Animal rights protesters in Central Auckland (Supplied: Auckland Vegan Action)

The Bulletin: Animal rights hit the agenda

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Animal rights concerns hit the agenda, tenancy law changes set to be announced, and PM Ardern gives her first minister the boot.  

Animal rights has been big news over the weekend, with a 500 strong protest in Auckland. Māori TV was there, and the quotes they gathered largely focused on animals being farmed – crowded chicken factories, calves being separated from dairy cows, and the slaughterhouse generally all featured as issues. There seems to be a wider return to prominence of concerns around how animals are treated, among both activists and consumers.

Intensive farming had a rough week in the news. This one – reported on by Don Rowe at The Spinoff, came out on Friday, so too late for the last Bulletin. Footage of cows has been released, knee deep in mud, struggling through a paddock that looks like trench warfare took place on it, trying to find some grass. Fish and Game, who released the footage, were not impressed. Stuff also ran a week of stories last week, about various aspects of dairying.

Just as an aside, there was also this one: The carbon emissions created by food production are an uncomfortably large contribution to climate change, argues Rod Oram on Newsroom. Agriculture loads up the soil with nitrate, sheep and cows produce methane, and the share of the sector as a whole is hefty for New Zealand.

More generally, the number of stories that centre around the treatment of animals is starting to stack up. The Country had a story on the practice of draining the blood from the heart of an unborn calf, which sounds like ritual sacrifice and given the blood is used to make vaccines, it sort of is. But an industry whistleblower says it causes the cows unnecessary suffering. And there were Newsroom’s stories earlier this year about cow shed beatings and cage eggs being sold as free range.

That final story is a crucial part of all this – there’s a reason consumers spend a bit more money on something like free range eggs. The worry for New Zealand’s economy will be if these sorts of images become defining for the farming industry. Those in the farming world would argue that cases of wanton animal cruelty are rare, and condemned by all. Vegan activists would argue that misses the point – they would say it’s the system that is cruel, not the individual actions.

And the way New Zealand food production gets marketed can make it very easy for environmental and animal rights groups to point out the contradictions. As farmer turned farming critic Rachel Stewart points out in the NZ Herald, animal rights abuses, and the perception that farming isn’t all that clean and green, could easily trash New Zealand’s brand.


Keep an eye out today for changes to tenancy laws, says One News. It is expected to include limits on how often rent can be increased, and on the practice of rent bidding. The relationship between landlords and tenants has been one of the defining issues in housing this year, and this law change is likely to be a focal point for that.

Meanwhile, whisper it – house prices are creeping towards being slightly more affordable in most parts of the country, reports Interest. There’s been a flattening of prices, particularly at the lower end, and could spell the end of the rapid increases that have made it so difficult for first home buyers to get in.


You might not have noticed because it happened right before the weekend, but PM Jacinda Ardern sacked a minister on Friday afternoon. Clare Curran has lost open government, government digital services, and a place in cabinet, over another undeclared meeting – this time it was with a potential candidate for the government CTO role currently being filled. It’s PM Ardern’s first big ministerial sacking, and if I may plug myself here, I was one of many to predict Clare Curran would be the first to go back in April.

National’s Gerry Brownlee was unimpressed by the severity of the consequences, and was quoted on Radio NZ, saying it was a soft punishment given Curran wasn’t also stripped of broadcasting and ACC. The first offence did take place in relation to the broadcasting portfolio – the now-infamous Carol Hirschfeld meeting.


Another Friday news story (it was quite the day for it in politics) Speaker Trevor Mallard has cancelled the inquiry into the leak of Simon Bridges’ expenses data. Mr Mallard says he’s satisfied it’s a matter for the National Party to sort out, but that has gone down particularly badly with Mr Bridges himself, reports the NZ Herald. The comments made by Bridges about it are pretty extraordinary, basically saying Mallard was influenced by PM Jacinda Ardern. As of this morning, National were pushing ahead with their own investigation, reports Radio NZ.


