Myths and truths about animal farms and the economy

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:

1.  Factory farming is necessary for the economySad pig

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?

5.  Dairy is the backbone of our economy in the presentDairy cow[1]

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 Ahluwalia
Campaign Officer
Shanti studied politics at the University of Canterbury, with an emphasis on neoliberalism and economics.


10 Comments Add yours

  1. Bella Rae says:

    Absolutely fantastic article! I grew up surrounded by dairy farms, I married an ex-dairy farmer – cruelty in this industry is rife! Like most others, I also believed that dairy farming is the backbone of the NZ economy and I’m so glad to see it’s not!
    I am trying so hard to give up all dairy products, but having eaten them my entire life, it’s really difficult. Replacing milk with soy milk was easy enough to do, but I’m struggling to give up yogurt and cheese. So any tips, send them my way so I can fully boycott this cruel industry!

    1. Dani says:

      Hi Bella,
      I know this comment was probably aimed at SAFE/Shanti, but I decided to respond, too.
      I also found dairy products hard to give up! But I think it gets easier once you start trying new dairy-free meals.

      My favourite non-dairy yoghurt is coconut yoghurt. This company has fantastic yoghurt products, which have stockists in NZ supermarkets. it’s really nice, and well worth trying

      For cheese replacement, sometimes I have imitation cheeses, but more often I use substitutes like tons of avocado on mexican food or burgers, or cheese-like sauces with cashews and nutritional yeast. The website is a really good place to start! Hope things go well for you!

    2. Reno Hoe says:

      Yes its true that the manufacturing and technological sector is bigger than the agricultural sector but NZ census from 2013 has shown that the biggest decline in employment and workers is also in the manufacturing and technology. Also that most of these sectors rely on the agriculture sector to advance their industries.
      Most people employed through out NZ relies in some way on the agriculture industry. This does not mean that the industry (ag) should treat animal welfare as a negative cost.
      The title of the article claims Animal Farms, yet further reading of the article states Factory Farms. The title is misleading as it means to state that All aspects of farming are included in this article when it really is about Factory Farming.
      It does not address that products not made with animal bi-products, such as soy, almond milk, rice, etc are not grown locally and therefore need to be imported which affects the economy, that some of these products would come from countries that have very few basic Human Rights , and NO Animal Welfare, yet SAFE suggests we support these countries.
      Also the burning of more fossil fuel to import these products which again is causing more effect to the environment.
      Animal Welfare is an issue that the public are becoming more aware of. I’m confused as to which it is that SAFE is trying to achieve.
      Animal Welfare, i.e Bringing changes to animals lives through improvements in conditions in areas of ,health, housing, etc, even though some of these animals final destination will be used for food and clothing and entertainment..
      Animal Rights,i.e To have NO animals for food, clothing or entertainment.

      SAFE is asking for better housing conditions ,etc , for animals in the farm sector. This would fall under Animal Welfare , but then SAFE is asking people to go VEGAN, which would fall under Animal Rights. So I am confused as to what the message is. I can raise animals as long as they are in a happy environment, but still I can eat them when they are ready to be harvested . ? or am I to not own any animals for my enjoyment. Which would include dogs, cats, budgies, etc.,

      1. Dani says:

        Clearly, not every country in the world uses dairy as its backbone. As an ecologist recently pointed out, it is using the country’s credit card; the damage done to the environment is a cost, which is repeatedly ignored.

        There is a heap of non-dairy milks made in Australia, with a very small carbon footprint (especially compared to dairy farming, despite you claiming it is worse for the environment, it is not, soy beans are not releasing ridiculous amounts of methane). The reason why a lot of these products are imported is that there aren’t enough people who go vegan, rather than because they are inherently needing to be imported. If more people were vegan, the UN has said this will reduce the problems of climate change. Vegans also eat a LOT of local fruit and veggies in general.

        The message is simple: if you care about animals, you would want to avoid having them suffer or be killed. As I have mentioned on one of SAFE’s posts before, it appears that SAFE does not want animals to suffer, and be killed. This means they not only push for better welfare, but think the ideal is that animals will not be treated as property or killed for human enjoyment. It’s not that hard to grasp.

        That said, Gary Francione thinks welfarism for some people legitimizes the using of animals as objects, but I’m not sure what the evidence is for that.

    3. sANDRA kYLE says:

      Wonderful article! Thankyou Shanti!

  2. Eva Cook says:

    I’m with you Bella! Giving up milks easy enough, but cheese- oh so hard! And milk solids are in so many things, my food shop took twice as long today- still I can’t stomach the dairy industries ruthlessness. My husband still wants milk so I’m going to start getting it from a small local supplier which looks like they are good to their cows (and they don’t slaughter the calf’s) think I can make yogurt from that. But cheese is a tricky one!

  3. Reno Hoe says:

    I have conducted myself without the use of vulgar posts and not name calling anyone and am an advocate for animal welfare. So please explain why I am blocked from SAFE facebook page.

    1. SAFE says:

      Is Reno Hoe your name on Facebook? We will check. thanks, Mandy

      1. Reno Hoe says:

        Mandy, Yes that would be correct. Reno.

  4. Cheryl says:

    I drink brown rice milk or almond milk instead of cows milk. I have adjusted my taste buds now so I don’t miss dairy milk. I don’t miss yoghurt or cheese either.

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