NZ’s dirty white secret – Milked film REVIEW

March 29, 2022
2 mins read



What do we really know about the dairy industry in NZ? GARY STEEL frequently finds his mouth on the floor and his eyes wide open watching a must-see new documentary about our biggest export earner.


Streaming – WaterBear



The completely free documentary streaming service Water Bear – which gathers together films with a decidedly environmental theme – debuts this sort-of sequel to the popular (if controversial) Cowspiracy, and it’s all about us! That is, Milked does a complete demolition job on Fonterra, our megacorp in-name-only “dairy co-op”, and blames it for the degradation of our waterways and a number of other ills that make it one of the worst polluters in the world. Or at least, that’s the allegation made by Milked and it’s backed up by what appears to be some pretty solid data. (Fonterra wouldn’t be interviewed or answer any questions, so we don’t get their side of the story).


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The film is a complete eye-opener for those of us who have believed the hype that we’re “really not that bad” down here in New Zild when it comes to our carbon footprint or our general pollution levels or animal welfare.

It’s a nice touch having Chris Huriwai – a young bloke who grew up in the Far North on traditional dairy farms – helm the film, and he goes on quite a trip to dig out what purports to be the truth about the scurrilous intensification of our dairy farms and the myriad consequences of such negligence.

There are flaws. While the environmental experts called on to give evidence are so convincing they make you frightened for our country’s future, the interview with chimp anthropologist Jane Goodall feels stitched-in to its fabric and she barely mentions NZ at all. Sir Peter Gluckman’s brief appearance also seems hardly warranted.

What also grates a little is Huriwai’s repetitious attempts to get Fonterra staff to submit to an interview, which reaches its peak with a by-now-predictable, Michael Moore-inspired “turn up at HQ and make a pest of yourself” scenario. Still, the tactic works because the various robotic defenders of the Fonterra faith come across at best as buffoons and at worst as people with a lot to hide.


The Labour Government’s Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, sadly comes across as someone completely in love with old and crumbling ideas about what’s environmentally sustainable. I wish that Labour, in collaboration with the Greens, would grow some balls and stick it to the recidivist redneck farmers and especially, their protectors in Federated Farmers and their masters in Fonterra. The thing is, the farmers hate Labour whatever concessions they make for them, so why pander?

Milked looks at many aspects of dairy in New Zealand and – most optimistically – also the advent of milk substitutes. In many ways, this is the most fascinating section of the film, as it contains an interview with Suzy Cameron (celebrated film director James Cameron’s wife) about her herbivorous farming adventure in NZ, as well as a scientist about the new technology that is bringing about a cow-free revolution in milk production that apparently is set to knock old-fashioned dairy off its perch.

With its many tut-tut, shame-on-you revelations, Milked is a must-see film that deserves the kind of exposure NZ media has – for some weird reason – completely denied it in its first few weeks of release.

Sure, there’s the Ukraine war and the pandemic to cover along with our supposed “cost of living crisis” (yeah right) but surely a film that uncovers the truth about NZ’s shameful dairy industry – while also siding with the farmers who have been exploited by the big business model – deserves some genuine analysis.

Steel has been penning his pungent prose for 40 years for publications too numerous to mention, most of them consigned to the annals of history. He is Witchdoctor's Editor-In-Chief/Music and Film Editor. He has strong opinions and remains unrepentant. Steel's full bio can be found here

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