Meat industry group responds to James Cameron's criticism

The group representing the beef and sheep industry has taken issue with criticism aimed at the sector by Oscar-winning director James Cameron.

Cameron told TVNZ's Sunday programme that New Zealand "isn't living up to its own image of itself" because of our meat and dairy industries, which he claims damage the environment.

Cameron owns more than 1500 hectares of rural Wairarapa land, where he is living with his wife Suzy while shooting the next films in his Avatar franchise.

He said there are lots of environmental problems in New Zealand.

"What we see is that the rivers and the lakes are extremely polluted here," he told TVNZ.

James Cameron is launching a new business with Sir Peter Jackson producing plant-based products.
James Cameron is launching a new business with Sir Peter Jackson producing plant-based products. Photo credit: Getty

"New Zealand isn't living up to its own image of itself right now, and the image that it projects to the world as the clean, green place."

"So there's a lot of work to do here to steward the land properly."

He said our agricultural industry was to blame.

However Beef and Lamb NZ CEO Sam McIvor told Rural Today's Dominic George that while there is work to be done, the comments from Cameron didn't tell the whole story.

"Ironically, the issues raised about industrial food production in the US, about intensively farmed animals in feed-lots, New Zealand is the absolute opposite to that," he said.

"We utilise land that can't be used for cropping, we grass feed our animals, we naturally produce them with minimal intervention," said McIvor.

He said as an industry, farmers had a strong focus on the environment.

"That's not to set aside the fact that we do have environmentally issues to deal with."

"Sheep and beef farmers have set a vision for being carbon-neutral by 2050, they have goals of having water surrounding their farms that they can swim in and take water from."

McIvor said the industry was focussed on producing products that people could love and enjoy, but doing it in a way that was responsible globally

Sam McIvor said as an industry, farmers had a strong focus on the environment.
Sam McIvor said as an industry, farmers had a strong focus on the environment. Photo credit: Supplied

"Since 1990 we've reduced gas emissions by 30 percent, no other industry in New Zealand has managed to achieve those sorts of targets."

Cameron announced plans to start a business producing new food products made from plants with fellow director Sir Peter Jackson.

"Peter's very keen to get 'plant meat' factories here in New Zealand, so we can make jobs here," he said.

"I think it's a way to keep [smaller] towns vital - if we could put 'plant meat' factories, or 'plant cheese' factories, or 'plant dairy' factories in those places."

McIvor believed there was room for more plant-based products alongside the meat sector.

"There's opportunity for naturally produce products like meat to co-exist with artificially produced ones like these protein products that James Cameron was talking about."

He said plant-based products were on the rise worldwide.

"If we look internationally, there's vast amounts of capital being invested in alternative proteins, at the moment."

Listen to the full interview with Sam McIvor on Rural Today with Dominic George.

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