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Feb-No-Dairy; time to reduce dairy in our economy and health

The Vegan Society Aotearoa is calling on the New Zealand government to reduce the importance of dairy in our economy and our health. It was exciting to hear Jacinda Ardern speak about the future of our world, sharing a stage at the Climate Summit talks in Davos, with Sir David Attenborough and Al Gore, two titans of climate change awareness. It has been interesting to see the Labour Party's Wellbeing Budget being discussed, the main points of which seem to be that we need to start measuring the success of a country in different ways. GDP may not be the best measure. In Bhutan they have a Happiness Index, this Wellbeing Budget seems to be more like that, we will find out more in May on its release.

With research from prominent freshwater ecologist Dr Mike Joy showing that NZ's once pristine rivers are now widely contaminated with dairy run-off, the huge increase in NZ's dairy herds have been having a large impact on our environment. Cows are also a far bigger source of methane than sheep and as such are a huge contributor to our GHG emissions. New Zealand is over represented in this area on the global stage. We may be a “bit player” but that is no reason for us not to do our share. Our PM Jacinda Ardern is demanding that NZ steps up to the plate to meet its Paris Agreement and if we are truly going to do so, that will mean making some difficult choices.

Dairy has been shown to be uneconomic for New Zealand in the long term, costing some $15 billion to clean up our environment¹. Other countries are starting to reduce their reliance on dairy, Health Canada has just revised its dietary guidelines, removing dairy as a separate food group, including it in proteins instead and advising half the dietary intake come from fruits and vegetables. The recently released EAT Lancet report² recommends a maximum of 150kcal (just over 2 rashers of bacon) of animal products and a further 150 kcal (about 35g of dairy cheese) of dairy intake per day and that both of these are optional. The WHO and UN also have many studies showing that plant-based eating and farming are the best way forward for the world's food security.

“We have only 12 years in which to effectively manage climate change, New Zealand should lead the way and reduce our dairy production for the future of global food security. Much of our dairy production is for export, whilst our rivers and land resources suffer the consequences, we need to put ourselves first and do our part in meeting the Paris Agreement”, media spokesperson Claire Insley said “Our current Eating and Activity Guidelines also need updating in the light of scientific evidence and the dire need to create sustainable food practices.”

Foregoing dairy foods for FebNoDairy could be good for our health, good for our rivers, good for the land use and great for reducing our global emissions. A recent Brunton Colmar poll suggests that over 80% of Kiwis would support action to clean up our rivers and by eliminating and reducing dairy they can take action themselves . With rising costs of dairy products, it will not be long before consumers are choosing plant-based products for reasons of economics! Many bakers and Kiwi families are already discovering the joys and cheapness of baking without eggs or dairy. Of course it is great for those with allergies too.

How can Kiwis join FebNoDairy? Head over to the ‘dairy alternatives’ page on our website. Going dairy free for the month can be easy. Plant-based milks are becoming ever more popular and it is so easy to make your own! Here's a very easy recipe for oat milk: soak 1 1/2 cup of rolled oats overnight. Pour the oats into a sieve and rinse very well. Transfer into your blender. Add 3 1/2 to 4 cups of filtered water into the blender. Blend for no more than 20 seconds.

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