I suspect I am about to make a lot of enemies because there is an elephant in the room and few are in a position to point it out.
Here are the facts:
- the last season has been dreadful
- dairy farmers have free access to lots of information about we can keep cows healthy during fodder shortages
- many dairy farmers who couldn’t afford skyrocketing feed costs have sold a lot of cows at ridiculously low prices so they can feed the remainder of their cows properly
- farmers have gone broke but kept their cows healthy
- cows do not starve overnight and watching them weaken over weeks or months would be more than I could bear yet reports of them dying in their hundreds have hit the national news
I was stunned. Perhaps people who would normally sell their cows off long, long before they reached the point of starvation couldn’t for some reason? Maybe they were hoping for a miracle? Maybe they were in denial?
It just doesn’t ring true, at least not for hundreds of cows as media reports suggest.
And it’s come out today that some published pictures of “starving cattle” were actually the carcasses of cows that had died of other causes. In fact, the vet whose leaked email urging MPs to act sparked the media stories, Dr Mike Hamblin, has since told Warrnambool newspaper The Standard that there is no animal welfare problem in SW Victoria:
“Warrnambool veterinarian Mike Hamblin said there was no animal welfare crisis in the region and that he believed farmers were looking after their livestock well in a difficult financial situation. Dr Hamblin said that while some stock were thinner than normal, he had not seen any starving.”
Yes, people need help. Yes, it is wonderful that the media stories have finally got the Victorian government to reach agreement with the Commonwealth on low-interest loans.
But do we really need to paint already suffering farmers as cruel by presenting pictures of dead cows to our political leaders before action is taken? The reality is that most farmers skip their own dinners to feed our animals. These dirty tactics may have won concessional loans for a few farmers but they have blown a lot of trust and, at the end of the day, we will all be the losers.
There has to be a better way to avert what is a genuine human crisis than fabricating an animal welfare one.