Waikato link to Chile animal abuse reports

ELTON SMALLMAN
Last updated 11:55 23/01/2014
Mojo Mathers
Kirk Hargreaves/Fairfax NZ
Mojo Mathers
Mark Townshend
Gerald Piddock/Fairfax NZ
Mark Townshend

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A Waikato director of a dairy company at the centre of animal abuse reports from South America says if someone has broken their rules, they'll be dealt with.

The Green Party yesterday called for urgent action after reports of animal cruelty on New Zealand dairy company Manuka-owned farms emerged from Chile.

The company is now under investigation after 6000 calves were culled from the herd with allegations that workers in the South American country were forced to starve the animals, cut their throats or beat them before they were buried in secluded pits.

Animal welfare spokesperson for the Green Party, Mojo Mathers, said the reports were highly concerning and owners should take immediate action.

"New Zealand relies heavily on our reputation for good animal welfare to sell our animal products," said Ms Mathers.

She said the country's reputation was at risk and called for company directors to ensure standards at their overseas operations met standards expected in New Zealand.

"The New Zealand owners of this company must act quickly and strongly to ensure that the animals they are responsible for are looked after to a decent standard," she said. "Our whole country's reputation is at stake when animal abuses occur on New Zealand owned overseas farms."

Manuka director, and Ngatea farmer, Mark Townshend said senior managers in Chile had conducted an internal investigation since the complaints surfaced in August last year and it had hurt the company's image.

"There is nothing good in it at all," he said.

"We've got very strict protocols in the way calves are euthanased. There's an accusation here that one of our managers - we've got 37 farms so we've got 37 managers - there's an accusation that one of the managers didn't carry out the process as per the protocol."

Manuka run 37 farms with 25,000 head of cattle and employs 340 staff in Chile and Mr Townshend said they were determined to get to the bottom of it.

"If one of our manager hasn't followed protocols for euthanasing animals, it is regrettable, and we will be taking whatever action we can to substantiating that."

Bobby calves are commonly culled from the herd to prevent them consuming milk destined for the shelves.

But Mr Townshend expected animal welfare, environmental and employee health concerns in Chile to meet the same standard as New Zealand.

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"If somebody has broken our rules then we've got to deal with that," he said.

Manuka prioritised the establishment of a bobby calf collection service and had been in talks with a New Zealand firm about expansion into South America, but Mr Townshend said that would take time to complete.

"We are hopeful that one of the processors here in New Zealand, we've been negotiating with them for a couple of years, we are hopeful they will be offering a bobby calf service within the next 12 months," he said.

Chilean three-term politician Fidel Espinoza asked the minister of labour to conduct an investigation into the slaughter and the psychological effects on Manuka workers.

elton.smallman@waikatotimes.co.nz

- Waikato

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