Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Oh goody. Another Federated Farmers executive with a
brain the size of a pea. This time it’s Lachlan McKenzie,
chairman of FF’s dairy section, quoted in Kim Knight’s
outstanding Sunday Star-Times feature on the
destruction of Indonesia’s rainforests and their
replacement with palm plantations from which vast
quantities of palm oil are extracted and sent to the West for
use in cosmetics and foodstuffs like chocolate. A by-product
of the process is palm kernel expeller (PKE), reconstituted
as dry animal feed; turns out that a quarter of all the PKE
sold in the world last year was bought for New Zealand
farmers as a supplement for their cows—and most of it
lacked the certification of the Roundtable on Sustainable
Palm Oil. In short, as Knight convincingly shows, the
Indonesian environment is being wrecked, deforestation
is adding hugely to carbon emissions, and New Zealand
has been an unprotesting beneficiary of it all. Yet when
asked to comment, McKenzie said PKE was only a
byproduct, and that if New Zealand stopped buying it,
‘You think that’s going to have any dent on the growing
of palm oil? Not a thing. Not a dicky-die-doh.’

Pausing to unpack that statement for a moment, we find
one of the nation’s farming leaders telling us that it’s all
right to profit from something wrong if others are doing it
too. Have I got that right, Lachlan? Please tell me if another
kind of construction can be put on it, because I’m almost
certainly being naïve and simplistic here, but isn’t it like
saying that, say, goods produced as a ‘byproduct’ of slave
labour are okay for us to buy and consume, because what
the hey, we're not the principal consumers?

But wait, there’s more. And worse. McKenzie, according to
Knight, said that although farmers could ask questions,
ultimately it was up to importers to ensure ethical and
sustainable sources: ‘I can’t go over, as a farmer, and certify

Right. Like I, as a consumer, can’t make ethical choices
about what I buy and how I live? Of course not. Just hand
me down some more of that tainted Chinese milk powder,
please—I've got a baby to feed and I can't go over, as a
parent, and certify anything. Oh, and while you're there, a
spoonful of delicious palm kernel expeller would go down a
treat as well.


John Thomson said...

In addition, if farmers are having to import feed for their cattle, wouldn't that mean their farming was (um) unsustainable and not at all clean and green. I have to remind myself of the clean and green mantra as I drive to work in the Waikato and watch dairy cows and others with unrestricted access to streams and larger waterways, doing what cattle normally do, and shit into them.

Denis Welch said...

Yes, and Kim Knight's article makes it clear that the need for imported feed, though party driven by last year's drought, can ultimately be attributed to the dairying boom that may have made short-term profits for some but is causing all sorts of longer-term damage to land and water.