Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Time to end feedlots

Our usual picture of New Zealand farming is of animals in a field somewhere, eating grass - a natural environment, where the animals get to exhibit their natural behaviours. But on Monday, SAFE exposed the beef industry's dirty secret: we have American-style feedlots in New Zealand:

The Five Star Beef Limited feedlot in Ashburton is New Zealand's biggest and has been running since 1991.

The cattle spend six months grazing, eating grass, before being moved to the feedlot where they are locked in square, uncovered pens, given vaccination to prevent disease and fed grains, for anywhere from two and a half, to eight months.

Animal welfare group SAFE has serious concerns about both animal welfare and the environmental impact of having nearly 20,000 cattle confined.

Feedlots are an environmental and animal welfare disaster. The animals are confined, fed an unusual diet which causes them health problems, and unable to exhibit their natural behaviours - its basicly battery farming for cows. Environmentally, all those cows leads to a lot of shit and piss, which pollutes the local water table or goes straight into the nearest river. I suspect the Environment Minister is not the only one struggling to see how this is legal. And its effect on New Zealand farming's international reputation - which is built on that image of animals in green fields - is catastrophic. But rather than recognise this, and move to fix it, Federated Farmers is instead attacking the messenger. But while "militant vegan" may be horrifying and instantly discrediting in the eyes of rural hicks, to urban voters its about as persuasive as calling someone a "pretty little communist", and it says more about the mindset of the accuser than the accused. If they were looking to defend their social licence for cruelty and pollution, I think that's likely to backfire.

If feedlots aren't legal, then the RMA and Animal Welfare Act need to be rigorously enforced. If they are, then those laws need to be strengthened. Because like dirty dairying, this is not a type of farming that New Zealanders find acceptable. The farmers who use them need to stop, or the public will make them.

Meanwhile, if you don't want to support their type of farming, you can get a list of feedlot beef stockists from the wayback machine here.