The Milked documentary released March 2022, tackles one of the hottest topics currently bouncing around the public discourse – veganism and plant-based lifestyles.
However, whilst many of the documentaries in recent years that have explored this phenomenon, many have looked at it on a global scale,
Milked zones in on the dairy industry specifically in New Zealand.
Whilst this small, almost remote, country of 6 million people may not seem particularly consequential on the world stage, its dairy industry is a major player and starting to affect the hugely populous countries to its north in Southeast Asia.
By starting with an approach that looks at the localized production in this industry, Milked manages to help viewers understand how the industry actually operates globally. Many people are already aware of some of the negative links to the dairy and meat industry such as animal cruelty, environmental damage and questionable health effects.
However, the way that the production of dairy in areas that historically don’t dedicate many or any resources to its production – which is most of the world – has been crowbarred in, has numerous interesting negative connotations that are not regularly discussed.
Some aspects of the films cover topics within veganism that other viewers may have seen before in other films like Cowspiracy, such as the increasingly concerned science on the health implications of animal-heavy diets and the catastrophic effect of the industry on the planet’s ecosystems and climate.
However, looking at the issue through a specifically New Zealand lens, provides the opportunity to debunk the marketed ideas of sustainable dairy and meat that we so often hear about.
The industry in New Zealand consistently markets itself as one of the most green-friendly and efficient producers of these products in the world, but by the end of Milked, you will see that there is nothing sustainable about the practices and nothing honest about the claims the industry makes.
This will inevitably leave watchers wondering just how dire the situation must be globally if one of the supposed world leaders on sustainability is having such a negative effect.
Milked is a great opportunity to see the sinister underbelly of the dairy and meat industry that likes to paint a future for itself as a sustainable, green force-for-good, when the forces at play from the industry’s head show that in reality, it is anything but that.
15 years ago, a discussion about dairy may have seemed harmless but, thanks to documentaries like Milked, people can now more easily see the role that colonialism has played in imposing the production of it in various corners of the earth.
The film explores the allegedly racist component of companies using manipulation to try and create markets among populations that historically don’t drink milk and not only tolerate lactose badly but are also at increased risk of potentially life-threatening diseases when regularly consuming it. – and this is all with a happy slogan on how nutritious a brand’s dairy is for everyone!
In this piece, we’re going to have a look at the documentary which has already won awards and looks set to shake up the dairy industry across the world in the next few years.
If you’re interested in animal rights or veganism, or even topics like culture and health, then Milked will have something for you.
Who is in Milked?
This is all presented by the charismatic Chris Huriwai, who helped co-produce the film. He is a vegan advocate and extreme sportsman who was the Community Youth Champion for Kaikohe’s Maori health organisation: Te Hau Ora O Ngapuhi for 7 years between 2010-2017.
This included him mentoring young people and teaching physical education. He has worked with DCM in Northland, New Zealand to help rough sleepers and individuals struggling to access sustainable housing.
At the forefront of what he does is his vegan activism, which focuses on vital human issues such as decolonialism and more specifically, Maori culture in the face of the dairy industry’s onslaught on New Zealand.
He co-founded the animal rights project Aotearoa Liberation League. One final thing about Chris that isn’t to be forgotten is the fact that he is a back-to-back 3-time world champion for street unicycling, which is pretty cool!
Throughout Milked, Chris presents these important and fascinating explorations of veganism and the uphill struggle he faces to get answers, let alone a fair discussion, from the representatives of the dairy industry.
Milked is full of interviews with leading expert figures including environmental scientists, entrepreneurs, doctors, former and current government officials and activists. It benefits from the direction of Amy Taylor, who won awards for her documentary Soul in the Sea and is the owner of Ahisma Films.
It also receives support from executive producers Suzy Amis Cameron, who founded MUSE School CA and plant-based ventures Verdient Foods and Food Forest Organics, and Keegan Kuhn, who co-directed the highly-acclaimed documentary films Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret and What The Health.
