Federated Farmers slams British broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson's farming opinion piece as 'garbage'

Federated Farmers has branded an opinion piece by British broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson "garbage" over claims New Zealand's farmed animals don't live happy lives.

Clarkson penned an opinion piece for The Times on Sunday titled 'Why we should be proud of our animal welfare state', which claimed farmers in the United Kingdom treated their animals better than several other countries - including New Zealand.

"One day you're in the supermarket and in front of you are two legs of lamb," he wrote. 

"One is from the UK and costs £20 and one is from New Zealand and costs £15. So that's an easy choice. You buy the one from down under. Lovely.

"But it isn't lovely, because animals farmed in New Zealand and America and China and Brazil and Canada and Australia - with which Boris has just done a much-trumpeted trade deal - do not have anything like the happy lives enjoyed by the animals farmed here."

He goes on to say he treats his sheep well by removing their scrotums to "stop them from getting jiggy with their sisters" and removing their tails "because leaving them in place might cause blowfly strike".

He claims Australian sheep are being castrated without anaesthetic, live cows are "inhumanely" transported on ships in tropical storms, American pigs are placed in small cages while pregnant, and pigs in the Philippines are doped to increase the amount of meat on the animal.

"In short, sheep reared here, and cows and pigs and all the delicious things we eat, are treated with one eye very firmly wedged on their welfare and to hell with the costs involved. That is emphatically not the case with many of the animals reared abroad."

He claimed British meat "tastes better" than meat from Australia, New Zealand or America.

"What farmers here can say, though, is that the animal they raised will have been treated more kindly before it ended up on your plate."

Federated Farmers of New Zealand president Andrew Hoggard said he is "proud of our pasture-based farming systems and the qualities that these provide in our products - sunny yellow butter and high quality grass-fed red meat".

"We share the UK's values in relation to animal care. In its submission on the NZ-UK Free trade agreement, the RSPCA opened with these words 'New Zealand is the only country with whom the UK is negotiating an FTA where there is broad equivalence on animal welfare standards. In some areas, New Zealand's farm standards are above the UK's.'   

"The World Society of Protection of Animals ranks NZ higher than the UK in terms of its regulatory animal welfare measures. So, NZ farmers don't get to take some sort of shortcut on animal welfare to be able to out-compete UK farmers."