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New bobby calves regulations good but could go further

Friday, 10 June, 2016

Gore farmer Bridget Lowry, who last year defended farmers' treatment of calves, with her white galloway calf Suzie

New animal welfare regulations announced today by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) contain some good initiatives but do not go far enough to protect ‘bobby calves’, according to SPCA New Zealand.

“SPCA NZ is pleased MPI has implemented some of the changes we have advocated, but we believe that MPI has missed an opportunity to go further to protect the interests of these vulnerable animals,” says Ric Odom, CEO of SPCA NZ.

“We applaud MPI for banning transportation of bobby calves across Cook Strait, requiring bobby calves to be able to walk on and off transport trucks under their own power, and ensuring shelter to protect bobby calves ‘from adverse weather, including extremes of heat and cold’. These are excellent initiatives that will do much to improve the welfare of bobby calves.

“However, we are disappointed that MPI hasn’t increased the age at which bobby calves can be transported. As we argued in our submission during the regulations consultation phase, the SPCA strongly believes bobby calves should be at least 10 days old before being transported.

“We also believe that bobby calves should be slaughtered within eight hours of being fed, not 24 hours as stipulated by the MPI regulations. Bobby calves are neonatal animals that require regular feeds just like any other very young animal. Going without food for 24 hours, of which up to 12 hours may include being transported, may put bobby calves under unnecessary distress.

“Aside from these areas of contention, the SPCA is generally supportive of MPI’s efforts to improve the welfare of animals through the creation of regulations and we are pleased that some of our recommendations on methods to improve the welfare of bobby calves have been taken on board.”

In essence, the new MPI regulations require that bobby calves:

  1. Must be at least four days old before being transported for sale or slaughter.
  2. Must not be transported for more than 12 hours.
  3. May not be killed by the use of blunt force trauma.
  4. May not be transported by sea across Cook Strait.
  5. Must be able to walk safely on and off transportation.
  6. Must have access to clean, dry, ventilated shelter.
  7. Must be fed at least once in the 24 hours prior to slaughter.