South-west Victorian dairy farmers are aghast that an Animal Justice party candidate who wants to scale back the dairy industry by 20 per cent is a strong chance to be elected as one of Western Victoria’s five Upper House MPs.
United Dairyfarmers of Victoria (UDV) Wannon branch president Bruce Knowles said Animal Party candidate Andy Meddick has “conveniently forgotten one side of the equation” by calling for the dairy industry to be scaled back because of its contribution to climate change.
Mr Meddick said the dairy industry was contributing to climate change because cows produced lots of methane gas. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas that the CSIRO says contributes to global warming.
Mr Meddick said the dairy industry also needed to be scaled back because it consumed a huge amount of water which was “a drain on resources”.
But Mr Knowles, of Tyrendarra, said Mr Meddick was forgettting the much larger contribution that dairy farm pastures made to fighting climate change by absorbing another greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide.
UDV vice president Paul Mumford said Mr Meddick had been “incredibly irresponsible” to call for the dairy industry to be scaled back without finding out the information to support his call".
Mr Meddick has so far gained less than three per cent of the primary vote but is a strong contender to be elected to the Upper House on the back of preference deals.
Political commentator Nick Economou said there appeared to be “a huge disconnect” between Mr Meddick and the Western Victorian agricultural region he could end up representing.
Mr Meddick said the dairy industry needed to be scaled back within the next 12 years as part of the effort to reduce climate change and keep the expected rise in global temperatures to 2030 to under two degrees.
His call to scale back the dairy industry was one of a number of issues where his position was in direct conflict with the south-west’s major agricultural industries.
Mr Meddick also wants live exports banned and changes to the practice of slaughtering most male (bobby) dairy calves soon after birth because they were not milk producers.
But he said he was a realist and “could not foresee a world where we do not have a dairy industry”.
Mr Meddick said the Animal Justice party was keen to work with the dairy industry to find a solution to either group’s goals.
“There’s no need to be enemies of each other,” he said.
“There is a door open for all of us to sit down and work through these issues.”
Mr Meddick said he thought the big drop in farmgate milk prices that occurred in 2016 had put many dairy farmers in “a horrendous situation” with some losing their livelihoods.
He believed the dairy industry could be scaled back by getting the state and federal governments to provide transition packages for dairy farmers who wanted to leave the industry.