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.