When I was a kid, going to stay with our country relatives was a real treat. I still remember the thrill of seeing a lamb being born, at 7 or 8, on a cold crisp Canterbury morning. In my memory, the amniotic sac was a beautiful, rainbow colour and I remember feeling awestruck and completely grossed out.
At another rellie’s farm, I became a dab hand at dodging shitty cows’ tails and putting on suction cups and hosing down the milking sheds after the cows made their way back to the paddocks.
I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Eric the pig when I took my daughter to see her South Island grandparents — and a few months later I thoroughly enjoyed eating him at Christmas.
I’ve spent a day filming at a freezing works and although it is an assault on the senses — and it took more time than I imagined to scrub off dried blood and viscera from my face — I came away satisfied the meat I eat was being killed humanely, efficiently and hygienically.
In fact, apart from the horrified look on the steer’s face as it came up the ramp and saw the horror stories it heard as a calf from its older brothers were, in fact, true, the steer didn’t know a thing. Would that my death be as quick and as painless.
Suffice to say, I understand what it is to choose to be a meat eater and don’t have too many romantic notions of farms or the business of farming.
And I’m grateful to our farmers for creating a modern, sophisticated industry that is the backbone of this our economy. I know it hasn’t come without pain.
The fourth Labour Government removed subsidies for farmers in the 80s and I remember the news of farmers, devastated and broken, walking off farms in families for five and six generations.
Thirty years on milk fat prices are linked to New Zealand’s wellbeing. I understand all that.
And I’m also well aware the responsibility for, and the burden of cleaning up our filthy waterways is not solely that of farmers.
I have written many times about the need for Auckland’s council to bring its infrastructure into the 21st century and stop polluting Auckland’s harbours, rivers and streams with filth. We have to clean up our own backyards before we can go interfering in anybody’s else’s.
And I understand the rationale behind David Clark’s open letter to Kiwis, concerned about the rift he sees between urban and rural Kiwis.
The mid-Canterbury farmer launched a passionate defence of farming this week, deploring the fact so many of us seem to see farmers as the enemy.
I think it was more the comments made by his local Ashburton community that upset him — along the lines of farmers ruining the countryside and degrading the waterways, when Clark pointed out farmers were the lifeblood of so many communities around the country.
I’m sorry farmers feel so defensive. Most of them are doing their best to make a quid and look after their livestock and the land and it’s not in their best interests to run a shoddy operation.
But townies are allowed an opinion, even if they don’t have cowshit in their veins. Farmers don’t operate fiefdoms where their word is law — they have to abide by rules and regulations, like us all. Yes, rules are irritating and time consuming and costly and sometimes we don’t see the sense in them, but we all have to abide by them. Townies need to understand farms aren’t bucolic Disneylands and farmers need to appreciate that the decisions they make don’t just affect their bottom lines — they affect the rest of the country too.
Farmers have to abide by rules and regulations, just like us all.