Dairy takes flak yet is a source of delicious, nutritious food
OPINION: Farmers are being put under an environmental spotlight despite the New Zealand economy relying heavily on agriculture to provide a means of survival.
Many parties are critically concerned about the impact agriculture in New Zealand has on water quality, soil structure and greenhouse gas emission levels, pointing out many problems whilst providing little solution.
All human activity has an impact on the surrounding environment, from taking a breath and moving around. Everything we all do takes its toll.
Dairy farmers particularly seem to have take a lot of flak recently. An economy based on food production like ours is a better bet environmentally than an economy built on something else such as manufacturing, or even tourism if you take into account the mode of transport used to get here.
Activists like SAFE and PETA have reared their ugly heads in New Zealand's media recently cherry picking disreputable behaviour in the dairy industry and trying to portray it as mainstream practice.
These are small groups of people who prefer to not eat animal products and would like us all to follow suit. They say that dairy farming is cruel because in order to make milk, the cow must calve every year with not all calves are deemed valuable enough to rear.
Most humans like to eat a high quality source of protein such as meat or milk in a balanced diet as it keeps them healthy by supplying an easily absorbed source of rich nutrients and essential amino acids, to mention just two benefits. In order to source the protein benefits from meat, the animal must be killed.
In order to source the protein from dairy cows, the animal can be kept for years and years. I have had some cows still milking at age 15 – a rarity, but many are still good at 12 years old. They will happily produce over a kilogram of milksolids every day, as long as they get back in calf again which most of them readily do.
Dairy is an amazing self-fulfilling source of delicious, nutritious food.
Activists get an extraordinary amount of air time spreading twisted propaganda about the dairy industry and some of it quite unrecognisable from reality.
All this occurs while dairy farmers go about their business, which is actually a very sustainable and proven method of providing protein in a world crying out for sustenance, in virtual silence and very little positive recognition.
Surely a food source of such high quality that can be replicated day in day out for years on end in such a manner must be recognised as a boon to any country that has the resources, infrastructure and expertise to deliver to a hungry world.
Currently big vegan businesses are investing millions of dollars into trying to invent an acceptable protein source that has less impact on the world's dwindling resources and making noises about synthetic milk and meat.
These replacements are currently hugely expensive to make, have questionable nutritious value and use huge amounts of natural resources to produce.
We need to appreciate the sustainability of the protein sources we already have with New Zealand dairy produce being a proven, sustainable option.
- Lyn Webster is a Northland dairy farmer.