General Discussion by Timothy Lynch written in 15-04-2007
The hidden underbelly of NZ, and the guts of the dilemma.
As climate change and inclement weather patterns blow and rain upon our door, our New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has taken up the challenge to make NZ the foremost country of 'sustainability' on the planet. In her State of the Nation speech, sustainability seemed to be the Prime Minister's favourite word, which she used 33 times.
She promised a sustainable nation - calling 2007 a year of action on sustainability - and said that the pride we take in making our country sustainable and carbon neutral will define us, just as our anti-nuclear stance has.
With energy, transportation, farming, industry and forestry being the big users of energy as well as emitters of greenhouse gasses, to every ones surprise, one of the greatest releases of climate change inducing gasses happens to be ... farming.
After cutting down 2/3rds of the native forests in the last 200 years, NZ went heavily into farming, especially dairy, beef and sheep. This propelled higher living standards for NZers on the back of export markets, where returns have been beneficial to the country as a whole. (Except the environment) However, sheep, beef and cows are also huge producers of both methane and CO2.
So much so that farming in NZ produces 51% of NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions, yet are only 20% of NZ’s Gross National Product. That's a deficit of 31%.
In plain English, it’s an unsustainable industry.
When we look at animal farming, we find that we derive wool, milk, and hides from these animals, however they are all consumed for meat, a staple diet for a huge majority of NZers.
This is the sacred cow that is sacrosanct to many NZers.
To give up meat ... NEVER!
So here’s the rub.
If we love our children, then we had better find a solution to farming's high greenhouse gas output. For if NZ does not solve its animal flatulence, burping and breathing challenge, then how can we expect America and Australia to change, or China for that matter. Though NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions are infinitesimal compared with other countries, if we don’t meet our moral obligations, then we are not part of the solution, but are continuing the problem.
As a nation we could easily migrate our food growing capacity to diversify into nuts, grains, vines and berries, intermingled with fruit trees and more vegetables. All we do is check out what flora grows in other countries at the same latitude, be in the Northern or Southern hemisphere.
NZ prides itself as innovative, agile and quick on the uptake, remember the electric fence is a NZ farming invention. Why put up a wall, when you can string out a single strand of wire and send an electric charge of varying intensity along it, to keep your cows corralled.
Of course there is a small but growing number of people globally who say that the way forward is by giving up red meat eating, (giving up the flesh) others say, then relinquish white meat, (chicken) and (fish) then there is the vegetarian and vegan model for food uptake as to where attentive people are going.
Recently, the Dalai Lama a red meat eater relinquished meat eating, taking the step into vegetarianism. While we can not have expectations of the whole global population becoming vegetarian. (but some day in the future this will happen provided we have a planet) I feel that a strategic choice to slowly wean ourselves down from meat 6 days a week to a few days per week is the go.
Of course virtually all of NZs politicians are meat eaters by culture or by habit. The main political parties have at every function plates and plates of animal offerings from roast lamb, to veal cutlets, beef steaks and mutton, sausage rolls, pork pies then there may be venison as well, plus chicken. And it is all very natural, and part of life
Note that Jeanette Fitzsimonds, Green Party co leader, a keen organic carnivore does not broach this in any Green critique on the causes of NZ greenhouse gas emitting. Such is meat eating so ingrained into the national psyche, that the perception is that even the Greens are held captive to their craving for meat.
Once a dinner plate of food was a good number of veges or gruel surrounded by a very small portion of meat, but this has turned the opposite way today to a large hunk of meat covering 2/3rds of the plate (in Australia) with 3 veg like a spud, carrot and assorted peas. Now, with cancer of the bowel becoming a growing Western disease, the answer is becoming more obvious. Cut down on meat eating!
What I find of interest is that I have noted some carnivores many warm hearted and loving, calling for a greater spiritual impetus for human kind, I wonder if they could call on other carnivores globally to shift their olfactory organs and taste buds into a more plant based intake, could that then induce more optimistic change and bring about a greater spiritual consciousness on earth?
It would diminish the 'kill' mentality that seems rampant on earth at this moment in time.
This no doubt is only a thought away.
There is a counter saying too, that goes "it is not what you put into your mouth, but what comes out of your mouth" ... Sooooooo, we’ve a serious problem here in NZ and it's intensified by farm animals
However, can NZ break with their habits? Will they let go of an old pattern? Are they strong enough ethically? Have they the will?
Though I know of people who are loving and kind, they say they will fight for the freedom to eat meat! ... But at what cost?