OPINION: Son of a Dairy Farmer

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By Joel Rowan, NZ Young Nats President

For generations, the Rowans have produced milk in Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatu and Southland. My father is a dairy farmer. His father was a dairy farmer, and so on. So although I’m not a farmer, it’s clearly in my DNA.

Last night I watched the Sunday programme’s piece on bobby calves and the “cruelty” that underpins the New Zealand dairy industry. I watched as the people from SAFE threatened to broadcast their illegally-obtained footage internationally, to inflict damage on the reputation of New Zealand farming.

Some of what I saw was clearly malpractice in a small number of suppliers in industries that serve farmers. But I don’t believe that that paints a fair picture of New Zealand dairying as a whole.

New Zealand is ranked 1st equal for animal welfare (with the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Austria) by Animal Protection International.

Dairy NZ is the industry body for dairy farmers and it produces pretty clear expectations for farmers and farm-related service providers when it comes to animal welfare. The treatment and slaughter of calves is expected to be humane.

The New Zealand dairy industry isn’t perfect, but its environmental and welfare record is improving every year. Farmers are getting serious about protecting water quality by fencing and planting alongside streams and rivers, and are ending cruel practises like short docking of cows’ tails.

There will always be bad players in any industry or profession, and they deserve to be punished. We can’t let the proponents of a meat-free and milk-free ideology threaten New Zealand’s prosperity using cherry-picked footage of dairy farming’s worst operators. They are doing wilful damage to New Zealand’s dairy trade, which will hurt the progress of our entire nation.

I won’t buy into the guilt-trip from dairy farming’s opponents. All of the dairy farmers I know feel a sense of responsibility and genuine care for their animals. They know that cruelty is bad for business. They uphold the highest welfare standards, and they expect their neighbours to do the same.