New animal welfare regulations come into effect on 9 May. These will affect many common procedures carried out on farms, such as tall docking and treatment of bearings.
Richard Hilson is the managing director of Vet Services Hawke’s Bay, which has a staff of 120 people including about three dozen vets. Hilson says he gets frustrated when he sees a lot of publicity given to people who treat animals badly. He says the reality is that these few individuals unfairly give farming a bad name.
In recent months there have been several high profile cases of animals being mistreated and people being prosecuted for failing to adequately feed cows to killing a lamb.
Hilson says there is a greater awareness about animal welfare and often people who harm animals find that others who know them report them to the authorities. Hilson says these days, people realise that it’s not okay to mistreat animals.
“When you look back at some of the things we did 10 or 20 years ago we are not doing them now,” he told Dairy News.
“We are doing a better job. We are more humane and much more conscious of animal welfare. It just seems that the cases reported get a high profile in the media. I think it would be quite nice for every story that some fellow got potted, quite rightly so for welfare, to see 100 stories about farmers doing a good job,” he says.
Hilson points to the greater awareness of animals suffering from pain and that has been considered with the greater use of painkillers when treating them. He says welfare standards have lifted and that farmers have done this because they accept the science and the need to do the best for their valuable stock.
“Very few people beat their cows or break their tails these days. It is true that sometimes people get angry and do things they immediately regret,” he says.
Hilson says he and his staff spend a lot of time with farmers and says the issue of animal welfare is seldom raised because he says there is simply no need to because farmers get the issue. He says in his experience the thing that upsets farmers the most is the misreporting of their industry.
“Farmers feel so beaten up new regulations, health and safety and a raft of other issues that they feel isolated,” he says.