The film has already achieved critical success, winning multiple awards such as;
- Winner – Best of Show – Impact Docs Awards
- Winner – Gold Award – Spotlight Documentary Films Awards 2021
- Winner – Best of Show – IndieFEST Film Awards
- Nominated – Whanau Marama – New Zealand International Film Festival 2021
The great news for everyone who loves the planet and the living beings who reside on it and want to share informative media that helps to protect them is that the Milked film is free for all to watch on YouTube.
Channel PLANT BASED NEWS uploaded the documentary in March 2022 and it has already picked up hundreds of thousands of views.
The channel has since featured discussions with Chris Huriwai, who has had to navigate the counter-PR campaign from New Zealand’s dairy industry since the film’s release, which we’ll take a brief look at later.
In this piece, we’re going to look into some of the key aspects of the film and the compelling arguments it makes for why the dairy industry is such a sinister entity and why choosing to follow a plant-based or vegan lifestyle will play a crucial role in our fight to save the planet from environmental degradation.
What happens in Milked?
When people first think of New Zealand they may think of a vast, open, green, tranquil land. A few hundred years ago this was right. Despite the huge changes that have been pushed onto the country in recent times, many people’s perception of the country has remained.
Part of this may be due to the idea that despite the economic growth the company has endured, it is a land that still relies heavily on agriculture.
Green fields filled with sheep and other livestock must be pretty inoffensive to the environment, right? It hardly matches the picture of concrete jungles pumping billowing clouds of carbon into the atmosphere.
Whilst people are correct about the importance of agriculture in New Zealand’s economy, what is less often discussed is the huge contribution this has to the country’s environmental impact.
Industrial dairy is New Zealand’s biggest polluter, and biggest climate emitter, it emits more greenhouse gasses than the entire transport sector and is the country’s biggest water polluter. The dairy industry is a major stressor for biodiversity and soil health in New Zealand’s supposedly (and historically) pleasant lands.
The unfortunate situation for this small country is that its natural ecosystems are on the brink of collapse, and. according to the documentary, it is industrial dairy contributing most to this sad reality.
New Zealand used to be covered in forests and diverse ecosystems. It supported many diverse habitats and rich ecosystems stretched from coast to coast as the native peoples lived harmoniously with nature, nurturing a culture that respected and cherished the living things that they shared the land with.
However, the biggest chunk of wetlands lost in the last 100 years has been in Zealand as everything necessary has been chopped down and uprooted to make room for cows on pastures.
The industry-leading this charge consistently brags about having the most sustainable dairy productions and practices in the world. Yet, it has pushed New Zealand’s ecosystems to the brink of collapse and continues to expand, with dairy emissions increasing 132% in the last 30 years.
It is clear throughout Milked that presenter Chris Hurawi sees New Zealand as a beautiful country, and finds the environmental assault it is under an upsetting experience.
It doesn’t look like the dairy industry is planning on letting up anytime soon, either. Fonterra is New Zealand’s largest company and one of the world’s leading dairy producers.
Exploring such a relevant topic in Milked might make one believe that they’d appreciate the opportunity to be interviewed and give their side of the story across to viewers who want to hear about what the industry is doing to remain environmentally and humanely responsible.
Chris is given a consistently unimaginative escape act by any representative of the country he tries to contact throughout the movie.
This may be because it has been allegedly predicted that in the next decade, Fonterra will make up more than 100% of New Zealand’s total emissions target. This is alarming news for a country where leading figures like to present the image of a green progressive approach to life.
The reality is that 79% of the island country’s native species are threatened and the only thing being progressed towards, is further environmental destruction.
Such a large problem can’t be placed in the hands of individual farmers who are trying to make a living within the behemoth system they work within.
It’s the system itself that is flawed and the representatives of that system are adamant throughout Chris’s journey that they don’t need to discuss these issues with him, even whilst they’re happy in investing millions in communicating on their own terms through aggressive targeted marketing campaigns.
