Increased reports concerning farm animal welfare

More people are reporting concerns about the welfare of farm animals, official data shows, particularly on lifestyle blocks.

The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) received 2947 complaints about farm animal welfare between 2010 and 2014 - with a high of 698 complaints last year.

Commercial farms accounted for 1852 of the complaints, while lifestyle blocks accounted for 785 complaints - who were overrepresented in the figures, according to MPI.

"Last year between MPI and the SPCA, we responded to almost 500 complaints involving lifestyle blocks," MPI compliance operations manager Gary Orr said.

Mr Orr believed many complaints came as a reult of poor knowledge in basic farming practices.

Just under 100 complaints nationwide resulted in prosecutions, with thousands more resulting in verbal advice, education letters, written warnings, and other "investigation outcomes".

MPI presently found about 27 per cent of complaints were unsubstantiated on inspection.

"With the increasing mobility of New Zealand's population in the pursuit of recreational activities, greater numbers of urban Kiwis are exploring the rural reaches of New Zealand," Mr Orr said.

"Unfortunately, a lot of these visitors apply their pet standards to production animals and they can be a little surprised to learn it is not illegal to allow sheep to give birth in the rain or a chicken farmer doesn't have to muster his free range chickens into the shed during a storm."

Federated Farmers Wairarapa president Jamie Falloon likewise expected some complaints were due to a lack of farming knowledge.

"A good case in point is farm dogs," he said. "People complain that they look skinny, but it's the difference between a fat dog and a dog which is at working weight.

"You can't expect a fat, unfit dog to do a whole day's work like a sheep dog does.

"In the heart of summer, they burn off a fair amount of energy so you've got to feed them appropriately but they're always going to be pretty lean."

Meanwhile, Federated Farmers Rotorua-Taupo president Alan Wills believed "very difficult circumstances" were generally behind proven cases of neglect.

"With compliance ramping up in all fields, not just animal welfare, but nutrients, effluents, health and safety, and farm employment records, there's a fair bit to get your head around," he said.

"In saying that, I'd like to think there's not too much in the way of ignorance going on."

The Government has just funded another six full time animal welfare inspectors, taking the total to 17 nationally.

Farm animal welfare complaints

Year Commercial farm Lifestyle Other Total

2010 432 149 24 607

2011 362 125 80 567

2012 280 119 52 451

2013 381 170 73 624

2014 395 222 81 698

Investigation outcomes

Year Under investigation Closed Other agency Verbal advice Education hand out Education letter Official warning Written warning Court order Prosecution Total

2010 0 281 49 179 32 66 7 6 2 3 625

2011 0 206 21 165 114 58 9 6 2 8 589

2012 0 167 43 130 89 37 5 33 4 26 534

2013 16 265 26 160 63 75 0 57 3 33 698

2014 30 280 30 202 41 61 0 81 2 28 755

-- Source: MPI

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