Photographer: Brendon O'Hagan/Bloomberg

Key Says Campaign on N.Z. Dairy Practices Is 'Economic Sabotage'

New Zealand’s dairy industry may suffer a backlash after an animal rights group placed an advertisement in a U.K. newspaper highlighting what it says are cruel practices on the nation’s farms, Prime Minister John Key said.

“It’s a form of economic sabotage,” Key told reporters in Wellington Monday. The aim of the advertisement appears to be to stop international consumers buying New Zealand products and “it runs the risk that it damages us,” he said.

Save Animals From Exploitation, or SAFE, placed the advertisement in the Guardian newspaper, claiming the New Zealand dairy industry is “contaminated with cruelty.” The ad, which is illustrated with a picture of a wounded calf inside a large glass of milk, claims that 2 million calves are killed annually in New Zealand.

Dairy products make up about a quarter of New Zealand’s NZ$49 billion ($33 billion) of exports, which in turn make up 30 percent of the economy. There are an estimated 11,500 dairy farmers in the country, while Auckland-based Fonterra Cooperative Group is the world’s biggest dairy exporter.

SAFE last month released hidden camera footage of farmers removing calves from cows, and identified mishandling of the young animals by transport companies and slaughter houses. Government officials have begun an investigation into several alleged breaches of the animal welfare code as a result.

Key said SAFE is entitled to make its claims in New Zealand, where officials can respond and identify the few people who may mistreat their animals. But to campaign internationally was neither fair nor appropriate, he said.

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