Increasing numbers of complaints of cattle being mistreated by their owners are worrying the Ministry of Agriculture – but it says it’s powerless to act.
The ministry’s livestock manager Tiria Rere expressed growing frustration at delays to animal welfare legislation that would empower the ministry to prosecute livestock owners.
“We get a lot of calls from people who are concerned about the treatment of livestock.”
All they could do was warn livestock owners, Rere said. They needed to get their new animal welfare legislation checked and clarified by Crown Law before it could be tabled in Parliament.
Local photographer Melanie Cooper has sparked concern and outrage after this weekend posting pictures of a bull tangled with a tree stump, which she said was left without food and water for three days. She cut it free. She also took photos of a dead calf and its injured mother, too graphic for the Cook Islands News to publish.
She said the owner’s workers had done nothing to help the animals, standing by and watching as she dug a grave for the calf.
The cattle are owned by Teokotai George, who Ministry livestock manager Tiria Rere said had been the subject of animal welfare complaints. Rere said he had tried several times, unsuccessfully, to visit him to discuss the concerns.
George said the concerns were unwarranted: he checked his animals every day and gave them water regularly. The bull had just been tangled overnight, he said.
His cows were provided with large blue water barrels cut in half that he filled up almost every day. “It’s very easy to take the cows water on my four-wheel drive truck,” he added.
When they were in need of medical assistance, he sought help from the vet clinic.
In April one of George’s cows in Atupa, Nikao, had an infected hoof and was unable to walk, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confirmed.
SPCA manager Stuart Beaumont-Orr said then that they were alarmed at the cow’s condition.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Te Are Manu vet clinic had promptly attended to the cow, he said.
Last night, Cooper issued photos of another cow with calf, and a yearling – owned by a different local – that she said had also been left to fend for themselves without water.
Beaumont-Orr said the Ministry of Agriculture was in charge of overseeing the wellbeing of livestock, but people could contact the SPCA if they had concerns about an animal.
The SPCA is here to support the welfare of the animals on the island, he said.