Hans Kriek’s Column

Cows in intensive farm overseas
Cows in intensive farm overseas

Animal group condemns NZ factory farm empires 

By Hans Kriek, SAFE Exec. Director
(Save Animals from Exploitation)

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 swim 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.dairy cows

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 was borne in Holland. He is a visitor or migrant to our country who arrived here in 1985, just a few short years ago. His rants about the cruel treatment of calves in this country have some very small substance. All the cattle shown were Jerseys, a very small percentage of the dairy herds now being milked in New Zealand. His publishing of the secret and ,I suspect, illegal, pictures of the abuse are things that we all deplore. BUT we should deal with this here in New Zealand. To publish this in foreign journals smacks of treason and as a deliberate attempt to undermine the economy of our country. If he does not like it here would he please go back to Holland. I read that he and his wife are vegans, if this is true and they wear belts or shoes made from leather, they are hypocrites! Did they think that those animals offered up their skins for the pleasure of vegans who would not eat their meat, but were happy to shed their skins for vegans to walk on?

Totally agree. As soon as any land is used for dairying all the shelter trees are axed for that the large irrigators can moved across the paddocks unhindered. Even heard of one so large that it went over the roof of the house. Never mind shelter for the animals in the hot sun or bad weather.

Another problem is the use of palm kernels by the NZ dairy farmers. This is encouraging land owners in Asia to cut down their tropical forests to grow palms for the palm kernel trade thus depriving the native animals of habitat. When the trees are gone the land is exposed to erosiion in tropical downpours. The dairy industry and Federated Farmers should be encouraging NZ farmers to feed their animals NZ grass, silage and NZ sourced supplements.

As always the mighty dollar is at the forefront with no regard for the pain, suffering & distress of the animals &/or their produce who actually make that mighty dollar for us. As long as money is being made to hell with any suffering.

The inhumane treatment of these animals through factory farming, cruel confinement or abuse (& in some cases what amounts to murder) is totally unjustified & needs to be stopped immediately. No amount of money should make the suffering of these animals ‘right’ or acceptable.

We should be looking in other directions – promoting our clean green image with animals living the way they are supposed to – well looked after, ample feed & water, vet care, the sun on their backs & able to display their natural behaviours. Given a lot of other countries don’t have the land or resources to be able to provide these basic rights to their animals we could easily be a market leader proudly providing pure, high quality free range meat & produce to the rest of the world. In an age where more & more people are becoming aware of the atrocities against animals (& being totally disgusted & outraged that it is allowed to happen) there would certainly be a demand.

Something really drastic needs to be done concerning dairy farming. I have seen suffering cows and calves on farms and indeed, it is sickening. In a country as ours, which has animal welfare laws, why are so many farmers exempt from prosecution? How can cubicle farms be allowed under our animal welfare act? How can calves be treated in such a cruel way under our present law?