Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd - 2023-068 (7 November 2023)
- Susie Staley MNZM (Chair)
- John Gillespie
- Tupe Solomon-Tanoa’i
- Aroha Beck
- Paul Judge
BroadcasterTelevision New Zealand Ltd
[This summary does not form part of the decision.]
The Authority declined to determine a complaint that an episode of Country Calendar depicted cruelty towards animals. The episode focused on the work of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation and the Foundation’s conservation work. It included footage of Wapiti deer being hunted and shot from a helicopter, collected, and processed at an abattoir. The Authority has consistently found that hunting is a reality of life in Aotearoa New Zealand, and the depiction of hunting footage is generally acceptable provided it does not depict undue cruelty. The Authority did not consider this broadcast included any such footage justifying a departure from these findings.
Declined to determine (section 11(b) in all the circumstances the complaint should not be determined): Offensive and Disturbing Content
 An episode of Country Calendar, broadcast on 11 June 2023, focused on the work of the Fiordland Wapiti Foundation. The episode outlined:
- The origins of Wapiti deer in Fiordland. It explained they had crossbred with red deer and they were being hunted to manage the herd back to Wapiti type animals. It also noted that Wapiti trophies are prized by hunters and that hunting is regulated by ballots.
- The processing of the deer at an abattoir in Invercargill | Waihōpai.
- The proceeds from the hunting ballots, and the sale of the meat, helps fund the conservation work of the Foundation.
- How two restaurants use some of the meat from the Wapiti deer.
 The episode showed footage of:
- Wapiti being shot dead from a helicopter. There is some footage of the dead deer being handled and skinned. They are then hooked to the helicopter and airlifted out of the area.
- The deer being processed at an abattoir, including the hanging carcasses and butchers cutting the different part of the carcass.
- The meat being prepared and cooked in each restaurant.
 The episode was rated G – General: Approved for general viewing | Arowhānui: Kua whakaaetia mō te mātakitaki a te katoa.
 Paul Judge complained the broadcast breached the offensive and disturbing content standard of the Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand as it depicted ‘extreme violence and cruelty towards animals’. He added:
- The level of violence was ‘unacceptable for any time let alone this time slot.’
- ‘Wild deer were shown being terrified and then shot and killed by being shot from a low flying helicopter. The deer carcasses were then shown being lifted into the air by the helicopter and dropped at another location where the bodies were dissected and prepared for further transport. This was followed by shots of the carcasses in the abattoir being cut up and dissected further. All this was shown in gruesome graphic detail.’
- ‘The excuse that this is just part of the industry of pest control and food gathering is not sufficient to excuse the brutality of these images.’
- ‘A further disturbing aspect of this program is that there is never any acknowledgement of the animal's sentience and therefore their suffering and pain. It is merely shown as cold hard business practice, which has the effect of increasing the mindless cruelty and brutality of the images.’
The broadcaster’s response
 TVNZ did not uphold Judge’s complaint. It first referred to commentary on the standard which stated:1
… attitudes differ widely and continue to evolve in New Zealand's diverse society. Caution must therefore be exercised when considering matters of taste and decency. The feelings of the particularly sensitive cannot dictate what can be broadcast. However, broadcasts must not seriously violate community norms or disproportionately disturb the audience.
 While acknowledging the complainant ‘did not like the footage’, it did not consider it would offend or disturb a significant number of viewers taking into account the following factors:
- ‘It is very clear from the outset of the episode what was being discussed so that viewers could make an informed decision about whether they wished to view such material.’
- The complained about footage ‘was not gruesome or overly disturbing.’
- TVNZ notes ‘that it is socially acceptable in New Zealand for animals to be killed for eating, which these deer were. Most people in New Zealand consume meat and this meat comes from animals being killed and dressed for eating (usually in a meat works or abattoir as shown in the programme). It is in the social good for viewers to be aware of where meat comes from, and to see the discussion concerning the organic meat of the Wapiti-red deer cross animals, including the aim to use the whole animal (so that none is wasted).’
- ‘Country Calendar has advised that the pilots and hunters involved in the venison recovery are absolute experts and their expertise ensures that the animals are killed in a humane way (ie. shots are placed so the animals are killed instantly and there is no suffering).’
- ‘It is not offensive to see meat, this can be freely seen in public places like supermarkets.’
- ‘An online survey led by AgResearch and Lincoln University researchers has found that more than nine out of 10 New Zealanders - 93 percent – eat meat, although almost half of the population has reduced their consumption in response to health concerns and financial factors’.2
- ‘The hunting and abattoir footage did not dominate the discussion in the programme.’
- TVNZ referred to a previous Authority decision about an episode of This Town, certified G, which showed duck hunting and the ducks being prepared for eating, noting the Authority found:
While some viewers may have found the footage unpleasant or uncomfortable to watch, we consider it was acceptable in context and did not threaten current norms of good taste and decency. This Town profiled the lives of people living in small towns in New Zealand and the footage subject to complaint was broadcast well into the programme and formed part of a real life story on the opening of duck hunting season. The subject matter was well signposted so footage of duck shooting, and the collection and plucking of the ducks afterwards, was not unexpected or gratuitous. In line with previous decisions on similar complaints, we find that the footage accurately reflected a facet of real life as it highlighted the reality that we live in a society which eats meat and that animals must be killed and prepared in order for this to occur.
- ‘The topic of this programme was consistent with the kind of topics which often feature on the programme, and the tone was typical of the approach which would be expected by viewers.’
Outcome: Decline to Determine
 Section 11(b) of the Broadcasting Act 1989 authorises the Authority to decline to determine a complaint if it considers that, in all the circumstances of the complaint, it should not be determined by the Authority.3
 The decisions of the Authority issued over time provide guidance to broadcasters and complainants about what is acceptable under broadcasting standards.
 We consider it appropriate to exercise our s 11(b) discretion in this instance to decline to determine the complaint:
- We have repeatedly found that hunting is a reality of life in Aotearoa New Zealand4 and the depiction of hunting footage is generally acceptable provided it does not depict undue cruelty.5 We did not consider this broadcast included any content which justified revisiting these findings.
- The relevant issues were fulsomely and appropriately addressed in the broadcaster’s decision on the complaint.
- While the complainant may not wish to view such content, this is a matter of personal preference which does not raise broadcasting standards issues.6
For the above reasons the Authority declines to determine the complaint.
Signed for and on behalf of the Authority
7 November 2023
The correspondence listed below was received and considered by the Authority when it determined this complaint:
1 Paul Judge’s formal compliant to TVNZ – 12 June 2023
2 TVNZ’s response to the complaint – 6 July 2023
3 Judge’s referral to the Authority – 1 August 2023
4 TVNZ’s confirmation of no further comments – 26 September 2023
1 Commentary, Standard 1, Code of Broadcasting Standards in New Zealand at 8
2 Citing “New Zealanders remain 'overwhelmingly omnivorous' despite cost concerns, survey finds” Newshub (online ed, 6 June 2023)
3 See also: Broadcasting Standards Authority | Te Mana Whanonga Kaipāho “Guidance: BSA power to decline to determine a complaint” <bsa.govt.nz>
4 See Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-027 at  citing Andersson and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-043 at ; Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-108 at ; and Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2016-068 at 
5 See Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-027 at  citing Feral and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No 2014-143 and Boyce and MediaWorks TV Ltd, Decision No 2015-103; and Judge and Television New Zealand Ltd, Decision No. 2020-108 at 
6 Broadcasting Act 1989, s 5(c)