It is time to call out the deliberate narrative, being fuelled by this Government that our agriculture sector, and the farming families that underpin it, are climate and environmental villains.

It started over a decade ago with the dirty dairying campaign and has now widened to include all our animal food producing sectors.

These voices are no longer at the extreme of our community debate but rather at the centre of our government.

At the core of their belief is that our future world cannot sustain animal food production and we should start weaning ourselves off the animal protein diet in order to improve our health and environment.

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Recently Government Minister Julie-Anne Genter told hospitals that they should encourage meat and dairy free meals to save the environment, whilst our national museum Te Papa has an exhibition that recommends our kids to go meat and dairy free for three days a week to contribute to a low emissions climate future.

Last week an IPCC report talked about the importance of a balanced diet that includes fruit, vegetables, grains and low emissions animal food production systems.

Typically that was grist to the mill for those who yearn for the taming of agribusiness and the report was duly framed up domestically as a further threat to NZ farming.

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We need to move the conversation from condemnation to celebration.

The fact is that New Zealand's farming systems are extremely efficient, and we lead the way in producing high quality products within a low emissions profile.

Our environmental footprint is improving as technology is matched by our farmers' ever willingness to adapt, change and innovate.

Our primary sector understands our reputation as a safe producer of food must be underpinned by sustainable farming practices.

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They accept change is a constant, in fact global leadership in food production demands it, but surely it is reasonable to ask that the society in which we produce it to quietly applaud our efforts, rather than rushing to find an example of failure in one of our 23,000 farms and dressing it up as typical.

Of course, too much meat can be detrimental, and clearly plant-based foods are essential for a balanced diet. But the health benefits of including meat and dairy in your diet are well documented and a balanced diet must be encouraged.

A recent briefing from MPI's Chief Science Advisor into the EAT-Lancet Commission report showed that many of the reports condemning meat and dairy production are using generalisations regarding the environmental footprint of farming, and are not taking New Zealand's superior farming systems into consideration.

Photo / File
Photo / File

Globally, the concerns around red meat production stems from the intensive feedlot industry that can house tens of thousands of animals at each site, and require excessive amounts of water and grain to maintain their systems.

New Zealand farms are overwhelmingly pasture based. Our farming systems are not comparable in the least to a feedlot system.

It's telling that we can produce enough food to feed 40 million people globally and are still the most carbon efficient producer in the world based on output of food compared to emissions produced.

A glass of New Zealand milk can be shipped to the next most efficient country (Ireland) to be consumed there, and it still has a lower carbon footprint than an equivalent Irish glass of milk.

This shows how ahead of the curve we really are. The UK Guardian responded to the recent climate change report by declaring – 'Eat more NZ Lamb'. This seems to be lost in the ninth floor of the Beehive.

That recent IPCC report actually highlighted the advantages we face in this country due to our efficient farming system.

The global population is constantly increasing, and overall meat and dairy consumption per capita continues to increase.

New Zealand is at the forefront of efficient food production, and therefore if we're to lower our global emissions we should be leading the way, not constraining ourselves and diminishing our output.

One final reality check - 56 per cent of New Zealand's exports are food.

New Zealand is a little country at the bottom of the world that needs to produce stuff to survive.

Every time we buy pharmaceuticals, cars or computers from the rest of the world we need to pay for it by selling them something. As a country with a small population but a large natural resource base, this tends to be food and materials, minerals or tourism.

This Government has already shown a recklessness when it comes to our oil, gas and mining sectors.

Let's not allow them to take the same approach to our farmers. Our standard of living depends on it.