Workers dob in bosses for animal cruelty

At least six farmworkers have dobbed in their bosses for animal cruelty barely a month after the Animal Welfare Fund was started.

But none of them wants to be rewarded for it.

The fund was set up by animal rights group Save Animals From Exploitation (Safe) with $2 million of backing from Kathmandu founder and philanthropist Jan Cameron.

It is designed to act as a national watchdog for pig, chicken and battery hen farms. Rewards of up to $30,000 will be offered to farmworkers or insiders who expose animal cruelty leading to a successful prosecution or a significant animal welfare outcome.

Despite the fact advertising for the campaign would not start until the new year, Safe director Hans Kriek said the organisation had already received about six complaints from workers – all of whom were no longer employed on the farms they had dobbed in.

"It is mostly historical information," he said. "We have passed some of it on to MAF [Agriculture and Forestry Ministry] ... but because they are historic cases there is nothing that MAF can do.

"There was one or two cases where MAF already had information of those farms."

Mr Kriek said the incidents reported involved pig and dairy farms and the complaints were generally around neglect.

"Paddocks were in bad shape, there were stones and lame cows. There were high mortality rates amongst calves. Dying animals were being left to rot in paddocks.

"With the pig farms we had the usual complaints ... that the conditions were terrible and enclosures weren't cleaned out and the animals were standing a foot deep in their own muck."

Mr Kriek said none of the workers who reported the incidents were interested in the reward money, "they just wanted to share their stories".

A MAF spokesman said four complaints had been passed on to them – three relating to pig farms and one to a dairy farm.

He said there were no breaches of the Animal Welfare Act but the ministry was still working through some issues with one dairy farmer. All four farms would be kept on record and checked regularly.

New Zealand Pork chief executive Sam McIvor remains adamant the fund is not necessary, saying the industry has its own independent audit system which is designed to ensure animal welfare is being adhered to. In the last audit, 115 out of 123 pig farms passed.

"We believe serious and properly documented welfare issues need to be identified and remedied," he said.

"This is one of the reasons we've put our money where our mouth is and developed the independent audit process supported by labelling in the marketplace."

The Dominion Post