Whatever the industry says or doesn’t say, the changing world dictates that things need to get better soon. Global demand for food is predicted to double by 2050 due to a growing population and the hope that people in poorer countries will be able to live free of malnutrition’s spectre.
Some parts of the world make this aim unrealistic though. Countries like the USA and New Zealand follow diets that are hugely focused on Animal products. Current estimates predict that if the world were to follow this ‘Western’ diet, however, then we would require 5 planet earths.
Interestingly, the people who lived in New Zealand before British settler colonialists arrived, had a diet that is nothing like their current dairy-obsessed one. (The Native American diet was also very different, although the modern Western diet didn’t really exist when the settlers arrived, even if it does strongly emanate from there now).
There weren’t any dairy cows in Aotearoa (the current Māori-language name for New Zealand) before British settlers introduced them 200 years ago. The Maori way of life was far more harmonious with the other life that flourished on the island country with then.
Since the settlers arrived, diverse forests have been given up at a rapid rate to make way for dairy farming. The modern incarnation of this industry tries to portray itself as being driven by family farmers who live off the land and provide for the people of the country.
The thing is, all of these sacrifices haven’t been made just for the New Zealand population. 95% of the dairy the country produces is exported.
This gives an idea of just how large an impact this small country’s huge industry is having. Cows in New Zealand create the same amount of waste as 90million people. Only 5 million people actually live on the island.
Trying to manage this much waste is difficult for countries that have the infrastructure to support 90million people and their own waste. The task is gargantuan for New Zealand. The problem is that as the amount of waste goes up through the ever-growing cow population, the ability to filter and manage it is decimated as wetlands are removed and natural filtering processes are disrupted.
Milked argues that this filtering process is going through more than a disruption, with 192 million tonnes of soil being washed out to sea because of land-use practices every year. This is just any soil either, but invaluable topsoil which plays a crucial role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
This effect means even more to Chris because of his heritage. In Maori culture, water is sacred. There was even an organized push to make New Zealand the world’s first country to give rivers the same legal recognition as people.
When looking after the environment is such a crucial part of one’s belief system, seeing such disregard causing things to fall into such extreme disrepair is especially distressing.
In one section of the film, Chris goes to visit Lake Omapere, a beautiful vast body of water that used to bring joy to the surrounding residents whose children played in it and people fished in it. It was also a vital safety net as a water source for when droughts periodically hit. However, there has now been an explosion of algae – allegedly due to livestock effluent being dumped into it at an alarming rate.
No one wants to catch their fish from or let their children play in, a body of water that has been turned into a toilet runoff for cows. A beautiful natural feature that was once revered by the local community has been degraded to a waste basin.
This contamination isn’t always necessarily clear to the naked eye, unfortunately. Nitrate, which is the main offender from the dairy industry of aquatic ecosystems, doesn’t colour the rivers and lakes that it pollutes. The more nitrate that is poured onto the soil to support huge livestock numbers, the more pours out from the soil floor into water sources.
As one interviewee in Milked points out, if nitrate were red, we’d be seeing shocking changes in waterways that would be drawing the attention of many, but the fact that nitrate is visually inoffensive means that there is not a proportionate response to its contaminating effect.
Radio New Zealand, also known as RNZ, reported that 800,000 New Zealanders may have increased bowel cancer risk due to nitrates in water, and the drinking water nitrate limit is 11 times higher than it should be.
This has huge implications for the whole population, ranging from newborn babies to older people who’ve been drinking the water for years.
It’s not just contamination of water that’s already out there that’s the problem, but also the complete extraction of it from its natural sources at times. The dairy industry in New Zealand uses 11 times the water that humans do. Entire rivers end up drying out during the New Zealand summers. In fact, one company takes more water from the Waikato River than the whole city of Auckland with 1.6 million people.
Unsurprisingly, Chris seeing this pushes him to look for answers from the industry leaders that oversaw such degradation. He tried to contact Fonterra for their views, but they are informed that they have no interest in being a part of the documentary and that the industry heads such as DairyNZ should be contacted.
