Why are we blaming the farmers?
Recently Greenpeace NZ brought to our attention the fact that an astonishing amount of palm kernels are imported by NZ dairy farmers on a yearly basis in order to supplement the feed of NZ diary cows—an unbelievable 1.1 million tons, almost a quarter of the world supply, in 2007 alone.
Palm kernels are a by-product of the palm oil industry so therefore the problem is twofold, but I would like to concentrate on the controversy over the palm kernels. My first question upon hearing about this protest was "were any of the protesters vegan?" I contacted Greenpeace to find out and a spokesperson informed me that some of the protesters may have been vegetarian or vegan, but it couldn't really be established. Firstly, in most western countries including NZ, vegetarianism includes, among other things, the consumption of diary products, so I really don't care if they were vegetarian. My question is were they vegan.
How many people who are outraged about this issue, and screaming bloody murder at the diary farmers, are vegans? Judging by the miniscule percentage of the NZ population who are vegan, I would imagine very few. So in other words, the majority of people protesting the issue are themselves consumers of dairy products, and are participants in the demand that the NZ dairy farmers are trying to fill.
The facts and figures involved with palm oil and by default palm kernel production are widely available, and are astounding and distressing. But the NZ farmers are simply business people, responding to demand. A demand that WE create. As the population continues to grow, leading naturally to an increase in the consumption of dairy products (unless more people start going vegan) the farmers are going to look for more ways to fill that demand. They are capitalists. We are the consumers. We want dairy products and we want them as cheap as possible, because money is tight and we have to feed our families. Farmers have to feed their families too, and they are business people, so they will do whatever is most cost effective for their business.
I urge everyone to think critically about what is really going on here. We must take a look at the products we consume before blaming the producers for doing what they need to do to fill our demand in as cost effective a way possible. Any consumer of diary products who feels outraged about what is happening to the orangutans and tigers needs to know that they are contributing to the unbelievable suffering of beings that are just as sentient and innocent as the orangutans and tigers—dairy cows and their calves. Anyone who is concerned about the environmental destruction of the forests in Indonesia and Malaysia caused by palm oil and palm kernel production, should investigate the devastation caused to the NZ environment by dairy farming in order to satisfy our demand for dairy products.
No human being needs to consume dairy products to be optimally healthy, in fact there is plenty of evidence that diary is a terrible thing for our bodies. A balanced vegan diet is possibly the healthiest diet a human being can have. But most importantly it is a rejection of violence, a rejection of injustice against innocent beings, and is a removal of oneself from the demand for animal products. Please let us keep it real—it is our demand for animal products that is causing all this devastation and harm to all other living things, by the billions a year.
Feeding 6 billion human beings is a challenge, and a vegan consumer base does not eliminate all suffering and environmental damage, nor does it claim to. But it greatly reduces them. Please don't take my word for it—I urge everyone to go out there and do their own research. Keep an open mind, think critically and research it; for your sake, for your childrens' sakes and for the sake of all other life on Earth. I don't blame the farmers, I prefer not to 'blame' anyone. We are all involved in this problem, and the sooner we face that, the sooner we can start to take action that really counts. I am grateful to Greenpeace NZ for bringing this issue out into the open, but I want to take it a step further. Let's seriously educate ourselves about what we are consuming, and take some responsibility for that. The power is in our hands. We will always need farmers, I respect farmers for their hard work and their necessary knowledge of climate and soil. Let's create a demand for them to fill of products that are much more sustainable, and will not cause the deliberate and direct suffering and death, on our behalf, of billions and billions of animals a year. As Leo Tolstoy said “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” The choice is ours.