The Ministry of Primary Industries has no plans to strengthen legislation that allows surveillance cameras to be installed on farms in a bid to expose animal abuse.
Animal advocates SAFE and Farmwatch are demanding the government ministry be stripped of its animal welfare responsibilities and an independent animal welfare ministry be set up instead.
They are also calling on the government to strengthen the Search and Surveillance Act so that cameras can be placed in all dairy sheds and slaughterhouses.
The call followed the release of video footage that shows a sharemilker in Mangapai, 19km south of Whangārei, violently and repeatedly hitting cows. The animals are seen being hit on the head and legs with farm tools and weapons, including a steel pipe.
MPI is re-investigating the matter after an earlier inquiry was dropped because of a lack of evidence.
MPI investigators and a veterinarian were back at the Mangapai farm yesterday
to examine the animals, none of which had been removed.
"MPI will continue to monitor the farm as long as we deem necessary. Investigators have spoken to the worker concerned. He does not have a manager. He is a sharemilker. We have spoken with the farm owner," MPI manager of compliance investigations Gary Orr said.
The unidentified farm owners issued a statement through Dairy NZ, saying as life long and committed dairy farmers they were shocked and deeply saddened by the video footage.
As of yesterday, the contract sharemilker had been removed from all duties requiring unsupervised contact with stock.
MPI can only install cameras under the Search and Surveillance Act if offences under the Animal Welfare Act carry a penalty of more than seven years imprisonment rather than the current five years.
Orr said there were no plans to change both Acts as that would require a significant amount of consideration and consultation.
"It is wrong to suggest that effective animal welfare surveillance can only be achieved through hidden cameras. MPI receives information about animal welfare through a number of channels. Members of the public are a key source of information about animal welfare breaches. In this, MPI is no different to any enforcement agency around the world.''
When MPI received animal welfare complaints, he said they were followed up, assessed and resulted in action being taken. Virtually all complaints received by MPI are followed up with an inspection of the farm and the animals concerned.
"MPI supplement this with proactive visits to farms through a programme called On Farm Audit Programme. The programme covers 1200 farms annually and including a minimum of 300 dairy farms."
Federated Farmers Northland dairy chair Ashley Cullen said the treatment of cows as seen in the video footage was "disgusting" and that there was no excuse for ill treating animals.