It’s hard not to be perplexed how the country’s biggest company doesn’t think of itself as being at the head of its industry.
DairyNZ is an organisation that represents the industry’s interests through lobbying, centralizing organisations and pushing marketing campaigns.
In other words, they are ideal candidates for representatives who can explain their take on why all of this damage is happening. Yet when Chris calls them they also claim to not want to be in the documentary since their good work is “already so well documented”.
By documented, they of course mean the ‘clever marketing’ they espouse about the interests they represent. The research on the DairyNZ website boasts of the country’s efficiency in production as well as the fantastic nutritional value of the product.
However, Chris doesn’t have to dig very deep to see that the research that they are quoting in these claims is the research they have funded. Interestingly, it doesn’t quite see things such as the contribution of burning coal to make milk powder, which is Fonterra’s main export product.
One representative where Chris does finally end up getting a chance to properly speak to someone is from the South Island Dairying Development Centre or SIDDC.
The interview he manages to get is nothing short of odd. Early on, the representative claims that “We’re all about transparency”. Yet what follows is confusing at the very least. She refuses to answer whether the area “is suitable for dairy farming”. Then passes on a question about how fertilizer is made and what it’s made out of.
One last question about whether future food security is being put at risk by the practice is also passed on. Any notion of transparency towards questions that to most viewers will seem reasonable and arguably even predictable certainly raises eyebrows.
One might believe that this cul de sac approach could be perfect for a politician, who’d be able to provide some insight into why things seem so confusing or at least put on an impressive performance of answer-avoidance.
The New Zealand Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor is interviewed in the hope of getting some clarity on the issues, but he also does an impressively bad job of addressing the topic. His answers essentially claim that the science should be ignored and resorts to providing general soundbites rather than proposing alternatives to the science he denies.
Whilst it is slightly odd that these companies don’t want to answer questions, it may also make sense to many viewers.
People in these positions are aware of the documentary’s standpoint and don’t want to fan the flames by going into a debate with someone who has probably come prepared with an armful of statistics to support them and the power of editing to further help their point in post-production.
Although you’d think politicians and industry representatives also have access to statistics that support their side, should they exist, as well as the skills to give concise answers that can’t be misconstrued.
It’s even more strange the confidence they portray when they deny what’s laid out in front of them. To be so ill-prepared consistently across the industry indicates they’re used to getting their way and don’t see themselves as under threat by people providing alternatives.
This could well be because of the seemingly iron grip that the dairy industry has over the national discourse on things like nutrition and the environment, where things have now been so set up in their favour that they don’t need to dedicate time to giving interviews and when they do give them, they don’t need to dedicate any time to preparing.
The dairy industry in New Zealand is so powerful that it seems that it has ceased to care about winning the argument in places where it doesn’t think it needs to, including award-winning documentaries.
Some of the ways that this manifests itself are almost surreal. For example, there are environmental awards that are sponsored by fertiliser companies.
Such occurrences in which fossil fuel interests and other environmental dangers try to make themselves a benevolent part of the solution process, such as in 2018 when a Polish coal company was the first sponsor announced for the UN climate talks in Katowice!
Milked does a great job of laying out how marketing plays such a crucial role in New Zealand’s dairy industry managing to maintain its position of power.
One example given, is the Carbon-zero milk that Fonterra likes to put at the forefront of its campaigns for its environmental sustainability.
The documentary points out that this carbon-zero milk is actually only 1% of Fonterra’s milk production and the film alleges this is only achieved by Fonterra buying carbon offsets, meaning it is not actually taking steps to make the milk carbon-zero, but just throwing money to be able to claim it.
Whilst this is undoubtedly an effective marketing tool, it is arguably ineffective in terms of making Fonterra or New Zealand’s dairy industry sustainable for the environment.
There is also an increased push to market the supposed balancing effect of carbon sequestering that is being done on dairy farms. This is portrayed as a great tool for battling climate change that makes the other detrimental effects of dairy farming worth it.
