Cows are amazing

Cows are wonderfully curious and sensitive beings who would naturally live in small herds, form close friendships with others and develop a social hierarchy. Relationships are important to cows, and each one can recognise more than 100 members of their herd. Cows also form strong bonds with humans and can be as affectionate as dogs. Sadly, these sweet, peaceful beings are exploited in many ways, right here in Aotearoa.

The issues cows face

Cows in New Zealand face many welfare issues. Dairy cows are repeatedly impregnated so that humans can consume their milk, only to have their babies taken away from them to be killed. Cattle raised for beef may be kept in cramped and unnatural feedlots to be fattened for slaughter.

Steers and bulls are wrestled, ridden and tormented in rodeo events, with some even losing their lives for the entertainment of a small minority.

Cows selected for live export are usually taken from green pastures in New Zealand. They are sometimes shipped while pregnant, confined to small pens. They travel across the Pacific Ocean, where they can be thrown about in rough seas. Once the journey is over, they may be taken to concrete intensive farms to give birth, where they may be kept for years to be milked.

The dairy industry

Every year in New Zealand, over four million calves are separated from their mothers at birth. The milk which would nourish and sustain these calves is instead taken and consumed by humans. As many as two million calves are killed every year, considered ‘waste products’ of the dairy industry.

Many people don’t realise that a dairy cow needs to give birth to produce milk. One of the dairy industry’s darkest secrets is what happens to those newborn calves. Investigations in New Zealand in 2015 and 2016 exposed many of these issues, leaving many caring Kiwis shocked and wanting to take action.

Dairy and the economy

The adverse economic effects on the New Zealand economy of a ban on dairying is often given as a reason to continue with the dairy industry and its expansion. However, many academics and economists are starting to question our dependence on dairying.

Some Kiwi farmers are already ahead of the game and are converting from dairy farming to crop growing. Read about the remarkable story of two Kiwi dairy farmers turned hemp growers, who are paving the way for a cleaner, greener, kinder Aotearoa!

Dairy and your health

Despite what the dairy industry says, scientific studies show that we can get all the nutrients we need from plants. In fact, green leafy vegetables and legumes are some of the healthiest sources of calcium available.

More and more Kiwis are making the switch to plant-based versions of dairy products, and the options are endless!

Craving cheese and ice cream? Check out our dairy alternatives page for inspiration.

Inadequate enforcement

Despite the disturbing level of animal welfare problems and documented animal abuse within the dairy industry, prosecution for neglect or abuse on dairy farms is rare. The Ministry for Primary Industries considers prosecution to be a last resort, with ‘getting a farm back on track’ the usual approach. This is why New Zealand desperately needs an independent agency for animals.

Environmental impacts

Cows are not the only casualty of dairy farming. Our environment has been severely impacted through the modification of natural ecosystems, the compaction of land, pollution of waterways and greenhouse gas emissions. The environmental effects of dairying will only get worse if further dairy expansion is permitted. For the health of our environment, as well as the sustainability of our economy, we need to decrease our reliance on the dairy sector and animal agriculture in general.

Considering that animal farming is responsible for most of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases, there has never been a better time to embrace a plant-based diet. We have all of the tips and advice you need to get you started. Sign up for the plant-based challenge today!

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As a charity, SAFE is reliant on the support of caring people like you to carry out our valuable work. Every gift goes towards providing education, undertaking research and campaigning for the benefit of all animals. SAFE is a registered charity in New Zealand (CC 40428). Contributions of $5 or more are tax-deductible.