The New Zealand Animal Law Association has filed criminal charges against a rodeo cowboy for using an electric shocker on calves and cattle at Northland rodeo events.

The case stands on the fact it is illegal to use electric prodders on calves, however video footage clearly shows the man doing so at the Mid Northern Rodeo in 2017.

The events were investigated last year by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

The association said the investigator confirmed that criminal offences had been committed and recommended a prosecution. However, MPI eventually decided not to prosecute and issued a warning to the defendant.

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"This private prosecution is against an individual breaching rodeo's own rules," the association said in a statement.

"The investigation showed that the defendant was the only person using an electric shocker at the events. He was asked several times to stop by other rodeo cowboys who saw him shocking the calves unnecessarily."

The association said it believed disciplinary action should have been taken by the Rodeo Cowboys Association and that one of the purposes behind filing the prosecution was to have the defendant banned from taking part in future rodeo events.

SAFE's head of campaigns, Marianne Macdonald, said it should be up to MPI to take animal abusers to court and applauded the association for taking the case.

"We fully support the private prosecution of these people who think it's okay to abuse animals for fun. It's another example of MPI failing in its job to protect animals in rodeos. Where MPI fails, other organisations are stepping up."