It's all very well for the likes of SAFE and Farmwatch to lobby for animal rights and the prevention of cruelty, but SAFE went too far with its 'Drop Dairy' billboard in Auckland's Hobson St.

The billboard, showing a bobby calf carcass draped over a map of the North Island, was part of an on-going campaign aimed at raising awareness of the fact that approximately two million unwanted dairy calves are killed at a few days' old every year.

If their bodies were laid end to end, SAFE said, they would create a "trail of death" stretching from Bluff to Cape Reinga.

The organisation understands that cows have to produce calves if they are to produce milk; ergo, they want to put an end to the dairy industry.


And, presumably, any thoughts anyone might have of keeping a house cow on the back lawn.

It's not only the two million dead calves that irk them, but the view that separating cows from their "young babies' also causes suffering for the cows.

Mandy Carter, head of campaigns, reckons that many New Zealanders have been shocked to learn that two million calves are the dairy industry's annual collateral damage, and horrified to learn that they are killed days after birth, "many" of them being mistreated in the interim.

The answer, apparently, is to take the "dairy-free-pledge".

It's long been evident that people who have no knowledge of how pastoral farming works can have difficulty understanding how the products that turn up in their fridge actually get there.

And it's becoming increasingly evident that people like Mandy Carter have not made the connection between pastoral farming and the fact that they can afford fridges, or food to put in them.

Contrary to her inference, the majority of farmers treat their animals well.

They know that a happy animal is more productive than a frightened, sick or injured one.


Unlike Ms Carter, they know which side their bread's buttered on.

The reality is that much about the way in which animals are farmed, particularly for their meat, would be distasteful to many.

Even the most enthusiastic carnivore is unlikely to volunteer for a tour of a freezing works, preferring to make their acquaintance with dinner after the animal has been slaughtered, butchered and packaged.

Those who delight in the sight of spring lambs must be especially adept at ignoring the inescapable fate of the little bundles of wool that, of all young animals, display genuine joi de vivre.

Even if they survive lambhood they have their tails amputated, and having tags punched into their ears probably isn't much fun either.

But without pastoral farming we as a country are stuffed, unless of course Mandy can think of some other way of making our living.

She might also ponder the likelihood that New Zealand's farm animals enjoy a much better quality of life, for however long, than their counterparts in many parts of the world.

That is not to say that SAFE, Farmwatch and co should not expose cruelty when they find it.

There is no argument that some farmers/farm workers do not treat animals well, although Farmwatch's efforts to catch brutality on camera haven't had huge success.

It's how they go about doing their bit to encourage those involved in animal husbandry to treat their stock humanely that is at issue here, and trying, however optimistically, to destroy the dairy industry isn't the smartest way to go about it.

Last year we had a campaign to deter British customers from buying New Zealand produce, and now we have this effort to nobble the dairy industry. This isn't responsible protest - this is sabotage.

Ms Carter isn't above gilding the lily a little either.

She claimed that "farming interests" appeared to be seeking to trivialise the bobby calf "issue," ranging from publicly defending the ill-treatment of calves to dismissing concerns altogether.

Bollocks. The Ministry for Primary Industries, its Minister and Federated Farmers have all reacted with obviously sincere concern at images of calves being kicked and thrown, and have labelled that sort of behaviour as unacceptable.

They were less "appalled' by more recent images because they did not portray such a degree of brutality. Some revealed no brutality whatsoever.

To accuse them of trivialising the issue was disingenuous.

And while it followed the billboard's unveiling by the best part of a week, Ms Carter might also note that the slaughterman who was sentenced to home detention in July for the abuse of bobby calves has now been jailed for two years, as he should have been the first time, on appeal by the MPI. Does that sound like trivialising the issue?

Our turn next?

One might have hoped that some of our politicians would have joined the dots by now, and come to the conclusion that the downtrodden middle and lower socio-economic classes have had enough of being ignored, patronised and exploited. Some hope.

It started with Brexit, when the British decided, against all expert predictions, to rebel against the long-established process of politicians giving away the sovereignty that an earlier generation died in their millions to protect.

That led to speculation that the same seed was germinating in France, Norway, Sweden and any number of other EU countries. It's well underway in Germany.

There are signs that something similar might be brewing in Australia, and the doubting Thomases should have been shaken out of their torpor by Donald Trump's winning the US presidential election. But no, we're above all that sort of thing according to our Prime Minister.

Asked last week if something along the lines of Brexit or Trump could happen here, he was not at all perturbed. Different dynamics altogether, apparently. We're not in the same boat at all. Aren't we? Really?

New Zealanders are tolerant. We put up will all sorts of crap that would have many societies out in the streets burning people in effigy.

We just grumble and console ourselves with the thought that we get to replace an arrogant government with a similarly arrogant government every three years.

But how much longer will that last? Could there come a point where a large number of people in this country become so sick and tired of growing financial inequality, a relentlessly liberal social agenda, an increasingly incompetent civil service, the effects of globalisation and immigration, that they rebel?

The issue that might do it here is race-based legislation. So determined is the current government to serve what it presumably believes are our best interests that it took another major step towards giving Maori local government seats without the need for elections by striking another deal with the Maori Party, ignoring New Zealand First's offer of its 12 votes for RMA reform - if it abandoned its race-based policies. National wasn't interested.

Therein lies the seed that could give rise to our own Donald Trump.

If another Bob Jones was to step on to the stage next year, a la 1984, someone who is not a politician, not part of the ruling elite, and offer a saner future for New Zealand, voters would surely flock to him. Or her. Bet on it.

If John Key can't see that possibility, and continues failing to see the the country is becoming deeply divided, then he too might be in for an electoral thrashing.

Winston Peters must be salivating.