DairyNZ is appealing the Advertising Standards Authority's decision to reject its objections to the controversial Greenpeace television advertisement which blames dairying for polluting waterways.
“We're appealing the decision as we believe the information provided by Greenpeace in its response to the original complaint made by DairyNZ, and the other complainants, is also misleading,” says chief executive Tim Mackle.
DairyNZ lodged a complaint with the ASA late last year about a Greenpeace television advert.
The advert featured images and statements about rivers, industrial dairy farming, and irrigation, effectively blaming dairying as the sole polluter of waterways. Eleven other complaints about the advert were also received by the ASA.
“The ASA initially rejected our complaint, but they have given DairyNZ and the other 11 complainants until January 23 to lodge an appeal on the ruling.
“Unfortunately, Greenpeace have commented on the ASA's ruling publicly, before the ASA complaints process is complete, resulting in the media coverage over the last couple of days. We are working with the ASA to complete the process towards a final decision,” says Tim.
Greenpeace's sustainable agriculture campaigner Genevieve Toop says in its ruling, the ASA accepted Greenpeace's position that “the impact of industrial dairy farming on water quality is widely documented”.
“It's simple. The more dairy cows there are, the more polluted our rivers and streams become. This is the message that the dairy industry has tried, and failed, to stop the public from hearing,” says Genevieve.
Attempts by the dairying lobby to get the video banned actually had the opposite effect. It became known as “the ad they didn't want you to see”, she says.
Following Dairy NZ's complaint, more than a quarter of a million New Zealanders went online and viewed it on Greenpeace's Facebook page.
The complaint laid by Dairy NZ claimed statements and images in the ad were “false and misleading”.
However, says Genevieve, the ASA's complaints board agreed that the statements made in the advertisement “would not come as a surprise to most New Zealanders”.
“We would encourage Dairy NZ to concentrate its resources into addressing the very real problems of river degradation, rather than trying to pretend the problem doesn't exist,” says Genevieve.
Cows near water: Picture: Supplied.
Greenpeace provided the ASA with a 13 page file of scientific evidence pointing to nitrate and pathogen pollution of waterways as a result of industrial dairying.
Genevieve says the government's own figures show 62 per cent of New Zealand's monitored rivers are already unsafe for swimming.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has repeatedly drawn a clear link between industrial dairying and water pollution.
However, Tim believes the advert does not reflect any of the information DairyNZ shared with Greenpeace when it met with them in November about the extensive work being carried out on dairy farms to protect the environment.
While there is still work to do, dairy farmers have made tremendous progress with fencing off waterways, riparian planting, wetland restoration and the installation of effluent management systems, he says.
“Over the past five years farmers have spent more than $1 billion carrying out this work – and done it voluntarily. The countryside is where dairy farmers live and work, and they are great stewards of their environment.
“While we have seen successes in water measurements already, including in the Waikato and the Manawatu, this is a long-term effort and dairy farmers are fully committed.”