Take action Support the transition out of industrial dairying

Support New Zealand farmers out of industrial dairying

Write to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Agriculture Minister Hon Damien O’Connor to encourage the government to support farmers to transition out of dairy farming.

We encourage you to personalise your letter as much as possible – you can use the following talking points to help draft your own letter (see the Milked facts page for more), or you can forward the pre-written letter at the bottom of the page:

Key Points:

Suggested action

We ask the Government to undertake immediate action to help farmers transition away from dairy farming to more sustainable and ethical employment. Here are some of our suggested actions:

  • Initiate a multidisciplinary, independent body to create a plan to transition away from dairy farming
  • A bail-out fund for transitioning dairy farmers which covers their dairy related debt
  • A direct payment scheme to farmers seeking to diversify from dairy farming into another industry.

Further encourage the implementation of research, development and policy as outlined in the Green Protein report, pages 72-73.

Supporting topics and points:


Animal cruelty is built into the dairy farming system. Cows must give birth to produce milk, and so are forcibly impregnated; after a nine month pregnancy, calves are separated from their mothers within days of birth. Farmers are forced to break this maternal bond again and again so they can collect and sell the mothers’ milk. Farmers are often forced to kill their own animals, and routinely send trucks of surplus “bobby” calves and “spent” dairy mothers to slaughterhouses, an emotionally taxing job for farmers that brings certain death and suffering for the animals. Can Aotearoa keep its reputation as an ethical food producer if dairy cruelty is a defining feature of our food production?

  • In 2020, 2 million bobby calves were killed a week after birth.
  • In 2020, more than 4 million cattle (dairy and beef) were slaughtered in New Zealand.
  • Cows are curious and sensitive beings who naturally live in small herds, form close friendships with others and develop a social hierarchy.
  • Due to selective breeding, milk production per cow has more than doubled in the last 40 years, pushing animals to their limits and requiring large amounts of antibiotics.


Our waterways are struggling, with industrial dairy farming taking more from our waterways than any other sector. Our lowered water levels are prone to pollution as dairy farm run-off and nitrogen leaching upsets the ecological balance of streams, rivers and lakes. This results in unsafe drinking water, water unsafe for swimming and waterways unable to support freshwater species and those that rely on them.

  • The dairy industry uses over 13 billion litres of water per year. That’s eleven times our entire yearly domestic water use.
  • 82% of waterways in farming areas are unfit for swimming.
  • Each dairy cow creates the equivalent effluent of 14 humans.
  • Since 1990, the amount of nitrogen applied to soils in Aotearoa has increased over 600%.
  • Up to 800,000 of New Zealanders may have increased bowel cancer risk due to nitrates in water.
  • 74% of native freshwater fish are now threatened by, or at risk of extinction.

Emissions / climate change

Avoiding the worst impacts of climate change may be possible if we reduce methane and nitrous oxide emissions, the two main gases produced by dairy cows, their effluent and nitrogen fertiliser. These gases are stronger than CO2 and also have a shorter lifespan in our atmosphere, meaning a reduction of these gases will help slow down climate change even faster than a reduction of CO2. There’s growing pressure for businesses and governments to act on climate change – Aotearoa should lead this fight and act early to avoid being left behind.

  • The dairy sector creates more green house gas (GHG) emissions than our entire transport sector.
  • The dairy industry’s total emissions have risen by 132% in the last 30 years.
    Fonterra will produce more than 100% of New Zealand’s total national GHG emissions target in the next ten years.
  • Fonterra are under reporting their emissions, and produce more GHG than the whole of Sweden, a country with twice the population of Aotearoa (IATP, Milking the Planet)
  • Fonterra alone is burning over 500,000 tonnes of coal per year.

Market disruptions to the sector

Our Kiwi farmers are facing debt, increased social pressure to improve conditions and a lack of industry support and leadership. The most disruptive shift in food production systems in the past 10,000 years is on our doorstep. In the next decade, animal-free dairy proteins produced through precision fermentation are likely to disrupt the dairy market, putting dairy farmers all over the world out of work. With dire predictions being made for US dairy farmers, New Zealand should be preparing for the market to change, to support farmers and to transition our economy from its reliance on this volatile, unsustainable industry.

Animal-free dairy protein alternatives will be:

  • Up to 100 times more land efficient
  • 10 to 25 times more feedstock efficient
  • 20 times more time efficient
  • 10 times more water efficient
  • Half of the 1.2 million jobs in US beef and dairy production and their associated industries will be lost by 2030, climbing towards 90% by 2035
  • 62% of dairy farmers said they, or someone on their farm, had experienced mental health issues in the past 12 months

Dietary health

We’re encouraged to drink milk by our Government’s industry influenced, racist dietary guidelines. This impacts information shared in schools, hospitals and our homes. But there is a growing body of evidence suggesting dairy products are harming us and that dairy is linked to many of our most chronic diseases, such as cancers, heart disease and diabetes. Our health care system is struggling and inundated with dietary/lifestyle related illnesses which could be prevented by changing our dietary guidelines to reflect our modern knowledge of dairy products.

  • Dairy consumption is associated with an increased risk of cancer. Commercial cow’s milk contains large amounts of pregnancy hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone.
  • Women who drank 2 to 3 cups of cow’s milk per day were associated with an 80% increased chance of breast cancer.”
  • Encouraging milk consumption to Māori, Pasifika is institutional racism, due to their increased rates of lactose intolerance.
  • We shouldn’t base our economy around exporting unhealthy food, particularly to lactose intolerant populations – in Asia lactose intolerance affects up to 90% of the population.
  • Dairy is the highest source of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol in our diets, both of which are associated with diabetes and heart disease.

Take Action

This email will be sent directly to Rt Hon Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister of Agriculture Hon Damien O’Connor. You will also receive a copy for your records. Emails are public information ‒ if you would like any of your information withheld, please state this in your email.

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