I would like to see everybody Kiss a Cockie this month.

Or Fondle a Farmer?

Whatever we decide to call it, let's all show farmers a little bit of love during October. They deserve a break.

Farmers, or rather farming practices, came under the spotlight during the election campaign and there was much debate about an urban/rural divide.


There's no doubt farmers are feeling hard done by.

They're being blamed for the poor water quality in New Zealand despite the fact city dwellers need to take responsibility for the filthy state of the harbours and rivers around them.

They're being told how to manage their stock by people who have never set foot on a farm.

They're being told they don't pay their workers (farm labourers) enough and then told they pay their workers (Fonterra CEO Theo Spierings) too much .

It is mostly dairy farmers who have come under fire but now sheep farmers are feeling the heat as well.

A handful of Hollywood luvvies have stripped off for a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaign with the tag-line: "I'd rather go naked than wear wool." The Peta organisation made headlines after one of their number told of a video Peta had made in Australia showing sheep being shorn.

The sheep were, allegedly, smashed on the back, punched in the face and had cuts on their skin sewn up without painkillers.

Now the team from the Save Animals from Exploitation group has jumped on the bandwagon.


A British professor of animal welfare who is in this country on a year's secondment with the Safe says he was appalled at seeing sheep being shorn in Queenstown.

Apparently, the sheep were being manhandled and put into positions that were awkward for them, which, according to Dr Andrew Knight, would have been very stressful.

Then they are sent back out into the cold without their wool.

The good doctor went on to concede the sheep hadn't shown any signs of distress.

So how then did he know that they were traumatised?

It would appear Knight has a special insight into the brains of sheep.

He says sheep are stoic creatures that quietly take the treatment they are handed out.

Like little bucolic Buddhas, then. Higher sentient beings with a zen-like capacity to accept suffering and endure.

Or, how about, they show no signs of distress or suffering because they don't actually bloody feel any?

He went on to complain about dogs menacing the sheep when they're herding them, not actually nipping them or biting them.

He appears to be concerned that the dogs are just being really, really mean to the sheep.

He was also upset lambs are born in cold spring weather.

Dear me.

Knight should be made to sit down and watch a season's worth of A Dog's Show if he wants to truly understand sheep and herding dog dynamics.

And while he's watching he could make himself useful, get out the knitting needles and start whipping up a few jerseys for the newborn lambs - which is what some dear old ladies do every year around lambing time.

No wonder farmers are frustrated.

We all want clean water and animals to have a happy and painfree existence before they make themselves useful and become a chop.

If you want to be a vegetarian, be one.

If you don't want to wear wool, don't.

But enough with the sanctimony and the smugness. And with the downright misinformation.

Let's embrace Cockietober and show our farmers we care.

• Kerre McIvor is on NewstalkZB Monday-Friday, noon-4pm.