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We Will All Be Losers From Factory Dairy Farming

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Chris Ford
Chris Ford

Today the Green Party criticised plans by a Canterbury businessman to establish New Zealand's first factory dairy farm in the MacKenzie Basin.

As the son of a former dairy farmer, I can only say how repugnant this idea sounds. While I sometimes disagree with the Greens on some things, I fully agree with their stance on factory farming.

Both major television networks placed this story high up in their news coverage. And I have no doubt why. It is due to this being the first proposed farm of its type in New Zealand. If the farm is given planning consent by Environment Canterbury, many thousands of cows will be housed in small pen like accomodation for up to eight months a year.

Factory farming, as most New Zealanders know, is not foreign to this country. In fact some poultry farmers (mainly of pigs and chickens) have set up these types of operations. The most notorious of these, a Waikato pig farm, was the subject of a TVNZ sting earlier this year. This was when former Pork Board frontperson, comedian Mike King, was taken by animal rights activists and a TVNZ journalist to that farm where he was exposed to the heinous living conditions of the pigs who resided there. After that, King resigned from his Pork Board spokesperson role in disgust. TVNZ, meanwhile, tracked down the poultry farm owner who denied that he was mistreating his animals. Public anger rose when the results of the sting were shown on the Sunday programme. Over the years, animal rights activists have protested about bad battery hen farming practises too. As a result of these high profile campaigns, more consumers have begun switching to free range eggs, pork, ham and bacon in a clear signal to the poultry industry that they want higher standards.

Despite these concerns, Canterbury businessman Cornelius Zeestraten of Five Rivers Limited has lodged a resource consent to build our first factory dairy farm. Thanks to the efforts of the Green Party and others, the public has been awakened to this move.

As I have pointed out above, there are strong animal welfare concerns around factory dairy farming. We don't want either overseas or domestic consumers to abandon our world leading dairy products for this reason. Therefore, Fonterra (if it decides to contract with the farm) could be endangering its brand. Furthermore, the possible discharge of effluent into lakes Tekapo, Ohau and Pukaki could impact upon tourism in one of the most beautiful regions of New Zealand.

Mobilising support to stop this project is the next step. I have strong concerns that the National Government's recent changes to the Resource Management Act might have prompted Zeestraten to table his proposal. That's why public protest from ordinary New Zealanders will be important. Stopping factory farming practises from encroaching into the dairy industry should be a top priority.

After all, we will all loose if the MacKenzie Basin factory dairy farming project goes ahead.


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