Fonterra’s Retro-Ads – Not Cool

Originally published at scoop.co.nz

Fonterra’s retro inspired new ads seem to have backfired. Their graphic simplicity has created a remarkable canvas for anti-dairy campaigners to alter the pro-dairy message using paint or printed out letters. “Cool Again”, only requires a three letter change to read “Cruel Again”. “Just Chill” has been altered to “Just Cruel” and “Butter is Back” to “Butter is Bad”.

Other alterations include thick globules of blood dripping from the image of the pure white milk bottle.

The message is clear. Many people in New Zealand are growing increasingly out of love with dairy. Perhaps that explains the almost defensive posture the ads begin with. Why try to tell us dairy is cool again? When was it ever uncool?

Well, let us count all the things that are uncool about dairy.

Dairy is uncool because of its environmental impact. Surely nobody can escape the increasing publicity about pollution of swimming holes, rivers and lakes. What about the water bourne illness in Havelock North? It is odd that the inquiry around this deliberately avoided the dairy sector.

Then there are the agricultural emissions that contribute to climate change – by a massive fifty per cent! And there is “no quick fix” to that says our climate change Minister Paula Bennett.

Dairy burns coal to make milk powder. It also imports palm kernel extract (PKE) to feed to the vast numbers of cows. This is a by-product from an industry that is destroying tropical rainforests and all the beautiful animals that live in them. What a sad legacy for future generations. A burnt planet with no wild animals. But hey – we still have ice cream, coffees, and chocolate sundaes. For now, anyway.

Dairy is uncool because our over-reliance on it as an industry means our economy is vulnerable to fluctuations in global markets. It also leaves debt-ridden farmers struggling.

Dairy was also uncool when SAFE and Farmwatch screened footage of helpless, defenceless calves being hurled across concrete and bludgeoned by a stone-faced abattoir worker in 2015. And it was definitely uncool when a picture of a calf being dragged by his foot from his mother aired in the recent expose by Farmwatch in 2016.

And who can forget the footage that aired recently of the mother cow being dragged by hip clamps with her face in the mud? Her dead baby lay metres away.

Yes, dairy is cruel and it hurts cows and young innocent calves who were born to die. They were born to induce lactation in cows so humans can take their milk and advertise it as “cool”.

So maybe that is why Fonterra has engaged in time travel – back to a time before dairy was ever questioned.

Using a nostalgic approach, they conjure up images of 1950s style milk bars and a time when life was simpler and purer. It was once never questioned that New Zealand’s role in the world was to produce milk and meat for the mother country. What a strange reversal of maternal care-giving – the infant country suckles the mother.

But that is the point isn’t it? Milk is not just an innocent white substance that we think has certain nutritional benefits. It is high in saturated fats and cholesterol and is associated with the worst aspects of the Western diet. To make matters worse it is now being exported and aggressively marketed to non- Western countries now experiencing obesity problems for the first time.

Well, bovine milk is designed to grow a baby calf into a huge 500 plus kilogram animal in a short period. It kind of figures that it’s not going to be included as a main component of a Weight Watcher’s diet.

The myth of dairy being good for bones was busted in a 2005 review published in Paediatrics which demonstrated that milk consumption does not improve bone density in children. Dairy has also been linked to prostate and breast cancer.

There is a moral and ethical problem of cruelty and greed at the basis of our culture that we need to acknowledge if we are ever to truly progress as a society. Milk production is cruel, unsustainable and has questionable health benefits for humans.

How uncool is that?

Giraffe’s killing murder most foul

Originally published at nzherald.co.nz
When we condone the spilling of blood, we also die a kind of death.

Marius the giraffe is dead, killed last week in Copenhagen Zoo and then dismembered and fed to lions in front of a crowd of parents and children. Prior to this almost unbelievable public execution, many people visited him in the captive abode he was born in. Perhaps they fed him and marvelled at his slender neck, impossibly long legs, distinctly patterned coat and prehensile athletic tongue. His slow, ambling gait, and wide, quizzical eyes might have struck them as endearing and gentle, although as a young male reaching sexual maturity he might well have grunted and snorted at them like any other teenager!

A sub-Saharan African mammal from grassland and open woodland environment, in his natural habitat Marius would have lived a fairly solitary existence wandering between female herds to mate, keeping an eye out for predators, his long neck reaching high among the tree tops.

But Marius was not free from predators in his captive environment. The people he had trusted all his short life in Copenhagen Zoo were predators of a different kind, you might call them wolves in sheep’s clothing. Lured with a piece of rye bread, did Marius know, when the vet raised the bolt gun, that this was it? Marius’s knees buckled, his majestic form crumpled underneath him, his bowels loosened, and his tongue lolled uselessly to the side. The light went out from his eyes. What about the children who witnessed the subsequent ‘autopsy’ of Marius? What went on in their minds when they saw his dismembered head lying on the ground, and a distinctly spotted carcass being fed to the lions? “Not one child went away crying” reported the zoo director. Maybe not, but some of their innocence and their belief in the goodness of human beings was eroded that day. The violence done to Marius, whatever the zoo director says, was also a violence done to the children brought in to watch.

The sad case of Marius the giraffe highlights two approaches when working with animals, that is between conservationists and welfarists. In the conservationist view it is the species, not the individuals, that are important. Most scientists take the conservationist approach. Marius had an over-represented gene pool, and this is what the Copenhagen Zoo directors were focusing on. They even refused offers of other zoos to take him because they couldn’t get an undertaking that he wouldn’t be bred. Neutering him was also out of the question, because of “side effects”. Welfarists, on the other hand, think of the unique, individual animal who, it must be said, doesn’t care if its species is facing extinction. “I am not just a gene pool any more than you are” Marius might have protested, “I am a sentient being, my life is important to me, and I don’t want to die”.

Marius could not run away with his long legs, nor could he hide from the gun. This was not a fair fight. When humans interfere with the natural order it is always in a posture of dominance and control, and with a sense of entitlement that we can do what we want with Nature and with other animals. But animals are not ours to do what we like with – how many more must die because we consider them our possessions? To be human is to recognise that the light in the eyes of our fellow animals is reflected in our own, and when we condone the spilling of their blood, we also die a kind of death; of morality, empathy and compassion. It is time for us to stop imprisoning and slaughtering animals just because we can. Until we begin to have this debate openly and seriously, then Marius should become the face of all zoos.