It seems even Nelson's massive forest fires aren't enough to feed the maw of the voracious consumer news machine.

TV3's Newshub apparently thought things were still a bit slow, so a few nights back they ran an item as "news" but omitted to mention it first surfaced way back in June, 2017. But that aside, I'm still glad they did — I'd missed it previously, and it was rather poignant.

It featured this Derbyshire farmer, Jay Wilde, who'd some time ago turned vegetarian.

Read more: Frank Greenall: Look to past to fix future
Frank Greenall: Laver, a man of tennis note
Frank Greenall: Saying no to the Masters of War …


He'd since found it increasingly difficult to do what animal farmers inevitably have to do — namely, at some point ship them off for the big chop, whether because they'd reached the end of their "productive" life, or carnivores were queuing up for their tenderloins.

Jay had been an organic beef farmer. But having sworn off the steaks and sizzlers himself, came the time he could no longer look his beasties in their limpid, accusingly melancholic, bovine eyes on the fateful day he loaded them on the truck for the jaunt that would turn them into a joint. He thought it was a bit — you know — hypocritical.

So Judas became Jesus. Jay solved his personal dilemma by simply donating most of his 63-strong herd to an animal sanctuary where they could frolic free for the rest of their natural life, doing what cows do best, which is to grass out, then have a bit of a lie-down for a good old chew of the cud ... Gee, it was a bovine version of Free Willy and Turtle Diary combined.

"It just became more and more difficult sending them to slaughter," said Farmer Jay. "You know, they have thoughts, dreams and personalities, so being taken to be killed was a horrible experience for them, too."

Well, gosh, and perhaps even worse, given they were the ones getting the actual axe. But if Jay is right, now they'd be free to indulge their dreams. What dreams? Well, maybe something like wowing the judges on Cows Got Talent.

Despite having grown up around farms, I could never quite go past a crate crammed full of wobbly little bobby calves waiting forlornly by the farm gate without feeling a catch in the throat. Terms like "freezing works" were a little puzzling, too, until realising they were simply to deflect the fact we made a lot of dosh by being a big-time slaughterhouse.

The closest I come to farm life these days is watching the old favourite, Country Calendar. But again, it always seems an odd disjunct to see stories on farmers obviously taking huge pleasure and pride in their lovingly reared stock before happily waving them off to be topped!

But given New Zealand's economic reliance on lambs — amongst others — to the slaughter, could we ever do the Wilde thing and lay off the animals?


Well, stranger things have happened. Who would have thought a decade or two back that a smoker now has to slink out back like a pariah to have a fag, that same-gender couples now happily trip down the aisle, that race-day crowds at most racecourses could now fit into a telephone box — if only you could find a telephone box?

Who would have thought China would now be our biggest trading partner, that tourism would be our biggest industry, that wine exports outrank wool?

We may even be forced to do a volte-face overnight, anyway. Breakthroughs in plant proteins could soon render most meat and milk production redundant. Given most of our environmental woes stem from intensive dairying and the huge carbon hoofprint of animal farming in general, mightn't it all suddenly seem sensible to jump ship on our economic flagships?

Some might say that, yeah, and pigs can fly. But don't be surprised if, any year now, a new star is born, and a bovine Beyonce's dreams come true as she aces Cows Got Talent.