New Zealand’s appetite for animal products coupled with intensive animal agriculture (or factory farming) has become a hefty burden for the country – and worldwide. SAFE, New Zealand’s leading animal advocacy organisation, is calling for urgent solutions.
SAFE has written to the Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific Region asking for global leadership on healthy nutrition, including actively supporting nations like New Zealand in developing responsible, evidence-based policies to improve public health.
“Unprecedented and rising levels of industrial animal farming in New Zealand and across the region are undermining the WHO’s mandate.”
the letter states. “As a catalyst and advocate for action at all levels, we implore the WHO to put overconsumption of animal products and the intensification of animal agriculture on the agenda as the key health issue of public concern.”
In the past, the WHO has confronted tobacco companies for harming human health. “We must now be bold and prioritise health and the environment before it’s too late,” said Jasmijn de Boo, SAFE CEO. “Factory farming and overconsumption of animal products must become things of the past.”
Factory farming has become big business in New Zealand with well over one hundred million animals confined in factory farms each year. These industries and those they influence, place profits above the health of Kiwis. “Focus on low overheads and heavily industrialised production has resulted in severely compromised animal welfare,” said de Boo. “Kiwis ultimately pay the price for these low-cost goods – with their health.”
Unhealthy diets that are high in animal products and lacking in fruit and vegetables contribute to disease, which can mean an early grave for Kiwis. Due to a diet filled with saturated fat, sodium and not enough dietary fibre, it’s no wonder that diet is the top risk factor contributing to ‘health loss’.
Less than half (41%) of New Zealand adults eat the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables, and current guidelines are not aligned with new research which recommends eight to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables to lower the risk of heart attack, stroke and early death. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health currently recommends only three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit.
Despite a wealth of research demonstrating the merits of following a whole food plant-based diet, the Ministry of Health and other health organisations fall short of adequately sharing this vital, lifesaving information with the public – keeping Kiwis from making informed, healthy, choices about what to eat.
Most of us in New Zealand are overweight (34%) or obese (30%), and as a nation we are paying a heavy toll for all the extra weight we are carrying. A high body mass index (BMI) has overtaken smoking as the leading risk factor for health loss, including due to the increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“This wouldn’t be the case if a whole food plant-based diet was promoted as the preferred diet,” said de Boo. “I encourage others to join us and put public health and the environment before profit.”
To read the letter to the WHO, or learn more about how to transition to a plant-based diet, visit SAFE’s website, www.safe.org.nz. Not only are plant-based diets great for our health, they are kinder on the planet and to animals.