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Government Must Not Cave To Primary Sector Pressure On Intensive Winter Grazing Rules

Thursday, 17 December: Greenpeace says the Government must not cave to industry pressure to weaken intensive winter grazing rules designed to protect rivers and climate for the good of all New Zealanders.

Intensive winter grazing is a practice which sees cows densely confined to paddocks in the middle of winter, with the worst examples visible in Southland.

Disturbing images released in recent years of cows in mud expose the cruelty of the practice which also leads to intensified pollution of waterways and the climate.

Greenpeace’s call for the Government to take a strong stand against agricultural industry pressure follows the release of a statement from a Southland Advisory Group, which was established to review the national intensive winter grazing regulations.

The advisory group is calling for the rules to permit intensive winter grazing on steeper slopes, and get rid of replanting requirements and rules around pugging (the deep hoof holes created by stock in mud). But Greenpeace is slamming the advice as another example of polluting industry trying to bend regulation in their favour.

"The Government must stand up to the dairy and beef industries who are trying to write their own rules on cruel and polluting intensive winter grazing," says Greenpeace’s Senior Agriculture Campaigner, Steve Abel.

"No one in New Zealand thinks it's acceptable that animals suffer on our farms. The public rightly demands that the Government stands up to industry who turn a blind eye to the environmental damage of intensive winter grazing and ignores the suffering it causes to animals.

"Unless the Government takes action we will see another winter of miserable cows knee-deep in mud forced to birth their young into a gluggy mire in bitter cold and have their udders rubbed raw against the ground. These rules are the bare minimum and we expect that the Government develops a strategy to get rid of intensive winter grazing entirely.

"Intensive winter grazing is a consequence of too many cows being crammed onto the land and farmed in unsuitable regions like Southland. The environmental damage caused by intensive winter grazing sees sediment, nutrients and fecal bacteria washing into our rivers, estuaries and inshore fisheries."

Greenpeace says that while the advisory group did include freshwater advocates like Fish and Game it was stacked with dairy industry interests including DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb NZ, and Federated Farmers, all of whom "fight environmental and animal welfare regulations at every turn."

"The Ardern Government must walk the talk on climate, freshwater and animal welfare by halting winter grazing practices altogether, instead of kowtowing to industry," says Abel.

"For the good of our climate and our rivers, we need to end practices like winter grazing, and transition to regenerative farming that works with nature, not against it."

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