensure robust and practical codes," Pridmore said.

"We also want to work together to make sure the rules are understood by farmers. The aim is always to minimise unnecessary suffering. Farmers using any method must be suitably trained and skilled."

DCANZ executive director Kimberly Crewther said the review was timely and the dairy industry benefited from an evidence-based, animal welfare framework.