New Zealand needs to act quickly to tighten up on the way it deals with bobby calves to prevent potentially serious damages to its international reputation for dairy and meat products, say industry commentators.
The call comes after TV One's Sunday programme showed disturbing footage of animals being severely mistreated on a farm and in a slaughterhouse - something it said was not just a one-off incident.
Federated Farmers director and Dairy Industry Group chairman Andrew Hoggard said the footage was "not how that process occurs", adding that the actions of a few could have considerably damaging consequences for the entire industry.
"The reaction so far has been from fellow farmers and they are all disgusted by the footage," Hoggard said. "The disgust was mainly around how the calves were treated but also that these cowboys can potentially put the rest of our livelihoods at risk through their poor actions and callous treatment."
The Green Party released a statement this morning reiterating Hoggard's comments and calling on the Ministry for Primary Industries to take action to ensure New Zealand's dairy reputation was not tarnished.
"Nathan Guy needs to urgently look into how his ministry is enforcing animal welfare standards, how these appalling incidents happened under its watch and what it's going to do prevent similar incidents happening again in the future," said Green Party animal welfare spokesperson Mojo Mathers.
"Dairying is one of the most important industries for New Zealand's economy - New Zealanders trust MPI to make sure our animals are treated humanely and our international reputation is protected," she said.
"The footage is going to be beamed around the world. Calves being torn from their mothers, left in the hot sun for hours and being bludgeoned to death - is that what we really want New Zealand to be known for."
What we have here is a little pet food operation and it's not really controlled by the same rules, so you don't have that same MPI oversight and obviously that's the first thing we need.
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Mathers said MPI and Nathan Guy needed to appoint an independent body to oversee animal welfare, saying the current system wasn't working.
The latest calls for a boycott of the dairy industry and concerns over the treatment of bobby calves follows an increasing number in recent years, with an investigation into a New Zealand dairy company based in Chile last year after reports of inhumane slaughter of bobby calves.
Similar concerns have been echoed in Britain through the Daily Mail and Australia through ABC and the Sydney Morning Herald among others.
Hoggard said changes needed to be made to ensure the most humane process was followed.
"What we have here is a little pet food operation and it's not really controlled by the same rules, so you don't have that same MPI oversight and obviously that's the first thing we need," Hoggard said.
"Whilst there's no risk to human health there is a perception risk to the entire New Zealand livestock industry by them acting like that. We need to maybe tighten up on the wording on a few things and make it more explicit around how that care is supposed to be so there is no room for ambiguity."
According to Mathers, it was on MPI and Nathan Guy to look into the matter immediately.
"People around the world who we rely on to buy our milk and meat are going to be revolted by the way we treat our animals in New Zealand," she said. "Nathan Guy needs to urgently look into why the system he's in charge of isn't working to protect animals and to protect our international reputation."
Anti-dairy groups and animal welfare organisations are calling for a boycott on dairy products, saying there are enough alternatives to dairy to allow people to be dairy-free or even vegan.