Animal welfare group SAFE is calling for an investigation into the Ministry for Primary Industries after shocking animal cruelty pictures were revealed by TVNZ's Sunday.
The Sunday footage shows New Zealand dairy calves left for dead and hurled on to trucks in Waikato.
Hans Kriek, executive director of SAFE, told TVNZ's Breakfast today that MPI Minister Nathan Guy "needs to take responsibility for his own department".
"Ultimately, as long as we have a dairy industry there will be cruelty. The rules are in place, the issue is enforcing it," Mr Kriek said.
In a statement today MPI says it "immediately commenced an investigation into the alleged mistreatment of bobby calves that were the subject of a television programme last night following receipt of footage that was aired on the programme".
MPI Deputy Director General Regulation and Assurance Scott Gallacher said the nature of the footage aired on the programme was unacceptable.
"Anybody seeing this type of abuse would be appalled. We share that view," Mr Gallacher said.
Earlier on the Sunday story MPI spokesperson Matt Stone said that an investigation into the video has been "initiated" but didn't elaborate further on it saying he "wouldn't comment on the processes associated with the investigation".
"I've seen the footage and I find some parts of it disturbing and I recognise that people who've watched the footage will find it disturbing," Mr Stone said.
As well as the intentional mistreatment of dairy calves, the "real problem for the dairy industry to resolve" is unwanted new born calves being killed so they don't drink the milk intended for the dairy factory," Mr Kriek said.
"People have to take a look at themselves if they think it's acceptable that we kills these baby calves so we can drink the milk," he said.
But Dairy NZ says the cruelty to dairy calves highlighted by Sunday is not a widespread problem.
"Farmers care about their cows and are doing a lot to look after their animals," says Dr Tim Mackle, chief executive of Dairy NZ.
"We know we've got work to do, [but the footage] was only a snapshot."
Dr Mackle claims surveys show 95 per cent of New Zealand farmers are fully compliant with the code of animal welfare.