Whānau Ora versus animal agriculture in the age of climate change

An open letter appeal to social workers of Aotearoa New Zealand – A guest post by Luis Arevalo.

Kia Ora

For several years we have been advocating for the social work profession in this country to view climate change for what it is; an existential threat to life on earth, and as such start advocating for the cessation of those industries that, research shows, are the biggest producers of harmful gases that accelerate climate change.

Our advocacy has been through journal articles, talks and lectures in social work schools and published magazine articles. There has been very little feedback – negative or positive – so we are changing our angle on the back of an idea from across the ditch.

Senator Pocock has put forward a new private members bill which asks the government to consider the impact of climate change on young people. In short, if a government decision on a piece of legislation or process is going to increase the impact of climate change on young people, then the government is meant to reconsider their thinking.

This got us thinking about the wider whānau, not only the welfare and wellbeing of young people, but to include children, whānau and future generations – whānau ora.

We started wondering whether this was a space where social workers could use the argument of whānau ora in linking whānau’s best interests and welfare to the impact of animal agriculture on climate change. In effect, asking the government of the day to consider the impact of climate on whānau ora in their decision-making process in the context of industries that exacerbate climate change.

Could this be the link that convinces social workers in Aotearoa New Zealand that, in the best interest of whānau, today and into the future, the profession should start lobbying the government to move against our biggest polluters? To transition away from the cause of future deaths?

Not convinced? Ok – Let us put this another way.

Animal agriculture contributes more to global warming than any other industry in Aotearoa.

This means that it is the biggest contributor in this country to the negative effects of climate change, such as – population displacement – cultural erosion – health issues – hunger –  crop failure – flooding – heat waves – dust bowls – job losses – death … and the list goes on.

If the social work profession came across a direct causal link this strong to other issues such as domestic violence, child abuse or sexual offending the profession would be on the steps of parliament demanding an end to the cause.

And if that is not enough to convince the profession to work against the animal agriculture industry, from a purely health perspective the Physicians Committee for Responsible Health state, with some clarity, that dairy products are the top sources of artery-clogging saturated fats and that diets high in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol increase the risk of heart disease.

Couple this with the fact that lactose intolerance appears to affect Māori and Pasifika at least six times as frequently as those of European descent and it is a mystery why there has not been more outcry. We are guessing these statistics do not make the public narrative because of the perceived economic ‘good’ the industry has for Aotearoa New Zealand. While the health of the economy is forefront in the Government’s mind with European FTA’s, the fear of a recession and a nations health being measured by GDP, the health of our whānau (now and into the future), environment and our flora and fauna is suffering in unprecedented numbers.

There is no other industry in this country causing more harm to so many facets of our world than the animal agriculture industry and it is the number one barrier to whānau ora – now and into the future.

Will the social work profession lead the fight against the leading cause to this existential threat?

We will end this open letter to you all by going back to the heading and adding another line.

In the argument of:

Whānau Ora versus animal agriculture in the age of climate change

We now must choose. In all good conscience we cannot have both.

Ngā Mihi – Kerstin Hagena, Alina Hagena and Luis Arevalo

Image creditMatthew Kirby

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