November 29, 2012

A car road trip from Christchurch will take you past seemingly endless fields of grass. There are cows, sheep and giant irrigation machines. There are hedges and fences, but a distinct lack of native trees. The Canterbury Plains have been stripped bare of its once extensive lowland forests. No more towering kahikateas, no more majestic totaras, no more bountiful native forests.

Photo Credit: SAFE

It’s not just Canterbury that has suffered this fate, most of New Zealand’s lowland forests have been progressively cut down after the arrival of European farmers over the last three or four generations. Early Polynesian settlers burnt forest, but the destroyed trees were usually replaced by regenerating native shrub-land. European immigrants changed the game by sowing grassland for farm animals to create a ‘profitable’ meat industry.

The New Zealand dairy industry wants to double their production by 20201. Once a dairy farm is established, the land can’t easily be changed back for other uses after the soil is saturated with urea, pesticides and cadmium2. Rivers and streams are also extensively polluted by the run-off. All in all, the long-term effects of dairy farming are devastating to the local environment.

It is far more economical to use land to grow crops than to farm animals. Two and a half acres of land used to grow potatoes will feed 22 people, while the same amount of land used to raise cattle will only support the energy requirements of one human being3.

Deforestation due to animal farming is happening on a daily basis around the planet. Cutting down forests to make way for grazing livestock is still an overwhelming cause of global deforestation. The escalating demand of meat-eaters is directly causing the eradication of pristine virgin rainforests. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter and producer of beef, and approximately 65-70% of annual Amazon Rainforest deforestation is caused by cattle farming4.

As the planet’s population increases and more people adopt a Western eating style, there will soon be no more forests to cut down. What legacy do we leave our children?



1. AgResearch (PDF link expired). View an updated link: NZ Herald.

2. Cadmium Accumulation in Waikato Soils

3. The Food Revolution

4. Deforestation in the Amazon

7 Responses to “Deforestation Due To Animal Farming”

  1. Rob:
    November 29, 2012

    The BEST thing that you can do to protect the environment is to switch to a vegan diet. The use of animals for food products is inefficient and immoral. Vegetarians need to be aware that, by consuming dairy products, they are contributing to not only cruelty but environmental destruction. You are right about Canterbury – it always boggles my mind driving past those green irrigated fields after seeing the naturally brown ones. Most of this counties environmental problems are caused by dairy farmers. Come on vegetarians, realise that you are the problem and join the vegans to solve it!

  2. Amanda:
    November 30, 2012

    Why do we support dirty dairy in this country? 97% of our lowland rivers have been polluted by agricultural runoff. Oh that’s right, it’s money. I can’t wait till the price of milk crashes.

  3. Dakota:
    December 4, 2012

    My God, why does the New Zealand dairy industry want to double it’s production by 2020? This is insane! We will end up with a country devoid of forests and covered in cow poo. It should be mandatory to drink a class of cow effluent every time you order a meat burger.

  4. Colin:
    December 6, 2012

    Perhaps carbon trading could be a solution to this? Sheep farming seems to be less profitable in New Zealand these days. If sheep farmers were getting more money via carbon credits for converting their farms back to forest, I think it would catch on. Much of the New Zealand high country is lease-hold land rented out on long-term arrangements. If the government was getting money for re-vegetation schemes via carbon credits, it may be able to solve many problems at once e.g. environmental and economic.

  5. Jasper:
    December 10, 2012

    The only native forest left in Christchurch is Riccarton Bush. It’s insane that all of Canterbury used to be covered in forest and now there are only a few remnants remaining. My girlfriend has never even seen a kahitatea tree!

  6. Luke:
    December 14, 2012

    They are cutting down the Amazon to make meat burgers to sell in fast food joints in the western word? Oh dear, excuse me while I go and cry about the sad state of humanity 🙁

  7. Lola:
    September 23, 2016

    What is happening in New Zealand right now is disgraceful! Children being taught in schools how to kill possums – considered pest by contributing to deforestation – whilst the same government which approves this behaviour, also wishes to increase animal farming, the biggest cause of deforestation of them all!

    The future of New Zealand? Sociopaths which were taught and rewarded as children for killing animals, and a completely barren landscape due to animal farming.
    Very sad indeed.

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