New Zealand's $20 billion dairy industry feels let down and undermined by a new school teaching resource on climate change which tells students to eat less dairy products and meat.
The resource, designed for the curriculum of Year 7-10 students, was announced this week by the Ministers of Education and Climate Change.
It recommends, in a section unattributed to any medical or nutrition expert source, that students wanting to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions should "eat less meat and dairy products".
"Red meat and dairy production results in significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than the production of chicken meat, fruit, vegetables and cereals. It also requires substantially more water," it says.
DairyNZ, which represents the economic cornerstone dairy industry, said the recommendation is disappointing, lacks context and is not balanced.
Chief executive Dr Tim Mackle said he was "really worried" about the lack of context in this area of the resource, and would be taking the issue up with the ministers.
He said while the introduction of the resource was topical and on an important subject in which young people were "intensely interested", the section at issue did not tell the full story and undermined New Zealand dairy farmers' funding of educational curriculum support about the dairy industry for teachers.
"All New Zealanders know we are a big contributor to overall emissions as food and fibre [industries] ... but the big picture is lacking as to why we have high per capita food and fibre emissions. It's a huge oversight in my view.
"Another bit of context missing for dairy is that we believe we are world leaders in producing dairy for carbon footprint. People don't get this that we are very good on a carbon basis.
"Yes, we have to bring it down, move on it, we understand that. But that context is lacking here and it really worries me.
"I can't see any Ministry of Health or medical [acknowledgement in the section] so why would they be recommending for kids aged 11 to 15 to eat less meat let alone less dairy? Why would we be telling young people to eat less in that development stage?"
A Ministry of Education response suggests no health consultation in the resource's development.
The resource had been previously trialled and then further developed based on feedback from teachers and students, a ministry statement said.
"The Ministry for the Environment, Nasa, Niwa, the Institute of Environment Science and Research, Christchurch City Council, MetService and Stats NZ were all consulted in the resource's development.
"These messages are not new to the community and there is nothing in this resource that says it does not support our farming industry. The messages reflect advice that already exists such as being mindful of food consumption among many other things, including recycling, food waste and travel."
The ministry said nutrition was covered in another part of the school curriculum.
"We expect schools to consult with their local community when making decisions about how they deliver the curriculum. This resource is not a compulsory part of the curriculum."
DairyNZ principal economist Professor Graeme Doole said the Ministry for Primary Industries expected the dairy industry to earn $20b this financial year. This figure would double to $40b once flow-on expenditure to other sectors of the rural community was taken into account. (Tourism's contribution to GDP was last year put at $15.9b.)
Dairy industry heavyweight Fonterra referred the Herald to DairyNZ for comment on the resource's recommendation.
Meat industry advocate Beef+LambNZ and Federated Farmers have also taken issue with the resource's recommendation.
Ministry of Health daily eating guidelines advise consuming "some milk and milk products, mostly low and reduced fat" and eating less than 500g of cooked red meat a week.
Federated Farmers economics spokesman Andrew Hoggard said the message was "simplistic" and implied that climate change was "all agriculture's fault".
"My big worry is that kids will see this and say they have to go vegetarian to save the planet."
He was highly critical of an education ministry document providing nutrition advice.
"The only person that should be giving that advice is a GP who has actually done blood tests etc and knows the patient."
The Herald invited Climate Change Minister James Shaw to respond to the criticisms and concerns. He was unavailable for family reasons.
His office responded with a statement that did not answer any of the Herald's questions.
"A warming planet is the reality kids today are facing and it's only right that they have the opportunity to discuss what this means, talk about solutions, ask questions and find their own answers.
"Our priority is to leave behind a world that is safe for our kids and grandkids. This will require efforts from every one of us to improve the way we farm, design our cities, and produce energy for things like transport and heating our homes. The new climate change resource simply reflects this reality.
"The scientific consensus on climate change is beyond dispute."