21 Jun 2016

Ex-GM questions bobby calf prosecution

4:38 pm on 21 June 2016

A woman whose pet food plant has been shut down says the Ministry for Primary Industries targeted it solely because its facilities featured on television.

Bobby calf

Bobby calf (file photo) Photo: RNZ / Cosmo Kentish-Barnes

Down Cow Ltd in Te Kauwhata was secretly filmed by animal welfare groups SAFE and Farmwatch.

The footage, which also featured 12 Waikato dairy farms, showed bobby calves being left in roadside crates, thrown onto trucks and abused.

The plant was later served a legal notice by the ministry and one worker, Noel Piraka Erickson, pleaded guilty in the Huntly District Court this month to 10 charges of cruelty or ill treatment of an animal in relation to the case.

The Te Kauwhata-based company closed last month.

The plant's former general manager, Sheryl Cleaver, said there was only one reason for the ministry's involvement.

"Because we were observed on TV, and that's basically it. People were here illegally and they took footage of it and that's how they're basing all their decisions.

"We can sit there and fight it in court but unfortunately their budget for lawyers etc is never ending - we just don't think it's worth it."

She said it was a politically motivated move, and was not based on any objective measure.

"If everybody had their places videoed, or had done [to them] what happened to us, I don't think we'd be the only ones in this position."

Ms Cleaver said ease of access to the plant, just off the highway, was the reason the plant was targeted by the activists rather than anything specific the plant had done.

It was not just the pet food industry that faced these problems, she suggested.

"Human consumption meatworks, you can't get in them, so you'd probably find lots of things going on there that are not right as well.

The ministry said the move came after the plant failed an audit and failed to respond to concerns raised by officials.

It said Down Cow had every opportunity to ensure they met requirements but had chosen to close down the business instead.

Down Cow will be in the Huntly District Court next month facing charges in relation to animal welfare, and there are more cases pending.

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