Farm Side

By Marianne Friers

The CEO of Fonterra was paid $8.32 million in 2017.

Nice chunk of change that, isn’t it?

What with bonuses, incentives, and perks, this made him the highest paid executive in New Zealand. The New Zealand Herald added that this totals up to $160,000 per week. To put this in perspective they also pointed out that the median New Zealand worker makes just over a thousand bucks for working the length of time. This discrepancy has increased greatly in recent years.

So what is Fonterra you may ask? Fonterra is a dairy cooperative operating in New Zealand that controls roughly 30 percent of the world’s dairy exports, including nearly 40 percent of the world’s whole milk powder market. It is said to be the largest company in that nation. (Isn’t it good to know that someone is making money in the dairy industry?)

Not unlike similar mega cooperatives with which American farmers are well familiar, Fonterra brags that it is owned by “10,000 farmers and their families.”

Meanwhile, although farmgate prices climbed somewhat in NZ last year, profits for the company were down … perhaps because they spent so much on executive salaries.

I have just one dairy farmer friend in New Zealand and the opinion of that individual, who shall remain nameless, would be unprintable in a family publication. Their farm has left the cooperative and is selling milk elsewhere.

In other news almost too shocking to believe, animal rights activists (allegedly, but with plenty of video evidence) walked onto a Colorado farm, asked an 8-year-old girl if they could hold some chickens, and then walked away with them. Just packed them up and took them away. Her dad had kindly suggested that she let them hold gentle chickens rather than the wilder ones they first approached. (Too bad.)

The activists were part of a protest featuring matching green tee shirts, a guitar, and people singing chicken protest songs, along the road in front of the farm. It is reported that their music was horrible, but that is just the opinion of the farmer whose livestock they liberated. He might be a bit biased.

Of course his family called the authorities and the sheriff soon arrived. Some stories indicate that felony charges may be pursued and rightly so. Taking someone’s animal and walking away with it is stealing, unless of course you feel that a chicken owns itself and can’t belong to anyone.

Since the chicken rustlers are clearly visible and named all over Facebook and their own websites, they shouldn’t be hard to find.

Amazingly, rather than attacking a large farm, the usual target of such misguided zeal, activists purloined the poultry from a small operation that raises free range chickens and other birds and animals for meat and offers classes in home processing.

Ironically the group is called “Denver Baby Animal Save”. However all of the chickens were adults and one of them had at least a three-inch comb. In further irony they named this rooster “Bear”, after a large carnivore that is probably far less gentle than the folks who originally owned the chicken, when pursuing poultry for his plate. “Bear” the bird didn’t even belong to the farm where the livestock larceny occurred and was owned instead by a client who kept him there.

Many of the eager followers of the animal rights cult in fact called the obviously mature birds “babies”. They squealed in delight at the birds’ new lives-in different enclosures on different livestock facilities that they called “sanctuaries”.

One of their photos showed some hens sitting nervously on a blanket on a shiny hardwood floor. They were obviously frightened and confused. Wonder how that worked out for the polish on that floor.

Although on some levels all this may seem amusing, it demonstrates a predictable escalation of the animals rights agenda. First the zealots took on circuses. Goodbye elephants. Then Sea World, even though their real life freeing of Willy resulted in the death of the Orca that played him in the movie.

They are hard at work now on rodeos, zoos, horse shows, horse racing, large farms, no matter how well managed, and as always, hunters and fishermen. They are after our pets too, as evidenced by PETA stealing Maya from a little girl and killing her. Now the small farms that they once claimed to love are square in their sights. They don’t prefer certain kinds of animal agriculture over others. They want all of us gone.

Indeed everyone is vulnerable to the tactics of people like these, who believe in using any means necessary to achieve their desires. They won’t be happy until there are no farm animals, no pets, no human interaction with animals at all.

And maybe they won’t be happy even  then. The kind of person who feels that it is appropriate to force their beliefs on others, no matter what method they must use, is probably not happy and never will be.

With the advent of social media activists have an immense audience, most of it far removed from agriculture, and moving way too fast to absorb more than a meme or sound bite. No matter how hard farmers try to use logic, science or common sense to support farming as we know it, it is hard to combat such tactics.

When asked why they didn’t take their demonstration to the big guys, the mega poultry processors that handle millions of birds each year, DBAR had an elaborate explanation. It was painfully convoluted and basically equated human rights with chicken rights. As in, “Do you want to be featured in someone’s dinner?” (Well, no, but then I am not a chicken either.)

I forced myself to read it, twisted logic and all, but was not swayed from having chicken for dinner last night. And leftovers tonight.

They used up a lot more words than the thousand that make up this column every week. However, I expect the actual truth is that they were just plain chicken.