Starfish is a grassroots animal rights group that aims to raise awareness of the inherent and institutionalised cruelty of dairy farming. It is involved in both animal rescue and advocacy.
Starfish bobby calf Project got its name from the following parable:
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore.
Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them.
In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and throw it into the sea.
“It made a difference to that one.”
We know we can’t save the approximately 2 million bobby calves that are killed each year in New Zealand. However, for the ones we do save, it makes a difference. These calves are our ambassadors who raise awareness of the plight of bobby calves.
What is a bobby calf?
Born to die – the short and traumatic life of a bobby calf in New Zealand.
4.6 million dairy calves are born over a relatively short season in New Zealand every year. Of these 40 percent (approximately 2 million) will be bobby calves. 30 per cent may be used as replacement herd and another 30 per cent raised as beef.
Bobby calves are quite literally a waste product of the dairy industry. Their purpose is to induce lactation (milk production) in their mother. Because they are not selected for beef or replacement herd they are killed. Their tiny bodies are transformed into human food (veal) or used for pet consumption.
Bobby calves may be killed in an abattoir between 4-10 days of age. Many more are killed on the farm – shot within days of birth.
Those killed on farm may be luckier than the ones sent on the bobby calf truck – for them there is an arduous journey ahead. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has produced guidelines and regulations around the treatment of bobby calves. Unfortunately, these give little protection from suffering. A young calf of four days old can legally go up to 12 hours on a transport truck and 24 hours without food before being slaughtered.
Calves are young mammals, with a strong urge to suckle and a need to rest and be near their mother. Cow/calf separation causes stress to both cow and calf. The suffering a young calf must endure in being transported up to 12 hours on a truck without his mother or any sustenance is animal cruelty.
This cruelty is taking place many times over, as vast numbers of calves are killed each day during calving season. The numbers of bobby calves in New Zealand each year is high. This is because dairying is pasture based and so calving is seasonal. Calves are born in batches over a two-month period to take advantage of pasture growth in the spring.