In a past blog Click: Trojan Cow I detailed the road to third world status for countries predominantly earning their international living through the export of primary goods. Dairy, meat and forestry between them account for almost 50% of New Zealand’s export earnings. The government appears to have no economic strategy other than to devote more of the national effort to increasing these resource-hungry, environmentally damaging exports, in which NZ has to be a price-taker rather than a price-setter. Click: NZ primary export targets
Unbelievably, our Cabinet dreams of increasing primary production by a further 100% in the next decade and no doubt, increasing NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions accordingly. In the past twelve months, the dairy sector, having rapidly over-extended beyond the country’s capacity to sustain it, has suddenly received a severe check. Its most important market, China, has set prices for NZ’s primary dairy export products that result in NZ milk producers being paid below production cost. Over-extended on borrowed money, NZ dairy farmers will now almost certainly witness a period where increasing numbers of their farms are bought by Chinese companies.
As the global population wakes up to the impossibility of maintaining the Earth’s climate in a state fit of human habitation, without at the same time, passing on to the consumer the true costs of the environmental damage done by intensive animal farming, the level of consumption of animal products will drop significantly. In short, the number of vegetarians and the number of people, who either no longer want to, or who can no longer afford dairy products, or any sea-food (other than seaweed) will increase rapidly. This sea-change in consumer buying habits could, sooner rather than later, reach a point where New Zealand dairy farmers, and most other intensive livestock farmers, will go out of business.
Having realised this truth, where I used to lament the passage of NZ farms into foreign ownership, I would now earnestly recommend to NZ farmers that unless they can diversify away from intensive animal farming, they should offload their farms sooner rather than later. At the same time the NZ government needs to ensure that it signs no treaties, which will inhibit its ability to pass on climate change related taxation to overseas owners of NZ farms and businesses.
Three or so months ago, I joined Climate Karanga Marlborough, Click: Climate Karanga I had witnessed with my own eyes the real changes that Climate Change has effected on Marlborough’s weather over the past thirty years. Furthermore, from my other researches, I was more than aware that the Main Stream Media would almost certainly not have been accurately representing a situation, which could possibly interrupt consumer society’s merry-go-round. I knew I had much learning to do to bring myself up to speed. One of the new group’s members, infinitely better informed on the subject than myself, recommend I read or watched “Cowspiracy.” Click: Cowspiracy
Having watched this film and checked up on some of its claims to see if it had credibility, Click: UN animal report my wife and I both decided that we would no longer eat any farmed meats, dairy products or commercially farmed or captured fish. In short we would become vegans. We could not preach precaution against climate change and at the same time continue to subsidise an industry which, apparently unbeknownst to the general public, was doing far more to destroy the climate and environment than all the fossil-fuel front-runners in the blame game.
Some snippets from ‘Cowspiracy.’
· For every human directly drawing on the Earth’s productive capacity, adding to that individual’s demand, there are ten farmed animals destined for human (and their pets’) consumption.
· The global farmed animal stocks consume 130 times more water than the human stock.
· Whereas, 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from transport: 51 % come from animal husbandry.
· The production of 1 litre of milk requires approx 1000 litres of water.
· The production of the meat in one hamburger requires 2,500 litres of water.
· For the past several decades, Amazonian rain-forest has been felled at the rate of a football pitch every second, to make way for plantings of animal feed and for grazing.
· Depending on location, a tennis court planted with vegetables can feed a family for a year: it requires five or so football fields devoted to animal husbandry to feed a family for a year.
In 1804 the total global population was 1 billion. In 1927 it had risen to 2 billion. In 20011 it reached 7 billion and by 2100 (assuming that the Pentagon and its allies fail to save the world from such a disastrous call on its resources) it is estimated it will reach more than 11 billion: an estimated 5 billion more humans and, on present eating habits, another 50 billion farmed animals. As the world population continues to grow, the fashionable new demand for meat, dairy and fish products in newly wealthy economies, such as China, is growing apace. Click: China’s carnivores At the same time, as the sea rises and soils are depleted by modern industrial agricultural activities, the land available for food production decreases. Something is going to have to give. The Earth’s resources are finite and there has to come a point from where it can no longer support so many humans with such extravagant and destructive eating habits.
Most of the above detail was new to me. The climate change conversation has revolved, almost exclusively, around the need to curb fossil fuels, while little or nothing has been said about humanity’s diet of animals and the diet of those animals. ‘Cowspiracy’ claims that this is because the animal farming lobby is so powerful that those politicians not yet bought by it, daren’t tackle it. Environmental organisations, such as Greenpeace, don’t mention the elephant in the room. They depend on public donations (and in some cases, on ‘subsidies’ from the Agricultural Lobby) and fear that were they to be labelled outrageously weird in their views, or seen as attempting to disparage long-established tradition, to turn red-bloodied men into wimps or to destroy the national heritage, their funding sources might dry up.
Were I a dairy farmer dependent for all my income on sales of dairy products. I would be reading the writing on the wall. Likewise, were I New Zealand’s Minister of Finance, depending on New Zealand’s dairy exports to bring in 30% of all the country’s merchandise export earnings, I too would be looking for a plan B. Click: Reserve Bank There is no mention of climate change as a joker in the pack. Anyone reading this (only recently) out of date report by the Reserve Bank on the Dairy Industry would have to feel nervous.
Taking into account the Paris Climate Change Conference, the fast increasing global awareness of Climate Change and what might happen were the contribution made to it by intensive animal farming to enter into the mainstream of debate, my nervousness would move towards extreme anxiety. The fact that New Zealand, at less than 2%, has one of the World’s lowest percentages of vegetarians among its population, should not lull farmers into a false sense of security. https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/517246/Vegetarians-are-on-the-increase-in-Britain Likewise, the conversion rate in NZ and other countries is on the rise at an ever-increasing rate.
After Paris, the pressure on governments to make polluting industries and their customers pay for their own pollution, rather than simply passing the costs onto the general taxpayer and future generations, will intensify. In ‘Cowspiracy’ it is argued that this would put the price in the USA for a $3.50 hamburger up to $11.40. The move to vegetarianism and on to veganism (veggies without dairy) can only accelerate. Click: Veganism goes mainstream.
In the past week, the news for NZ’s dairy farmers deteriorated still further. SAFE, an NZ animal welfare NGO has invoked widespread outrage with its advertisements and videos drawing unwelcome public attention to the reality of dairy farming. https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/farming/74783076/new-zealand-dairy-cruelty-claims-target-uk-consumer-in-guardian-ad-campaign and no doubt and on a minor scale, this will add to a consumer move away from Dairy products.
What is worse news for the NZ meat and dairy farmers, is how painless such a transition has been to make. My wife is an excellent cook in the Mediterranean tradition and we have always shared a penchant for Indian cuisine. To those who argue that it is impossible to remain healthy without a meat intake, I would point to both the extensive vegetarian culture of India and to the elephant, which successfully supports a far greater bio-mass than our own, on an entirely vegan diet. Having been carnivorous omnivores all our lives, and having, with the odd exception, found it impossible to contemplate a main meal without a portion of fish, fowl or beast, we entered the new diet painlessly, with no cravings, much curiosity and soon thereafter, a noticeable loss of surplus weight and a feeling of increased well-being.
A final list of statistics of international prevalence of vegetarianism by country: