Tuesday, 5 October 2010

yes, we do actually need to see it

i can't say that i'm a great animal lover. well, as i've said before, i love them collectively as a group and as a concept. it's just individual animals that i would prefer kept their distance from me.

however, i don't think you have to be much of an animal-lover to be appalled at the story about inducing cows early to increase milk production. last week, we learnt that fonterra chair, henry van der heyden, owns farms where this practice is rife, though fonterra discourages it and is trying to phase it out.

the waikato times has been covering this issue over several days, as they would. but this comment, in an article on the front page of saturday's paper, really had me fuming:

A farming leader, National Agricultural Fieldays vice-chairman Lloyd Downing, has reacted angrily to publicity about the practice and emphasised the pressure farmers are under economically.

"There's a lot of things we do on the farm that the public don't really need to see."

of course there were others in the sector who disagreed with this, but really? if there are practices on the farm that the public shouldn't see, then they really shouldn't be happening. yes, i know we kill the animals and eat them, and i'm no vegetarian. i accept that it's an inconsistent position, but even so, just because we eat them doesn't mean that we should condone practices that are cruel and painful.

i wonder if the practice of farming itself causes some people to become desensitised, as a coping mechanism. i could understand that. but this is more reason to have scrutiny of what goes on at the farm, particularly by those who aren't so directly involved in the processes. transparency can only be a good thing when it comes to ensuring animals are treated humanely.

there just seems to be a big disconnect between consumers and producers of animal products around what is acceptable. part of the disconnect arises from wider issues, like the difficulty of surviving when land prices are so expensive, when selling prices fluctuate from year to year, when many farmers are up to their eyeballs in credit, when the large landholdings are held by corporates who don't seem to care about much beyond the bottom line. all of these factors create the pressure to increase production per animal by any means.

this is why the solution is not simply tougher animal welfare laws and more inspections. there is something fundamentally wrong with the economic structure under which farming operates, and until we are ready to address that and make serious changes, nothing much is likley to change.


I.M Fletcher said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carol said...

Do the cows get to choose? The feminist argument is usually that women should be able to decide for themselves as to whether they have abortions. There's never been a feminist argument for abortions being imposed on women by someone else.

Boganette said...

Talk about being completely fucking obsessed about abortion.

It must take a lot of effort to manufacture such outrage daily on this blog Little Fletch.

And Carol - "never been a feminist argument for abortions being imposed on women by someone else" - Isn't the feminist argument "YOUR BODY, YOUR choice". If you're forcing someone to get an abortion you're taking their choice away.

stargazer said...

oh FFS. sorry i m fletcher, your comment is being deleted. never on this blog have we advocated forced abortions on women, so you are so way off the mark that you're practically on another planet.

muerk said...

This is a revolting practice. I don't mind eating meat and drinking milk and using other animal products, provided the animals are treated well and they don't suffer. Thus I buy free range eggs and I'm wary of pork.

Hopefully consumer pressure will make farmers treat their animals better. I wish they would label milk taken from well treated cows.

I don't know if anyone remembers that tv show where a family had to live like pioneers at Ferrymead Heritage Park? It was on a few years ago. They had a cow, taken from a commercial dairy herd, who was then handmilked by the family. That cow became highly protective of their small toddler, especially if any horses got to close.

Apparently when the family left Ferrymead after the filming finished, the cow cried for them and followed people around quite lost and sad.

Cattle are sensitive animals, and they need to be treated with kindness. Aborting their calves is a horrible thing.

muerk said...

Stargazer: Fletcher thought you were the person who posted about the abortion protest outside the Court. I explained that Maia posted that. I think the confusion compounded his attitude.

stargazer said...

muerk, it doesn't matter who posted about the protest. i m fletcher's comment was way off, regardless. and it would be nice if he and his attitude kept well clear of my posts.

I.M Fletcher said...

Sorry, I think I misunderstood..

I think I can see where you're coming from now. I thought you were concerned about the killing of the calf being aborted, but you're not concerned about that at all.

You're concerned that this is being done to the cow against her will. If the cow were somehow able to show her support as a female, then you also would agree with the practice, because it would be her bovine body.

stargazer said...

uh dude, the calf would be killed anyway very soon after death - ever heard of bobbies? they've been selling at around $4 each last season. if you're against killing of calves, then i'm assuming you're a vegetarian. if you're a vegetarian, how about you centre your arguments around that. otherwise, i can't see what point you're trying to make.

I.M Fletcher said...

I'm just trying to understand what you find so distasteful about the whole thing then, if you're not concerned about the calves. Is it the female rights of the cow being abused? What exactly is it that "appalls" you about the practice?

stargazer said...

um no, it's the animal rights of the cow. didn't think that was a difficult concept. why not do some work yourself and check out why fonterra is working to ban the practice.

I.M Fletcher said...

Well, because I'm interested in what appalls you personally about it.

K said...

Obvious Troll is Obvious.

stargazer said...

lol k, you got it! the word abortion seems to set something off in i m fletcher's brain.

and just to keep you happy, i m fletcher, have a read of this. the bit about leaving calves to die a slow death bothers me, as do the health issues for the cow.

now maybe you might actually want to talk about how to improve animal rights on the farm, transparency around farming practices, & the economic structure that our farms work under that puts pressure on them to do this kind of thing. but somehow i don't think so.

Julie said...

Thanks K for calling it. I LOLed too, genuinely :-)

muerk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stargazer said...

sorry muerk, i found your comment offensive and i'm sick of you nz conservative types trying to turn this into a post about abortion morality. if you want to comment further, then i'd strongly suggest that you stick to the 3 issues i've outlined in my previous post.

muerk said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
stargazer said...

but you can't respect the reasonable requests human beings make of you. methinks you really need to reflect on your warped morality. in the meantime, please stop commenting on this post.

sophie said...

Has no one, in all the media furore (which I have missed apart from this article and a discussion with a neighbouring farmer)
explained that induction has nothing to do with increasing production
and everything to do with giving that individual cow a chance at a long life?

Induced cows have lower production than those allowed to calve naturally. The sole purpose for the practice is to give the cow a chance to get back in calf within the calving season (which is designed to meet the seasonal grass growth). Cows that fail to achieve that are likely to be culled - a few of the younger cows can be sold on for 'holdovers' to rear calves or simply graze for a year and have another chance the following season; a tiny number compared to those that finish the mating season barren each year.

I don't say that to support inductions, but more to emphasise the difficulty of discussing such issues among people who don't know the bigger picture.
Sure, the industry could manage without inductions. Probably by rearing a few extra heifers each year to replace the cows who would have been late calvers or induced.

Taking an example from my own herd where I didn't practice inducing, but several of the cows I bought in 2006 were due to calve late in the season.
95% of the cows calving before the end of September got back in calf and were still with me the following 2007/08 season.
50% of the later calvers were not.

stargazer said...

thanx sophie. there was an indepth piece in the waikato times today, which i can't seem to find online just now.

i think what you say just reiterates the point that we all need to know what's going on at farms across the country, and that greater transparency can only be a good thing. the times piece does talk about vets phasing out the practice, and fonterra is intending to ban it. so could you give us any further information about why that would be, given what you say?

sophie said...

In a nutshell: overseas markets.

Think how much of the economy rests on dairy exports - to access those markets the industry *must* maintain a good image, against competitors who are all year round calving onto grain based diets and are rightly (from their worldview) horrified by practises such as tail docking (now banned) and inductions.

In my own opinion - I guess shared by some farmers, not others - inductions as a management tool is a crutch for inefficiency. Factors that are making the prospect of a complete ban of inductions more worrisome than perhaps it should be are the recent droughts (meaning many cows are lighter and therefore less healthy than they need to be to conceive) and what appears to be a general decline in dairy cow fertility in recent years.

sophie said...

stargazer: I've received advice to my e-mail from fedfarmers regarding any inductions planned for next year, also bobby calf welfare.
e-mail me if you'd like to see that - I think you can see my e-mail as admin?