SAFE ad in UK paper 'irresponsible'

New Zealand's special agricultural trade envoy says a bid by animal activists to slate the country's dairy industry is "grossly irresponsible".

Animal welfare group SAFE placed a graphic advertisement to shame the industry in the Guardian newspaper at the weekend.

Under the caption "New Zealand dairy contaminated with cruelty" it showed a picture of a tall glass of milk swirling with calves, blood and milk, and asked readers: "Are you consuming New Zealand dairy cruelty?"

The print ad was part of a $10,000-plus advertising campaign which also includes two weeks of online advertising.

A recent investigation by Farmwatch and SAFE uncovered abuse in the dairy industry, including calves being left for hours in the sun, and being kicked and beaten by workers at a slaughterhouse before being killed.

Hidden camera footage was released along with the investigation findings.

Trade envoy Mike Peterson said the decision to run a smear campaign in the sensitive UK market was "grossly irresponsible"and misrepresented the truth.

"The thing that disappoints me the most is they are trying to take the actions of a few and portraying these actions as those of an industry and that's simply not correct," he said.

"I can assure you that farmers are serious every day when it comes to animal welfare and we have been badly let down by a few who should face serious consequences."

Mr Peterson said if SAFE were serious about animal welfare they should have been handed the shocking footage over to police and MPI within hours of obtaining it.

The action could have been taken immediately, he said.

While it was unlikely to cause any long term harm to New Zealand dairy industry it did have the potential to make a few consumers look twice at the products they were buying.

"I don't think it's going to cause lasting damage at all," he said.

"I think by and large consumers will see the industry for what it is which is a good performer in regards to animal welfare."

- By Lynley Bilby