When the British nuclear submarine Conqueror sank the General Belgrano in 1982, the

Sun

was over the moon. Rupert's red top hailed the hit with a single word:

GOTCHA!

34 years later, that howl of celebration has become a mission statement for a trade which has realised, when information doesn't cut it any more, humiliation does. If you had to choose one word to describe the key driver of journalism today, Gotcha! would be it.

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Gotcha is the aim of the game now. They are out to gotcha, 24/7. Ask Aaron Smith, or that plastered princess in the blue dress. Gotcha is the goal that explains why a bad news day is any day when someone isn't torpedoed amidships - preferably in their All Black kit.

But fallible footballers aren't the only ones who get gotcha'd. Entire industries can be busted, burnt or brought to book, if the pictures are hot enough and there's a decent dollop of claim and shame to fuel the frenzy.

Farmers know this. They're in the firing line more than most. Farming regularly feels the wrath of a metro media largely captured by the eco-theology of our times. No matter that this is a creed as prone to false preachers as any other. It is the faith du jour and most journalists are open or closet converts, happily to repeat the new priesthood's allegations.
Especially those aimed at "dirty" dairy. The Church of Climatology hates dairy. Dr Joy hates dairy. And Farmwatch hates dairy. No, Farmwatch loathes dairy. If they could turn every cow shed in the country into a turnip nursery, they would. Farmwatch is at war, waging a hidden camera campaign to win the battle for hearts and minds.

If you're a dairy farmer, Farmwatch gotcha. They gotcha good. You were always their target. The repugnant abuse of Bobby calves was a means to an end. Farmwatch hopes the savagery of a few thugs will give them a bigger victory. They want to destroy an industry.

It's on their website:- 'Farmwatch serve as a voice for animals' (but clearly not grammar). 'Animals...deserve to live a natural life, free from suffering and slaughter' (unless they're slaughtered by other animals). 'Exposing the reality of animal industries is essential to show the consuming public how farmed animals are bred and killed...we encourage people to turn their back on cruel farming industries (not individuals) and adopt a vegan lifestyle.'

So there they are. A bunch of veggie venerating vengeful Vegans hell-bent on making New Zealand 9 billion dollars poorer. They plan to be the conqueror who sinks "cruel farming industries." The real purpose of their Bobby calf expose is clear. If you want people to "turn their back", you turn their stomach first. You use a minority to ruin everybody else. And, so far, it's working. Never have so many been so harmed by so few.

Quids in, they're breaking out the parsnip wine at Farmwatch HQ to celebrate a propaganda coup. Their footage has been gleefully broadcast, in part because it's a guaranteed Gotcha winner, but also because it plays into a wider anti-dairy agenda. Dairy is our media's Donald Trump - the thing they love to hate. The sector's alleged shortcomings are a regular target for columnists, cartoonists and editorial writers.

Which may explain why Farmwatch has, so far, escaped real challenge. But these zealots, quick to condemn, can also be indicted as hypocrites. To be true to their declared purpose, they should have named the culprits they've filmed and demanded the law take its course. But they haven't. That failure perpetuates "animal suffering" and betrays their principles. Their's is a guilty silence. It condones cruelty now!

The vegans should be asked to justify their silence. The sadism we've seen belongs to individuals, not to an industry. But the hypocrisy belongs to Farmwatch. It's time someone said so.