WHY CHICKEN FARMING WON’T SAVE THE MANAWATU-WHANGANUI REGION
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said on TV3’s The Nation programme last weekend that he was taking through Cabinet a “joined-up national investment attraction strategy” to promote private sector investment opportunities to international investors.
The minister said that the Government particularly wanted such investors to invest in the regions. Asked for a practical example of how this might work, Mr Joyce said -
“Manawatu-Whanganui is a region that struggled historically. We’re putting out…We’ve got a lot of work with them at the moment, coming out with a regional opportunities report in the next little while. It’s going to show up some quite significant investment opportunities in that region. One of them, for example, is the poultry industry. Waikato has quite a big poultry industry. Manawatu-Whanganui doesn’t. Another one is the food industry. The horticulture of growing food. To get those going, they will need significant investment, and that will be about attracting international investors.”
Chicken farming will not save the Manawatu-Whanganui region, or any other region of New Zealand.
Large-scale factory farms pay low wages to staff and involve unimaginable cruelty to animals. They are sunset industries, both here and overseas. They are not New Zealand’s future.
Craddock Farms proposes to build and run a hen farm south of Auckland, with up to 310,000 animals living in ten buildings. The resource consent application records that there will be 20 staff traffic movements in and out of the proposed farm each day. New-technology hen sheds are highly automated and require minimal people to staff them. They will not provide the large numbers of jobs our regions need.
Provincial areas – like the rest of New Zealand – require tens of thousands of high-paying, permanent, secure jobs. Aspiring to more hen farms in the regions will not create these.
Such farming creates pollution, is environmentally unsustainable and is an inefficient way of producing food for humans.
In addition, hen factory farms are inevitably cruel to the animals, cramming them into small cages where they live short, confined and brutal lives. Current battery cages provide each hen with an area the size of an A-4 piece of paper. The “enriched” colony cages which are being phased in by law will give each animal additional space equivalent to the size of a credit card.
Keeping hens in such conditions is damaging to our international reputation, cruel to the animals and soul-destroying for workers who earn low wages while trying to close their eyes to animal cruelty.
We should as a country aspire to much better than this. We need to create jobs which pay a Living Wage so that workers can support their families, afford healthy housing and participate fully in the community.
A Living Wage is not only good for workers. It is good for the economy as a whole. This was recognised over a century ago. How have we forgotten it ?
American car manufacturer Henry Ford in 1914 introduced $5 a day wages for workers, doubling their pay to retain staff and help ensure they could purchase the cars they produced.
Workers on very low wages cannot afford to buy the goods companies want to sell. Employers who are satisfied with paying low wages are accordingly harming their own businesses.
Why doesn’t New Zealand take a bold step and ban factory farming and other inhumane treatment of animals ? We could be the first country in the world to adopt comprehensive policies to treat animals well.
This would allow us to promote ourselves as a cruelty-free country, complementing our “clean, green” image. Cruelty-free goods, like organic produce, would attract a premium, earning a better income for the country.
If we also paid all workers a Living Wage, the New Zealand brand could be a proud one of treating both humans and animals properly.
For decades, New Zealand governments have been talking about the need to diversify and to stop sending raw logs, milk powder and other unfinished goods offshore. We need to produce sophisticated, transformed goods for which consumers will pay high prices.
Chicken farming in the Manawatu is not the way to achieve this.