Will NZ’s dairy empire ultimately be our downfall?

The dairy industry is one of New Zealand’s biggest export earners. We have excelled into turning something of low value (grass) into something that is highly valuable and sought-after (milk).

It may therefore have come as a surprise to some to see the large number of negative dairy-related reports that have appeared in the media over the last few months.

The environmental impact of dairy has been well publicised for a number of years and there are now real fears that one of our biggest money earners could damage one of our other biggest industries – tourism. The fact that you and I can no longer safely swimCow 22 in most of our rivers, can largely, but not solely, be attributed to our love affair with the white stuff. As the industry expands and ever more cows are producing more milk and shit, this problem will only get worse.

To expand their growing empires, New Zealand-owned dairy companies are sprouting up around the world. Fonterra owns a number of intensive dairy farms in Asia, where the animals are kept indoors, never to walk on grass or enjoy the sunshine on their backs.

A New Plymouth District Council-owned dairy venture in Tasmania is about to turn 1800 hectares of native forest into grassland so they can farm more dairy cows. That this forest is home to many species of native wildlife including the nationally threatened Tasmanian devil and spotted-tailed quoll is apparently of little concern.

We have all read about the outcry caused by New Zealand farmers hammering bobby calves to death in Chile, only to find out that this practice has been happening here on our own doorstep for decades. Worried about our international reputation, the Ministry for Primary Industries is now looking to ban the bashing to death of calves. Heaven forbid, it may just put some people off their milk.

In New Zealand we are seeing a rapid intensification of the dairy industry. Large numbers of euphemistically called ‘herd homes’ are being built. Some will confine hundreds of dairy cows inside for their entire lives.

With many consumers concerned about the cruelty of factory farming, it takes a brave (or really dumb) industry to start up another indoor confinement system.

Another welfare issue often over looked is that the high volume of milk extracted from cows is not only unnatural, it is also detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the animals.

Dairy cows are worked incredibly hard and as a result are worn out within four to five years. You only have to visit a sale yard to see these emaciated, skeletal animals being sold for a one-way ticket to the slaughterhouse.

The dairy industry justifies many of the environmental and animal welfare problems by claiming it produces food for the hungry masses.

But how desirable is the consumption of dairy anyway?

An increasing number of medical experts point out that cow’s milk is good for fast-growing calves but not for humans. We are the only species that drinks milk after infancy, and then not even our own species’ milk. Slowly we are seeing myths about the correlation of strong bones and calcium in dairy being debunked and hear more about the negative health consequences of consuming dairy.

Do we really want to rely for our economic wellbeing on an industry that has inherent environmental and animal welfare problems and that produces a product that in the future may well be viewed as undesirable, even detrimental to our health?

Soy milk, anyone?

Hans Kriek, Executive Director


6 Comments Add yours

  1. nick sanders says:

    i’m convinced that the only reason the dairy industry,i prefer to call them baby bull murders exist is because some people in this country support dairy in fear that the new zealand economy will collapse,i beg to differ,if they continue to support such a under handed deceitful business it’s new zealands ecology that will collapse.it’s great to here fonterra plans more deforestation and murdering of animals abroad for profit,because we all know thats just what the earth needs,looks like murdering ever baby bull in the world and swindling there milk from there mothers isn’t good enough,the thing is fonterra is well aware of the crimes it’s industry reaps on the world and it’s inhabitants,i wager the acceptance speech at the next defile the world awards for fonterra will be a little shaky,i think there happy cow speech is pretty much flush down dunny.

  2. noelene says:

    It’s a shock to learn that large numbers of dairying factory farms – ‘herd houses’ – are already being built here in New Zealand. Reports I’ve read from overseas have detailed the effects on the health of the unfortunate animals bred in this way; my impression was that our Ministry of Primary Industries was saying they were THINKING OF applying this method in New Zealand!!

    And, yes, what happens as people here and elsewhere become ever more familiar with the cruelties inherent in the dairy industry? Thanks especially to SAFE – and others – news is reaching the media; people ARE becoming more aware; their hearts and minds surely will turn towards MERCY for the creatures being exploited for cash. Industries based on, or involving, cruelty can never ultimately succeed, because they go against the basic rules of human decency, not to mention the universal law of cause-and-effect!

    Those sensitive to such things have said that there is a ‘veil of blood’ over our country; Not surprising, is it, when so many of our income-earning endeavours – even some school fund-raising etc – involve killing everything in sight! Not the way to success, nor to welcome and please tourists, or give them something better than the rest of the world. And not the way to raise a nation of empathetic, understanding, healthy young people.

    I can’t see dairying lasting long-term; it’s them or us, and our environmental integrity…

  3. Kirsty says:

    How about you post a link to a scientific article proving the safety of soy milk? I am constantly reading articles about the dangers of consuming soy products. If you genuinely want to encourage people to change to soy products, how about you show the uninitiated how to go about it safely? How to choose the “safe” soy products?

    1. SAFE says:

      There’s a good article about soy here: http://freefromharm.org/health-nutrition/vegan-doctor-addresses-soy-myths-and-misinformation/ And if you are concerned about soy specifically, there are plenty of other kinds of delicious plan based milk such as oat, rice and almond.

      1. Kirsty says:

        Thanks for that link – very informative!

  4. Chloe Matahaere says:

    This is to true the dairy products are over rated I hate it when they do it in school filling children’s heads full of lies about the dairy products they should consume while showing them bullshit images of mother cows living in great conditions with there babies when we know it’s all lies. Every knows the truth now but yet the industry is still bombing, dairy products still filling families trolleys at the super market it’s sad to see when there are so many different alternative products out there and prices aren’t that different people need to try and switch over from dairy to alternatives if the human desire for dairy products wasn’t there it wouldn’t be such a large scale mass slaughter business but we as humans demand it and I’m afraid it’s in everything just about that we consume milk products are almost found in everything we eat you should be Checking the label to see what u eat even a bag of flavor pataoe chips is filled with milk products it seems to be in anything you think may be good for your children most package lunch stuff contains full on dairy in it even the ones you think wouldn’t at all kids don’t need cows milk to grow strong and healthy many children have their mothers milk than can move on grow stronger and healthier on alternatives like soy, oat, almond or even coconut milk it’s great for you and taste delicious parents should re consider allowing their children to consume the milk in schools which was set up so kids could get that supposed calcium they very much need look at how much milk the school goes thru on a daily basis it’s way to much therefore imagine the mass slaughter and I’ll treatment the cows and the calves went thru just to supply even more milk products to us it’s a shame to many people think it’s a good thing when it clearly isn’t. I say shit needs to change and we all can’t sit and round crying about the treatment we seen on the news expecially if we are not willing to drop the products from our weekly shopping list.

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