Green Party MP Mojo Mathers has hit out at the Ministry for Primary Industries as footage of calves in New Zealand being severely mistreated on a farm and in a slaughterhouse makes global headlines.

News sites in Australia, Europe and China today reported on what they said was "the latest controversy to hit New Zealand's dairy industry".

TV One's Sunday programme aired the footage of days-old calves being kicked, thrown and bashed prior to their slaughter on its show, as part of extensive video given to the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) by the animal welfare group Farmwatch on September 14.

"I am hearing from people who are reporting animal abuse and laying complaints with MPI who say that they feel disillusioned with the process - they feel that MPI is reluctant to prosecute, even with compelling evidence," said animal welfare spokesperson Mojo Mathers.

MPI said animal welfare officers had immediately begun an investigation, however industry commentators said the damage to New Zealand's international reputation could be severe.

"This scandal has the potential to be highly damaging to our meat and milk industries if the Minister and MPI do not take urgent and comprehensive action to fully enforce New Zealand's animal welfare standards and ensure that all farmers, transport and meat processing companies comply," said Mathers.

"Footage like this can go viral very quickly and the Government can't do anything about it, so it is critical that Nathan Guy ensures that MPI is doing everything it can to stop the abuse happening in the first place," she said.

As supermarket shoppers became increasingly conscious of where their food was coming from and how it was produced, Mathers said the footage could be damaging not just for the country's dairy and meat industries but also for it's reputation in general.

"The kind of animal abuse shown on Sunday undermines our supposedly clean, green '100% pure' New Zealand brand just as polluted rivers do," Mathers said.

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"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."

An article in the Irish Farmers Journal headlined "Harrowing footage of animal cruelty in NZ", described the case which included animal welfare groups SAFE and Farmwatch setting up hidden cameras across 12 farms and one slaughterhouse.

An article of Xinhua Net, China's official news site, said the animal abuse was the latest in a series of concerning issues for New Zealand's dairy industry. Environmental campaigners were questioning the industry's huge demand for palm kernel extract as well as the deterioration of water quality being blamed on the industry, it said.