Around 60 members of Extinction Rebellion Te Whanganui-a-Tara gathered in Parliament grounds yesterday to protest against intensive dairy farming.
They were highighting the associated land damage, greenhouse gas emissions, freshwater pollution, health impacts and species extinction.
Demands for Government
Extinction Rebellion Aotearoa demands that the government:
- Stops enabling the intensive diary industry’s destructive land and water management practices,
- Creates and observes much stricter water quality standards, and
- Takes much stronger and immediate action to clean up ‘our sour milk industry’, helping our farmers transition to a sustainable model.
The main speaker was freshwater ecologist Dr. Mike Joy — and the protest ended with litres of (biodegradable, non-toxic) “sour milk” being poured down the steps of Parliament.
At the start, Jamie Hoare spoke about the destructive force that is intensive dairy farming in New Zealand. He said, “There’s a sour side to our white gold. It’s time to face the people who profit from the damage to our fertile land and the destruction of clean waterways caused by the dairy industry.
“Some farms are moving to less destructive practices, but there are many who are not, or still have a long way to go.”
“And even if all dairy farms used the very best practices, the fact remains that intensive livestock farming is environmentally damaging by its very nature,” he said.
“Not just from methane and nitrous oxide emissions, but also from soil compaction, from incredibly high levels of water use, and from the fact that it is a hopelessly inefficient way to produce protein compared with cropping.”
International Day of Peasant’s Struggle
He added: “It is also fitting that today (April 17) is the International Day of Peasant’s Struggle. Peasant farmers worldwide are facing increasing violence and displacement as multi-national behemoths like Monsanto, enabled by national governments, force them to use their seeds and weed killers, and eventually force them from their land.
“New Zealand is a highly active member, with Fonterra, of the worldwide corporate campaign to adopt destructive and inefficient forms of industrial agriculture, and we are seeing family farms being increasingly taken over in this manner.”
Damage land and waterways
Dr Joy spoke of the terrible damage to land and waterways caused largely by intensive dairying. He said that if the real costs of dairy farming were paid, there would be no profit at all from it.
“Instead, it is costing us our and our children’s future,” he said.
He pointed out that dairy farming depends on massive amounts of fossil fuels for its fertilisers, and over two million tonnes of palm kernel per annum for feed – which contributes directly to the huge burn-offs of tropical rainforests, mainly in Indonesia.
Lakes Taupo and Rotorua are currently protected from dairy runoff by the payment of $130M to farmers so they would not farm on the surrounds of the two lakes, he said. This is paid for by taxpayers and, if the scheme was extended across New Zealand, it would cost Kiwis $24B.
Dr Joy said that there were many facts and figures he could give, all of which pointed to New Zealand causing itself terrible, catastrophic damage. His summary was that if he could design the worst dairy farming system from scratch, with all he knew after two decades of researching its impacts, he could not imagine a way we could make it any more damaging than it is now. Mr Hoare says, “This needs to stop. We are literally killing our future and the future of my toddler sitting over there.”
Both speakers were greeted with loud moos of support from a grazing herd of dairy cattle (a rare sight on Parliament’s lawns), which were echoed by their peasant herders and the other rebels. The herd peacefully grazed on Parliament lawn for a time after the speeches, until a breakaway group headed by a bovine rebel (for life) headed for the barriers.