“Whenever people say, ‘We mustn’t be sentimental,’ you can take it they are about to do something cruel. And if they add, ‘We must be realistic,’ they mean they are going to make money out of it.”
― Brigid Brophy
Often animal industries say that factory farming is necessary to provide cheap meat and eggs for consumers. Whilst we’d argue that there is NO excuse to hurt animals, we disagree that it’s acceptable on economic grounds too!
Here are 6 responses to industry claims:
Despite frequent claims that factory farms are crucial to the economy, only 2.3% of the money from animal exploitation actually comes from factory farms. In fact, the entire factory farming sector could be closed overnight, and the New Zealand economy would survive.
2. Closing factory farms here would bring in “crueler” products from overseas
Let’s be clear about one thing: NZ factory farms are pretty much as bad as it gets – you can only push the bodies of animals so far before productivity drops. Factory farms around the world look pretty much the same; they have found exactly how far an animal can be pushed before productivity falls off.
Not to mention that the egg and poultry industries already benefit from extremely strict import requirements. The majority of factory farms are already protected from overseas competition, and there is nothing to stop those factory farms from being abolished.
As for pork, if the industry continues to throw a tantrum every time consumers demand a change, it doesn’t seem likely that they will keep New Zealand shoppers interested. If, however, they lead the way on a boycott of factory farming, consumers would likely join them in shunning overseas pork.
3. The industry can’t afford to change
The industry changes all the time, whether due to changes in the market or changes in regulations. In fact, the egg industry has repeatedly been legally required to change cage sizes (from 500cm2 to 550 to 750). It doesn’t make any sense to be spending millions on slightly bigger cages, as in the case of colony cages; cages should just be banned entirely.
4. Dairy is the backbone of our economy in the future
The economy of the future 21st century is going to look very different from the economy of today. Technologically advanced products will be the mark of developed nations, with high value per unit of carbon emission. Sir Paul Callaghan has written an amazing book regarding New Zealand’s situation with the dairy industry and the economy, called Get Off The Grass.
Dairy, on the other hand, is a low-value, high-impact commodity. Dairying is one of the most environmentally unfriendly food production systems in existence, and is not a sustainable mode for an economy. Nor is it a wise investment –as more and more people boycott dairy because of cruelty and environmental damage, the dairy industry might not grow as fast as it hopes.
And of course, there’s the new Muufri milk (haha, get it? “Moo-free?”) which is cruelty-free milk made in a lab. It is not clear whether or not Muufri milk is going to take off, but one thing is clear. The world is a few technological breakthroughs away from making dairy cows obsolete, or at least less popular. Do we want an economy that is based on a product with such poor prospects?
If there is one thing politicians know, it’s that you don’t touch the sacred cow – dairying. It is currently the heavyweight of our economy, and everyone is scared to criticise it.
Except that it’s not the backbone of our economy. Did you know that our high value, technologically advanced manufacturing sector has grown larger than our dairy industry? Did you know that New Zealand is a world leader in sleep apnoea technology and fire truck manufacturing? No one talks about it, because dairy is a nice, easy way to think of our economy. But the reality is that New Zealanders are pretty clever, and we have plenty of thriving industries that have nothing to do with abusing animals.
6. We need them more than they need us
Big businesses always love to tell us that we can’t manage without them, that the economy would wither and die. But the reality is that they need us to keep buying their products. Our economy can survive the absence of factory farms, but they cannot survive the absence of us.
It’s time for a ban on factory farming, and until we get there, a boycott of all factory-farmed products. And of course, if you’re willing to go a step further due to the cruelty of industries like the dairy industry, take our Go Veg Pledge for 30 days.
Shanti studied politics at the University of Canterbury, with an emphasis on neoliberalism and economics.