SAFE's distortion of harmless farming practice

NZ Farmer Editor, Jon Morgan, writes an article in which he accuses animal; rights group SAFE (Save Animals From Exploitation) of deliberately misrepresenting the content of a video it publicised last week.

Take a look at this video supplied by the animal rights group, Safe. It shows a cow running behind a car towing a trailer holding three calves.

Safe sent the video to TVNZ and it has been picked up by other news organisations and run by them without any attempt to find out what is actually happening.

Safe alleges that this is a "distressed" cow "chasing" after her calves, showing a strong bond between them.

However, the overwhelming opinion of dairy farmers who have seen the video is that nothing of the kind is happening.

They say it shows a farmer or lifestyle block owner moving the animals between paddocks. The calves are in the trailer to keep them safe from traffic and the cow – who could be the mother or a nurse cow – is trotting easily behind.

The video is short – only 10 seconds – but it is clear the car is not going far because it is driving on the right hand side of the road verge into oncoming traffic. A road cone to warn traffic can be seen on the road ahead.

It is an example of farming practice. Ideally, the cow should have a farm worker with it – and probably would have if they were going much further - but no harm is being done to any animals.

In my view, the news organisations who have run this have acted irresponsibly. They are dupes of Safe, whose stated aim is to end all animal farming. And TVNZ has compounded its culpability by putting a heading on the video that mentions a "heart-wrenching moment".

The only hearts being wrenched belong to gullible and ignorant people who have no knowledge of farming. These days, unfortunately, that is a lot of people and Safe relies on them to fund its anti-farming campaign.

But the media should not be complicit in this.

At the bottom of this article you will find that I am editor of NZ Farmer and the obvious comment to make is that I am biased and would express such a view.

At one time I might have agreed with such a comment. I am city-bred and was 35 years a city-based journalist before becoming a farming reporter. I have built up my knowledge of agriculture from talking to farmers on their farms over the past 15 years.

I came to farming reporting with a jaundiced view of humanity from my years as a police and court reporter. But that soon changed. All the rural people I have met have been, without exception, honest, trustworthy, genuine people who care about their animals and the land.

Some people scoff at the idea of an urban-rural split, but my experience shows it is real. At its foundation is ignorance of farming practices and this has been exploited by unprincipled politicians and groups like Safe.

Unfortunately, a few rural people – very few – have played into their hands by committing heinous acts against the helpless animals to which they have a duty of care. Every farmer I know is repulsed by this.

It may be an unpalatable fact to some, but the human race has made the genetic gains that have placed it as the world's dominant species on the back of centuries of meat-eating. It is the popular choice.

Good farmers respect their animals and try to make their lives as stress-free as possible. And, it cannot be denied, it is in their financial interests to do so.

In fact, it is in all our financial interests, because agriculture industries are our main source of overseas income. To change that, as groups like Safe want us to do, would cripple us economically, and deprive governments of the funds to bring us improved health, welfare and education.

If you have concerns about anything you have seen on a farm, ask a farmer. They will be happy to talk to you, even show you around. They realise that the only way to bridge the gap between town and city is to increase peoples' knowledge. Go on. Give it a go.

- Jon Morgan is editor of NZ Farmer