Revealed: Taxpayers cover animal welfare fines for Landcorp farmers
The New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is today calling on Landcorp to stop reimbursing farmers fined for animal welfare offences.
The Taxpayers’ Union requested correspondence pertaining to staff reimbursements of fines paid by Landcorp over the last three years. Landcorp provided information revealing the following:
• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting a cow that birthed a calf en route to slaughter on a moving truck.
• A $500 reimbursement for an animal welfare fine for transporting an angus bull which was tender on its forelimbs and sore in all four feet.
• Two $500 reimbursements for animal welfare fines for transporting a calf for slaughter which had contracted tendons in both forelimbs.
Taxpayers’ Union spokesperson Louis Houlbrooke says “A fine is imposed as punishment for breaking the law and should be duly paid by the infringing individual rather than law-abiding taxpayers. We wouldn’t expect a government entity – or a private company – to reimburse its staff for speeding tickets.”
“Paying the fines of farmers who are deemed to have broken the Animal Welfare Act disincentivises them to care for their animals properly. As our state farming entity, Landcorp should be setting the gold standard for the treatment and care of animals. Landcorp’s website asserts a commitment to ‘leading industry standards with exceptional animal care’ but it is hard to see how bailing out farmers for animal welfare offences supports that.”
“In one instance we discovered, a farm manager sought a waiver of fees after a cow gave birth to a calf on a moving truck en route to slaughter because there was ‘no intent’ for that outcome and only ‘one animal that was sent’ had this experience.”
“In another, a lame calf with contracted tendons was sent to the works unable to walk properly. Landcorp paid the fine because it considered the farm manager had delegated responsibility to a team who lacked the necessary education to know that sending lame animals for slaughter was not permissible. How is that not negligence?”
“We understand that on farms mistakes happen and animals sometimes suffer for it. But we fine farmers for mistakes and negligence so that they have a stinging financial reminder of their duty of care. Letting Landcorp farmers off scot-free isn’t fair on private sector farmers who work hard to maintain standards of care, and it’s certainly not fair on the animals.”
The Taxpayers’ Union enquired whether Landcorp had a general policy of reimbursing farmers when fined for animal welfare offences, and was told Landcorp assessed each fine on a ‘case by case basis’. Landcorp purportedly take account of whether there is ‘individual wrongdoing’ and ‘acceptable mitigating reasons’ in deciding whether a farmer should be reimbursed. However, Landcorp was unable to provide any correspondence surrounding fines for which it considered reimbursement but ultimately did not pay.