In the following blog post, I will be articulating the context behind the report named dirty dairying, the ethical issues surrounding the report, an appropriate solution to resolve the obligations of the potential ethical issue and justification as to why this solution would have a mutually beneficial outcome.
Dirty dairying context
New Zealand’s dairy industry had an estimated 2.25 million cows in 1985 and had risen to 6.7 million dairy cows in 2014. Global demand for New Zealand dairy products has outstripped infrastructure needed to ensure all directly impacted persons known as stakeholders, are not affected negatively. The direct result is an increase in effluent pollution into New Zealand Waterways from poor farming practices. Local governments approached farmers to put measures in place to stop dairy cow effluent from reaching the waterways. There was no financial reparation to help clean the waterways in the region from farmers as they believed they were not solely responsible. The inaction from farmers has also tarnished the reputation of New Zealand’s “100% Pure” marketing campaign.
The ethical issue of dirty dairying is the direct harm to local stakeholders caused by the bad farm practices, which have resulted in polluted waterways. In this essay, I will be using the Deontological theory to show how the action has affected human well-being. The deontological approach helps us to understand as a social species, the rules to which ethical issues can be determined. The deontological theory argues that not only does the consequence of the action that determines if something is morally right or wrong but also the action itself.
Dirty dairying has in the last thirty years has been the majority polluter of waterways in New Zealand, by not following the duty of care and best farming practices. These actions have decreased the utilisation of water downstream from the farms which have resulted in consequences to stakeholders in the local region. There is a reduction of scenarios the New Zealand waterways are safe to be used for, including drinking water, swimming, fishing and any monetisation of future fresh bottled water. Although no physical harm from the actions of the farmers, this is only due to the stakeholders reframing from such activities, which would raise their risk of illness or death.
The long-term effect of the tarnished brand of New Zealand’s 100% pure image has not been calculated until such evidence eventuates it cannot be used in an ethical issue argument.
Dairy farmers have caused direct and indirect harm to the stakeholders of New Zealand through bad practice. All actions of unethical behaviour that cause harm must rectify such harm to ensure individual and collective productivity. In this case, financial compensation for damages to the New Zealand stakeholders, the cleaning of the waterways and sufficient checks to ensure this doesn’t continue. The concern with this approach is one of evidence, although we have data to show the correlation of farming dairy and the waterway pollution, we do not have absolute accountability for the farmers, and it would be unjustifiable to punish all dairy farmers for the actions of those involved.
The solution that I wish to put forward is not of financial compensation but reform and prevention. Most food industries which serve the public are required by law to have a yearly review for health and safety. There is no such annual review on New Zealand’s largest food producers at a business level, only at a product level. My solution would be to empower the local bodies to grade all farms on their farming practice, their acceptance to professional codes, the law and local social etiquette. The result would ensure visibility of those that not only would be potentially polluting the waterways but maybe causing harm to other sustainable criteria. If farmers are not breaking the law but are breaking local etiquette, then companies and consumers can choose not to do business with those farmers.
I believe this solution is justified to ensure visibility to global stakeholders for products they consume and for the self-sustainability, the New Zealand brand looks to achieve. As the farmers have collectively shown to have caused harm and there is no collective agreement to ensure sustainability of waterways in the future, then it is morally permissible to ensure that the public good is maintained and government intervention is warranted. Farmers will have the opportunity to collaborate among themselves to ensure New Zealand has a business manual that is in the best interests of farmers and the stakeholders. There will be a varying degree of grading; this allows farmers to segment their products into new product streams. Although this solution does not fix the current water pollution issue, it ensures that in the future the offenders will be held accountable for their actions and to help farmers from making unethical decisions in the future. Sustainable farming practice is in the best interests of the farmer from a long-term viable business model. Providing a solution that ensures no further unethical behaviour, creates a sustainable model, limits direct harm to stakeholders and creates mutual benefits for all parties is morally justifiable, given the historical lack of duty of care of the industry.
As a result of this essay, I have explained the context behind the report named dirty dairying and the short and long-term ethical issues surrounding the actions of the industry. Without sufficient evidence, no obligation from an individual can be morally justified. A solution to ensure accountability through yearly reviews would make the business transparent. The justification for this mutually beneficial solution is that both parties can move forward for the well-being of the individual and the collective.