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Survey exposes knowledge gap over the dark side of NZ dairy

14 November 2017

Survey exposes knowledge gap over the dark side of NZ dairy

A new survey has exposed how little awareness the general public has of dairy industry practices, with only half the NZ population aware that a cow needs to have a calf each year to produce milk.

To counteract this, SAFE has erected a giant, thought-provoking billboard in the Auckland CBD with a cow and her newborn calf pictured together with the message, ‘Their first and last day together’. The text goes on to explain that, ‘She was taken for milking. He was taken for slaughter’. The campaign is accompanied by a thought-provoking video.

In the October Horizon Research survey:

• 50% of people either thought it was false or did not know that a cow needs to give birth each year to produce milk.

• Over 80% of the public vastly underestimate the number of bobby calves killed per year.

• There is widespread condemnation of the killing of bobby calves soon after birth, with 60% of people feeling it is not acceptable.

• When asked how much trust and confidence they had in the dairy industry to ensure bobby calves are treated humanely, 47% were unconfident.

“What came through strongly in the research was how misinformed Kiwis are about the truth of dairy production, something that is certainly not being given to them by Fonterra’s advertising campaigns,” says campaigns director Mandy Carter.

It is standard practice for calves to be taken from their mothers soon after birth so that their mothers’ milk can be sold. While some calves are transitioned into use for dairy and some to grow for beef or veal, vast numbers of these babies are killed at approximately 4 days old. Slaughter statistics show up to a reported two million calves are killed annually in New Zealand as an unwanted by-product of the dairy industry. Dairy sources suggest up to a million calves could be killed on farms as well.

“The grim reality of the dairy industry is that cows must repeatedly be made pregnant to keep producing milk, with many of their babies disposed of as an inconvenient waste product,” says Ms Carter.

Over the last two years, there has been widespread public outrage at the brutal treatment of bobby calves exposed during investigations, with the issue attracting attention globally.

“Our investigations have shone the light on animal suffering within the NZ dairy industry. The industry has been in damage control mode ever since; pouring money into blanketing media channels,” added Ms Carter. “We are showing the stark truth: that there is cruelty in every glass of milk.”

“Despite regulations imposed this year touted as helping to prevent suffering of bobby calves, these vulnerable young animals will continue to go for slaughter. No matter what regulations are put in place, the suffering from separating cows from their babies will continue; those babies ending up dead,” says Ms Carter

“Sadly, there is no such thing as cruelty-free cow’s milk. We’d encourage caring Kiwis to try plant-based milks,” added Ms Carter.

SAFE urges people to make the compassionate choice by choosing dairy-free. A dairy-free pledge is available on their website.

High res photos of the billboard

Footage of the billboard and Auckland CBD.

Social media video including on-street interviews.

Footage of calves being taken from cows.

Horizon Research ‘Calves and the dairy industry’ Oct 2017

Four questions were asked:

1. Calves in dairying

• The question of whether cows in the dairy industry need to give birth to a calf each year if they are to produce milk indicated that many New Zealanders do not have a good understanding of the basics of the dairy industry.

• 50% of respondents either were unsure or didn’t think that it was true that cows in the dairy industry needed to give birth to a calf each year if they are to produce milk.

2. ‘Bobby’ calf volumes

• To test their knowledge, respondents were asked how many bobby calves they thought were killed in New Zealand each year. 8% of respondents chose the correct “2 million” answer. Most underestimated the volume, suggesting that they may not have a good understanding of the scale of dairying.

• 82% overall thought that a million or fewer were killed each year with 58% thinking there were 750,000 or less.

3. Acceptability of ‘bobby’ calf kill

• Respondents were asked if they thought it was acceptable for the dairy industry to kill the unwanted bobby calves soon after birth.

• In large cities a majority of respondents (68%) felt that this was not acceptable. 58% of respondents in provincial cities and 52% in provincial areas without cities felt that it is acceptable to kill bobby calves.

4. Trust and confidence in ‘bobby’ calf management

• Respondents were asked how much trust and confidence they had in the dairy industry to ensure 'bobby' calves were treated humanely.

• 29% were either ‘mostly unconfident’ or ‘totally unconfident’ in the dairy industry to ensure bobby calves are treated humanely. 18% were somewhat unconfident; 19% were somewhat confident; 13% were mostly confident and 6% were totally confident in the dairy industry to ensure bobby calves are treated humanely.

Some respondents said there was a lack of knowledge given in the survey about alternatives to bobby calf slaughter.

The Horizon report summarises the results of several online surveys completed by 1,033 members of Horizon Research’s national panels between 9 and 15 October 2017. The sample represents the adult population at the 2013 census and, at a 95% confidence level, the maximum margin of error is of ±3.1% overall.

Footage of SAFE and Farmwatch’s investigations in 2016 and 2015 show the treatment of bobby calves on NZ farms, during transport and at a slaughterhouse.

High res photos of dairy cows and bobby calves.

Numbers of cows and calves in NZ:

• Approximately seven million dairy cows, with about five million being milked at any one time.

• Up to two million bobby calves are slaughtered at around four days old. Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) statistics from Oct 2016 to Sept 2017 season totalled 1,656,618. Source: MPI livestock slaughter statistics.

• The remainder of calves will be raised for veal or beef.

• MPI does not keep figures on what proportion of these calves go to slaughterhouses and how many are killed on farms.

More information on the dairy industry.


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