Regional economic development minister Shane Jones is throwing his support behind the Waimea Dam in Tasman, reports Stuff. The only problem for the Tasman District Council is that the minister is telling them they need to pay a lot more for it. That could put other infrastructure projects on hold, but Jones says their water supply problems mean they’ll have to pay for it sooner or later.


An interesting story on the front page of the NZ Herald today – a budget blowout has meant Immigration NZ can’t afford to deport most illegal immigrants. It had been kept quiet since being discovered by the department in January. The budget for deportations was cut by half a million dollars in the last financial year.


Fresh off winning the Bledisloe Cup, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has hit up the government for some funding, reports Newshub. He says the All Blacks are the country’s biggest brand, so the government should be their biggest sponsors, and that it would help NZ Rugby retain players. The comments came after a changing room tour from PM Jacinda Ardern.

Now, were I still working in talkback radio, this topic would be a gift from the news gods. And I know a lot of you Bulletin readers will have strong views on the idea of government funding going to the All Blacks. So let me know how you feel about it – thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz. Should it be on the table? Should they get the money that currently goes to the America’s Cup? Should they all move to France to get rich? Yours please.


And there was a question about the referral competition (which closes on Fridaymorning) That question was: can our work get the pie delivered if we win? The answer is yes, most definitely.


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Right now on The Spinoff: Sam Brooks explains why the Edinburgh Comedy Award picked up by Rose Matafeo is such a massive deal. Toby Manhire has written a beginner’s guide to the new Australian PM – that all went down on Friday too. And Don Rowe has a curious old yarn about a gun club that has taken over the Makarau Valley on the northwest outskirts of Auckland.


A lot of column inches have been devoted to the recent upswing in controversial speakers adding New Zealand to their touring circuit. This from the NZ Herald’s Simon Wilson is one of the best. He interviewed former UKIP leader, stoker of immigration fears and chief Brexiteer Nigel Farage, and delves deeply into questions of reasoned debate and civility. Does it matter if someone delivering a message like Farage’s presents it with charming wit and eloquence? The piece thoroughly unpacks that question. Here’s an excerpt:

What about the Freedom Party in Austria, which has its origins in the Nazi Party?

“Whatever the roots of the party, it’s part of the government now, so now it’s grown up.”

What about Sweden Democrats, which used to be a white supremacist party whose members wore Nazi uniforms to meetings?

They’re not far right either, said Farage. They’re poised for electoral success next month, having modernised their image, changing their symbol from a fascist-style torch to a blue daisy, introducing a “uniform ban”, and campaigning hard against immigration.

Immigration is the unifier. “Strictly controlled immigration,” said Farage. He agreed it was the issue that “caused a high turnout in the Brexit referendum”, but said UKIP is “not against immigration”.

There are people spreading hatred in Europe, but he wanted me to know he and his friends are not among them. Nigel Farage is a very nice man.


The Warriors. Have Made. The Eight. For most of a decade, they’ve fallen short, but are now guaranteed a spot in the playoffs – and it could be a good one. Their points differential will need to improve by a lot, and they’re playing the middling Raiders at home. With a big win, they could conceivably come 5th or 6th. However, with a winning margin of around 130 points, the Warriors could be looking at 2nd place.

Meanwhile, College Sport is steadfastly refusing to let a talented 17 year old footballer play for the school’s first XI, reports Stuff. The team, the school, the coaches, even opposition coaches are all happy to have the footballer be part of the team, so what gives? Well, that 17 year old happens to be a girl, and so for some reason the application for her to play in the male competition has been denied three times. In their infinite wisdom, College Sport reckons a girl who is good enough to make the first XI should instead be playing in a C-Grade team, because then she’d be playing with other girls.


From our partners: The chair of Vector’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, Teina Teariki Mana, ponders the state of gender equity in an industry that still lags behind, and we hear about three women working in the male dominated work of energy generation and maintenance.


That’s it for The Bulletin. If you liked what you read, and know other people who would find it useful, get them amongst our signup referral competition.


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