Thousands sign petition calling for rethink to Auckland Council's beef breeding programme

Ambury Regional Park.
Ambury Regional Park. Photo credit: Auckland Council.

A petition calling for Auckland Council to stop sending cows from its regional parks, such as the popular Ambury Farm, to the slaughterhouse has garnered thousands of signatures online.

The petition was started by Harrison Fisher, 25, who said he was moved to act after discovering animals at Ambury Farm - beloved by many visitors each year - are unable to live out their natural lives and end up being sold to meat processors.

The council says places such as Ambury Farm give Aucklanders the opportunity to view livestock up close and learn about the region's farming heritage. But they are also run as a business, and it's important they are profitable so they're not a rates burden to residents.

But Fisher says that's not good enough.

"Visitors to Ambury Farm form a bond with these lovely pets and it is upsetting that the council does not see these lives as anything more than money generators," he said.

"It is very upsetting that the cattle cannot either remain at Ambury Farm or instead be rehomed to animal sanctuaries."

Garry Hewson, Auckland Council farming operations manager, said as part of the council's beef breeding herd programme, "some replacement heifers are kept and all other cattle are sold".

"The calves are weaned at about six months of age and are generally moved to other parks before their first winter," Hewson told Newshub.

"The majority of cattle sold are between 18 and 27 months of age."

He said the council carries around 1000 head of cattle and in the 2020/21 season, approximately 41 cattle had been sold so far. 

"Auckland Council is the biggest urban farmer in the Auckland region, with 380 breeding cattle and approximately 5500 ewes stretching across 1500 hectares of pastures," Hewson said. 

"We bring a holistic approach to farm management that balances being a sustainable green space, protected natural environment, recreational park for Aucklanders and being a profitable farm that reduces our rates burden."

The council insists all animals are well cared for by its staff and live happy lives on their farms.

Fisher says he was moved to start the petition - which closed on Sunday night after being signed by 3689 people - to send a message to the council as it reviews its Regional Parks Management Plan