Blog: Katy AskewManuka welfare scandal another blow for NZ dairy

Katy Askew | 22 January 2014

The reputation of the New Zealand dairy industry has taken another blow, with Chilean authorities reportedly launching an investigation into alleged animal cruelty by Manuka Dairy.

Reports in the Chilean and New Zealand press have accused Manuka's operation in the country of killing "thousands" of calves not needed in the milk processing process by "leaving them starving, slitting their throats or beating them with objects of great forcefulness".

The media outcry prompted Chilean politician Fidel Espinoza to denounce Manuka in the Chilean House of Representatives. An investigation has been launched into the company's activities and any psychological impact these practices may have had on workers, reports say.

While Manuka lacks the clout of New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra, the fresh scandal comes as an additional setback for the country's dairy industry on the global stage.

New Zealand dairy has benefited from being well-known for offering high-quality, safe and responsibly produced products. Allegations of animal abuse are hardly in keeping with the country's green reputation.

Fonterra's false botulism recall last year dented consumer confidence in the sector - particularly in key markets in Asia, including China. More recently, an E.Coli recall this month could go some way to tarnishing Fonterra's reputation further still. 

The NZ government has focused on re-establishing the reputation of NZ dairy exporters, with a particular focus on bringing the message that the country's industry is safe to China, a key market. This new controversy can do little to build bridges.

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