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Article an ‘untrue reflection of NZ farming practices’

THE newly-elected chairman of the New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (NZRSB), Richard Scholefield from Whangara Farms, has responded to an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper that criticised New Zealand’s animal welfare and farming practices.

Article author Philip McKinnin criticised this country’s approach to farming and to animal welfare, claiming Kiwi farmers treated their animals inhumanely.

“Anger was my first response to the article,” Mr Scholefield said.

“The writer said New Zealand treats animals inhumanely — but it could become a world leader in animal rights.

“It felt like a direct attack on me as a farmer and I started thinking about counter-arguments and all the ways urban New Zealand negatively impacts our environment, from pumping raw sewage into the sea and to cities’ effects on urban waterways.

“It’s easy to accuse and point the finger but once I had calmed down, my overwhelming view was that we could make more progress if we all work together on solutions.

“This collaborative approach is at the heart of the NZRSB, where we have players from across the supply chain who leave their egos and agendas at the door and are working together on having New Zealand’s beef recognised as the most sustainable in the world,” Mr Scholefield said.

“I recognise there is growing international concern about the impact of producing red meat, but it doesn’t reflect New Zealand farming practice.

“There’s a reason New Zealand farmers are recognised as world-leading producers of premium products — we’re good at what we do.”

The fundamental approach of most Kiwi farmers was “look after your land and it will look after you”.

“We have the highest animal welfare standards in the world and work hard to make sure our animals have good lives.

“Can we do better? Absolutely, and while I take issue with a number of points in Mr McKibbin’s article, we are making good progress in addressing many of the things he raises,” Mr Scholefield said.

Through He Waka Eke Noa, all New Zealand farmers will need to know their greenhouse gas footprint and the next steps will be further measures to reduce it.

“The sector is well on its way to achieving the goal of being net carbon neutral by 2050— with a 30 percent reduction in absolute greenhouse gases since 1990.

“The industry is also addressing winter grazing issues and implementing farm environment plans.”

Recently the industry introduced a new higher audit standard — New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme Plus (NZFAP+) — that features sustainability and biodiversity practices.

“New Zealand farmers do a great job and contribute greatly to New Zealand’s economy,” Mr Scholefield said.

“I worry about the impact attacks like Mr McKibbin’s have on the mental wellbeing of our farmers who are constantly under attack.

“More than 90 percent of our sheep and beef farms are family-owned and many are intergenerational.

“Looking after the land and animals are at the heart of these farming practices,” Mr Scholefield said.

“As the general manager of a Maori incorporation I’m passionate about sustainability.

“Whangara Farms is here forever, so we need to look after it for future generations. Our farming practices back this up.

“Farmers are under pressure and are stretched to the limit trying to do the right thing. Being constantly under attack from the like of Mr McKibbin really gets to people who are setting out everyday to do their best and are proud New Zealand producers of food.”

Mr Scholefield said he was not sure where Mr McKibbin got some of his information from.

“But Beef + Lamb New Zealand’s ‘Making Meat Better’ website features facts to back up our world-leading practices.”

The New Zealand sheep and beef sector uses four million fewer hectares of land than 30 years ago and collectively those farms contain 24 percent of the country’s native vegetation — the largest amount outside public conservation land.

“I completely respect the 15 percent of New Zealanders Mr McKibbin says don’t eat meat — however, our farmers are proud producers of food for the 85 percent who are eating meat and we want to share our story with them,” Mr Scholefield said.

“There’s definitely more that farmers can do, but equally there’s more urban-based businesses and individuals can do too.

“Let’s stop looking over the fence and pointing the finger — a better approach is to work together on solutions.”

‘STOP POINTING THE FINGER’: Newly-appointed chairman of the New Zealand Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, Richard Scholefield, has responded to a critical article about New Zealand farming practices. Picture supplied