Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Green Diet - my open letter to the New Zealand Green Party


I received a letter from the very popular former co-leader of the New Zealand Green Party, Jeanette Fitzsimons: 
The Green Party of Aotearoa New Zealand is a popular, modern and successful party that has left an indelible mark on New Zealand's politics and culture over the past 40 years....
For years we have pushed to have climate change recognized as the single biggest issue of our time. Recently, the Dominion Post's lead story read "Climate change evidence 'undeniable'." Scientists say we need to act in the next 10 years to avoid catastrophic damage.... 
That is why we are campaigning on shifting our economy to create green jobs, linking the concerns of our nation (the economy and climate change) together. Making homes warmer and more fuel efficient, providing better public transportation, stopping off-shore drilling and new coal mines complement our goal of restoring our planet's ecosystem.... 
Please contribute...
I have given my party vote to the Greens in all recent elections and intend to do so again.  However, I felt compelled to respond to her and to Green MPs Gareth Hughes and Animal Welfare Spokesperson Sue Kedgley:
Hi Jeanette, 
I also believe that climate change and the environment is the fight we need to win.
That’s why I challenged Gareth Hughes at the recent SAFE animal rights conference.  When is the Green Party going to stand up for the only truly sustainable diet for our environment – a vegan diet?  Gareth disappointingly indicated that he considered diet a personal choice.
I was involved several years ago in an email discussion the Greens did about adopting a vegan policy.  While it was eventually revealed that your own research shows that even in clean green NZ, meat and milk production is an environmental nightmare, it was clear that several members involved in the discussion didn’t think we should ever be telling people the right way to eat.
And there this crucial issue has foundered.  No policy was even adopted to require that Green functions buy so-called “cruelty-free” meats.
The Green Party tells people the right and wrong ways to travel.  To treat employees… indigenous people… children.  Was the successful repeal of protection for parents hitting children supported because it was popular - or because it was the right and civilised way forward?
Where is your precedent for accepting the status quo and preferences of an ignorant majority? While ignoring the plight of all farmed animals and institutionalised cruelty, you are also dooming the environment.
This is not Green.
Go beyond tut-tutting about the size of chicken cages and accept the UN’s declaration of the impact of animal farming on the environment.  Be green in the consumer choice you make most often each day – the food you eat.

Jessica Parsons


  1. Thanks! Maybe if it gets said often enough, loud enough... :-)

  2. Jessica Parsons is 100% correct in all she says above, the planet is heating while the Politian’s tip toe around the problem. The people are demanding clear, concise action now; if we go with personal choice, the tipping point on Climate change is inevitable quite soon.

  3. jeanette fitzsimonsJuly 28, 2011 at 3:27 AM

    Hi Jess. I totally respect those who eat vegan but I don't believe it is the ONLY sustainable diet. We raise our own animals organically, they have a wonderful life and an instant death and don't have to travel. My cow and I are good friends and she comes eagerly to be milked because she gets chestnuts or hay. It's hard to eat vegan without imported grains, especially rice. Rice is a serious climate threat as rice paddies release a lot of methane, which is much worse than carbon dioxide in its global warming potential. Imported grains and pulses have traveled huge distances using fossil fuel. That's not to criticise those choices - there is good and bad on both sides and I agree much animal farming - but not all - is sickening and inhumane. But it's not a black and white issue. I used to say, when asked on the platform, that we would be better to eat less meat than we do, but NZ grass fed beef and mutton are much less damaging than the feedlot animals overseas.

    Good on you for having principles and sticking to them. But let other people have their principles too.

    Best regards


  4. Hi Jeanette,

    I appreciate your personal response and consideration on this issue. I also appreciate your long contribution to the Greens and the political options you have made available for us.

    This insistence on reduction to personal principles is astonishing. The issue is not whether my vegan principles are more or less worthy of respect than your feelings of love for your food animals.

    The UN has made a strong and clear statement that animal farming as it exists today is one of the most environmentally damaging human activities - and recommends to eat less meat. Yet our own Green Party has no similar recommendation. Highly valued representatives like you instead debate details and pretend that food choices are simply individual.

    Animal farming is probably more damaging to the environment than cars. Does the Green Party chide others to allow each other their own principles (and motorways?) No, they campaign tirelessly and proudly for public transport.

    I look forward to the Green Party taking a strong, public,and appropriate stand for the environment in food issues.


  5. Jeanette, I am vegan and don't eat rice at all, or most other grains. It is actually not that difficult to avoid them.


  6. Hi Teresa,

    Thanks for contributing - do you eat lots of potatoes and kumara and the like? I'd love to hear an overview of your choices!


  7. I totally respect and understand where Jeanette is coming from. I don't think the Greens should force vegetarian/vegan diets, and the impact of your diet is more than simply choosing food groups. My closest friends and family continually struggle with my diet choices, let alone random strangers.

    But yes -- I also think that the Greens should at least have a recommendation for people to eat less meat. As a Greens party member, I will be advocating that position when the issue comes up for discussion in the near future :)

  8. Hi Anon!

    Great to have your input.

    As we approach the election, I'm aware that much of the Green's success could evaporate if they took an unpopular stance on food issues. I'm sure they're more aware of that than I am.

    I'm not certain what the solution is. Maybe (as you say) after the election :-)

  9. I wonder what happens to Janette's cow's baby calves when the cow regularly gets impregnated and gives birth to provide the clean green happy milk. I guess "they have a wonderful (very short) life and an instant death and don't have to travel" - to make clean green veal, which is the essential best-not-to-be-mentioned byproduct never featuring in the happy Fonterra TV ads about the "great place to be a cow". The children might get upset. Does not traveling mean a home kill with a gun shot, or God forbid a cruel knife? How does the cow react when her calves are taken away from her? The Greens don't-smack-your-children law springs to mind.
    I didn't give my party vote to the Greens this election, just an electorate vote to a guy who was so far down the party list he didn't have a chance in hell to get elected. The Greens have been in Parliament for a long time, each non-electorate list MP collecting around 140 grand at the very least, and does NZ get cleaner and greener?