Herding us towards disaster?


Following the herd. Image: Su Leslie 2018

New Zealand’s wealth has long depended on exploiting natural resources; native forests, marine life (including seals and whales), and — once the trees had been felled — grazing animals on the vast tracts of land left behind.

In the early 1980s, there were 22 sheep for every human living in this country. Then dairy (and to a lesser extent beef) farming became more profitable, and now, while there are still six sheep for every person in NZ, humans are outnumbered about 2:1 by cows, around 65 percent of which are dairy cows.


Farmer moving herd of cows, Tuapeka, Otago, NZ. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Dairy farming in particular is hugely damaging to the natural environment; half of NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions come from this activity, and you can add massive damage to soil and waterways and the impacts of transporting millions of tonnes of milk around the country, etc.

Yet even as the IPCC report is painting a picture of a world in absolute climate crisis, the industry continues to grow, with bigger farms and more land being converted to pasture.

Cows are herding animals, but it seems to me that many humans are too. And once the “dairy is good” herd gained momentum, it is proving incredibly difficult to turn them back.


Turning away from the herd. Image: Su Leslie 2018

Posted to the Ragtag Daily Prompt | herd