Harden up NZ, farming kills animals

LYN WEBSTER
Last updated 07:39 11/02/2014
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Do New Zealanders really need to harden up in their understanding of farming practices?

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OPINION: You know something? The world is a horrible place - there are wars, starvation, slavery and atrocities that we sheltered folk in New Zealand are lucky enough not to have to know about it.

Yet for some reason, and maybe it is just the media, I don't know, putting the spotlight on farmers and farming practices and if it is not environmentally friendly then everyone has a fit and oh no - that is animal cruelty and everyone starts crying.

I am fed up with it and I am going to kick back. This farmer bashing has got to stop.

Speaking of bashing, that dude in Chile should not have been knocking those bobby calves on the head like that.

But is the furore and backlash that has caused, really necessary?

Let's get some perspective. Question: What is farming? Answer: Raising living creatures for food or raw materials.

If humans want to maintain their dubious position as the dominant species on the food chain, then we need farming because farming equals food.

And if you want to eat meat and dairy products - and let's face it the majority of people do - you have to tolerate the good and the bad in the dairy industry.

The good is that, thanks to the successful and unsubsidised dairy industry, New Zealand's terms of trade were recently the best they have been for yonks and our economy was (somewhat misguidedly I think) described as a rock star in a global environment where many economies are dying. As a dairy farmer, albeit an unprofitable and struggling one, I feel proud to be a part of the industry that is saving this country's ass.

On the downside, farming has an environmental impact as does any man-made activity. I think the New Zealand dairy industry is making a continued effort to minimise this effect and needs more support from the rest of you to this end.

Instead of punishing dairy farmers for their day-to-day activities, why aren't we mitigating the industry's effects by investing in other green practices - bio-fuel and electric cars for instance?

But I digress ... here is a nasty fact in the horrible world: The dairy industry produces unwanted bobby calves.

Most are reared for four days and then sent to the meat processing plant, which is expensive and labour intensive.

Some farmers bash them on the head (not me but I am a girl).

Federated Farmers dairy vice-chairman Andrew Hoggard thinks shooting them is better. In Chile, it seems they should be getting a lethal injection.

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Either way, it is cruel and the outcome is the same: The unwanted calves are dead.

It is a sad truth and unfortunately people just need to harden up to it.

It is not all politically correct and roses out here. If farming is intrinsically cruel, that does not necessarily make farmers cruel people but it probably makes them realists.

If the only meat you see is wrapped in cling film at the supermarket and even then it is a little bit icky for you to touch it - or you are so privileged that you can spurn animal protein and bore everyone to death about your veganism - then count your lucky stars because you are one of the world's privileged.

Agriculture has kept this country going and it is hard work.

The economy built on the back of this hard-fought industry might allow you to have a cushy government job, or indulge yourself in some accountancy, journalism or art and give you the power to concentrate on some highbrow thinking.

But when your thoughts turn to farmer bashing (and you don't grow all your own food) then have caution, you are setting sail on the sea of hypocrisy in a leaky boat.

Stop biting the hand that literally feeds you.

* Lyn Webster is a dairy farmer in Northland.

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- Waikato Times

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