Around this time last year, I wrote about a seemingly innocuous PR campaign called Swim Fresh, which encouraged New Zealanders to appreciate their rivers and lakes.
It had the trappings of a grassroots campaign, albeit one with a vague purpose. After some digging, it turned out to be murky.
The campaign was run by Blackland PR – a communications agency that specialises in rural issues – ostensibly with the cooperation of students from Massey University (the university later denied it had sanctioned any student involvement in the campaign, contrary to what Blackland PR had said).
Several press releases from the campaign were repeated almost verbatim on mainstream news websites: One in particular noted that people didn’t swim in rivers because they were too cold.
Swim Fresh fleetingly acknowledged concerns about water quality, but never in a way that lingered on them, in contrast to the election campaign several months earlier which had underlined those concerns among the public.
In these campaigns, the underlying issue – in this case, deteriorating water quality – isn’t denied, per se, but responsibility for it is subtly shifted.
Tobacco giant Philip Morris responded to concerns about the link between secondhand smoke and diseases such as lung cancer by launching a campaign that cherry-picked data to equate the risks of secondhand smoke to drinking milk or eating biscuits.
Fuel company Exxon published regular ads in major newspapers minimising its role in climate pollution by claiming far more scientific uncertainty about the causes of climate change than actually existed.
A common thread in these campaigns is that they originate from economically powerful industries at a time when public scrutiny of their activities is high.
Swim Fresh quickly faded, and made little discernible impact. But it has been reborn, at least in spirit, in a way that shows how industry messaging is having a growing influence on the tone of a public debate.
DairyNZ launched a campaign late last year called The vision is clear.
The lobby group described it as a “movement… to encourage and inspire every New Zealander to think about their personal impact on our country’s water quality.”
It is partly the product of an agreement with Auckland-based NZME., publishers of the NZ Herald and owner of several radio stations, which hosts content produced by DairyNZ on its platforms.
It’s not just this masquerade that Dairy is somehow not responsible for stealing and dirtying our water, despite research that it is…
Study: Is water causing cancer?
Last year, a Danish study reported a link between nitrate in drinking water and the risk of developing colorectal (bowel) cancer. This finding could have important implications for Kiwis.
New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the world. Recent data showed also that drinking water supplies in some parts of New Zealand had nitrate levels more than three times higher than the threshold level for colorectal cancer risk identified in the Danish study.
This study and other research raise a question about the contribution nitrate exposure through drinking water may be making to our high rates of bowel cancer.
…it’s the entire cult of Dairy that is hilarious. So terrified are Fonterra that the rest of the country is getting sick to death of them stealing and polluting our water, they are desperately pumping these farcical adverts out to try and distract Kiwis from the wholesale abuse of their industry.
Richie McCaw wanders around a Farm in the early morning and marvels at the pristine goodness of these human beings as if Jesus himself had personally popped down to the milking shed to milk a herd before feeding 5000 with a block of cheese.
Indeed one advert last year actually goes as incredibly far as suggesting milk is some kind of miracle drug that can help paralysed teenagers walk again.
You have to see it to believe it…
…that’s right folks, Dairy doesn’t shit into our rivers or steal our water! They didn’t get National to privatise 49% of our state owned energy assets to create an irrigation slush fund worth $400million to convert as many square inches of NZ into intensified dairy farms! No, they create a miracle juice that helps the sick and needy while keeping our rivers clean.
This is propaganda that would make Goebbels choke.
The truth is that large scale corporate Dairy is a sunset industry with synthetic milk and meat likely to produce far cheaper and less environmentally damaging food, (plus an end of cruelty to the animals themselves).
We should be looking to move away from corporate dairy, not continuing to promote their spin.