Beef cross dairy calves

Authorities in New Zealand are investigating alleged “violent abuse” of bobby calves captured on film by animal welfare activists.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has confirmed an investigation is under way into hidden camera footage of bobby calves being kicked, thrown and beaten on-farm and in a slaughterhouse in New Zealand.

Safe, one of the groups behind the video, described the behaviour as “inherent cruelty and deliberate, violent abuse of helpless baby calves”. 

The footage, collated by Safe and Farmwatch, featured in an exposé broadcast on TVNZ on 29 November.

In a statement, MPI said Safe and Farmwatch handed it “extensive footage” in mid-September, at which point an investigation into the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves “immediately commenced”.

See also: Animal rights anti-shearing campaign causes outrage

MPI said it intends to “build a robust case” before any action is taken.

Those convicted of “wilful ill-treatment” face a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to NZD100,000 (£43,700) for individuals and NZD500,000 (£218,500) for companies.

Kicking, hitting and throwing

Edited on-farm footage posted on YouTube by Safe shows calves being thrown in the back of trucks and left in crates on the side of the road. Dead calves are also shown left in piles by farm gates.

Later in the video, a slaughterhouse worker is caught throwing, kicking and hitting calves.

Farmwatch and Safe have since called on consumers worldwide to boycott New Zealand dairy.

‘Completely unacceptable’

Condemning the footage, Fonterra – New Zealand’s largest dairy co-operative – said “mistreatment of animals is completely unacceptable”.

“While bobby calves will always be part of the dairy industry, they must be treated with care and respect,” it said.

“Behaviour in this footage in no way represents the vast majority of New Zealand farmers, who care about their animals.”

See also: RSPCA could lose powers to prosecute farm animal cruelty cases

Fonterra added it is “taking immediate steps” to deal with the issue.

“As a co-operative we take a hard-line on animal welfare. We’re investigating this and will be taking strong action if any of our people were involved,” it said.

Federated Farmers, which represents the interests of New Zealand farmers, meanwhile branded the footage “appalling”.

It said, however, that the behaviour filmed was that of a “minority of farmers”.

Online reaction to the footage has been mixed, with some writing of their disgust and others scrutinising the approach taken by Safe and Farmwatch.