Whistleblowers in new dairy farming exposé 'Milked' receive death threats

Whistleblowers involved in a new documentary about the impacts of dairy farming on the environment have received death threats for participating in the film, the director has claimed. 

Milked, which explores the environmental affects the dairy industry is having on New Zealand, features high-profile names including activist and co-producer Chris Huriwai, director Amy Taylor and executive producer Suzy Amis Cameron, the wife of film-maker James Cameron.

The documentary describes itself as "a topical feature documentary that exposes the whitewash of New Zealand’s multi-billion-dollar dairy industry".

Huriwai and Amis Cameron appeared on The Project NZ, revealing they'd only received blowback for the film on social media so far.

However Huriwai said some of those who featured in the film have received death threats from members of the dairy industry who feel threatened by the film. 

"Many of the whistleblowers and the people we interviewed for the documentary have received death threats, bullets in their letterbox, things like that," Huriwai said.

"We are anticipating blowback but we just hope that anyone who feels threatened by the film, that they just watch the film and understand we are trying to bring this conversation up and we can all have a mature discussion about where we can go from here and a discussion that involves everyone."

Amis Cameron, who is an environmental leader and with a focus on plant-based food to address climate change, has the belief that every flat white you drink is leading us towards environmental collapse. 

The executive producer wanted to stress that even though the film is set in New Zealand and looks at it's dairy industry, the problem is a global issue not just in New Zealand. 

"It's a really, really important subject," Amis Cameron says. "Yes the film, Milked, looks at New Zealand, however it is a worldwide issue. 

"It's not just a Kiwi-centric film, it definitely looks at what is happening here and the detrimental effects of animal agriculture on our environment but it's worldwide."

Huriwai, who is a passionate activist, believes dairy farming is having a terrible and negative effect on the environment in New Zealand. 

"They produce more emissions than our entire transport sector, they use 11 times the domestic use of water in Aotearoa," Huriwai tells the Project.

"Considering a cow produces 14 times more effluent than a human, the fact we have lost 90 percent of our wetlands and we have more dairy cows than humans in Aotearoa you can imagine the incredible environmental impact this industry has."

The dairy farm sector is trying to tackle the environmental issue their industry is creating. They created the Livestock Improvement Corporation, or LIC, which is a herd improvement and agri-technology co-operative which helps farmers improve the genetics of their livestock. 

This year LIC created what they call the 'Hoof Print Index' so farmers are able to select a bull based on its ability to father a cow with a lower environmental impact. 

The chief executive of DairyNZ said even though they haven't seen the film, the trailer shows that it won't be a "balanced or accurate portrayal" of the dairy industry. 

"We haven't seen the film yet, but the preview material indicates it will not be a balanced or accurate portrayal of our sector," Tim Mackle, chief executive of DairyNZ, said. 

"New Zealand dairy farmers will be disappointed if the film fails to reflect the reality of the hard work they do every day.  Our dairy farmers care for their animals and the environment, and provide jobs and income for New Zealanders, while producing nutritious food for the world.

"New Zealanders are sensible enough to make up their own minds. The majority are aware that farmers are making positive changes to improve their environmental footprint and ensure world-leading animal care."

Milked is playing at the 2021 New Zealand International Film Festival which began on Thursday and is screening throughout country in November and December except in alert level 3.

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