The Ministry for Primary Industries is being accused of being too lenient with farmers committing animal abuse.
In the past three years, 140 cases of animal cruelty or neglect were confirmed, official figures show. However, only 47 led to a prosecution and most people received a warning.
Animal rights group SAFE says this is not good enough, as animals need to be protected from needless suffering.
Executive director Hans Kriek says the figures come as no surprise, since the ministry's main purpose is to to protect farmers, not animals.
Federated Farmers says education is the key to reducing animal suffering, not more prosecution.
The majority of complaints related to beef and dairy farms.