However, studies have consistently shown that the amount of carbon sequestered from grazing cows is substantially outweighed by the greenhouse gasses they generate.
The meat and dairy industry across the world consistently attempts to make small compensations for the damage they seem to cause, so that their practices can be marketed as sustainable.
Slightly reducing the devastating impact of the industry’s practices when ecosystems and the environment are so close to the brink of collapse is not what many viewers would call sustainable though.
It is hard to dispute that the impact is indeed devastating for our planet. Milked explains that 1 kilo of cheese produces around 20 times more emissions than average plant food.
Milk that is marketed as grass-fed provides cover for the fact that huge amounts of palm kernel are imported. Palm kernel is heavily linked with deforestation in South America and particularly in the Amazon rainforest.
This further emphasises the environmental impact of the industry as the Amazon not only is home to a vast array of important ecosystems and habitats but is also one of the world’s leading natural geographic features for capturing carbon.
So, when the dairy industry claims to be improving carbon storage by putting small amounts of carbon into the ground beneath the cows, they are also feeding those cows with palm kernels that destroy a leading global carbon storage tool.
The vast deforestation that occurs, which also happens in nearby Indonesia, has been linked to numerous alleged human rights abuses also, as locals who try and organize protection for the rainforests have been found dead or gone missing.
This propaganda isn’t only aimed at the consumers the industry hopes to win, but also at the smaller players within the industry itself such as local farmers and farming groups. This helps to ensure that the people doing the actual work that the industry relies on, don’t end up looking into alternatives or making their own research about the effect of the industry they work for.
Marketing is one thing, where opinions are stated as opinions and consumers are told about new products but reports keep appearing that find the New Zealand dairy industry is ‘not as accurate as they perhaps could be’ about some of its most important claims.
For example, one report titled Milking the planet – How big dairy is heating up the planet and hollowing rural communities, explains how Fonterra are allegedly underreporting its emissions.
It is alleged their emissions are double what they claim, meaning they produce more than the entire country of Sweden. One company from an island nation of 5 million people could be producing more emissions than Sweden, a country of almost 11 million people!
One of the most striking interviews in Milked lays out the juxtaposition between the green agricultural image that some leaders in New Zealand like to espouse and the reality of the situation.
Many people’s first impression of climate emitters, is factories billowing smoke into the skyline but it is explained in Milked that in New Zealand “our farms are our factories”.
The film believes that Fonterra alone burns 410 million tonnes of coal a year, primarily for dehydrating milk. There are classic fossil fuels going into the other agricultural emissions such as methane.
Agriculture in New Zealand is having industrial size emissions through the use of the traditional polluters in production alongside the unique threats that raising livestock itself produces.
One could be forgiven for assuming that a country’s government would have concerns about matters of such scale and would be looking at solutions for reversing the damage with a matter of urgency but Chris (in Milked), seems to show the government in New Zealand to be completely fine with this state of affairs.
New Zealand, like many self-proclaimed progressive countries, has introduced emission aims as part of supposed intentions to battle climate change.
New Zealand’s legal approach to this was the Zero Carbon Bill, which severely reduced limits on the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, this created an exemption for methane from farm animals and only stated an aim of a 10% reduction by 2030.
There are few, if any, mechanisms in place to enforce this tiny reduction either, with Fonterra currently predicting that they will have no reduction in these emissions by 2030. To create exemptions in an emissions bill for the most polluting industry in a country hardly seems to be an indicator the government is taking the issue seriously.
Discovering all of these extreme things pushes Chris even further to try and find out from the source just what is going on with these huge polluters.
After so many attempts of trying to talk to representatives on the phone and via email, he eventually resorts to going to Fonterra’s headquarters. Yet upon arrival they give him the same runaround, as usual, advising him to just contact the same email address that he was advised over the phone and that no one would be available in the building to talk to him.
On his way out from the unsuccessful interview attempts he finds a large cardboard stand in the building that reads “Sustainability and social responsibility are a fundamental part of the way Fonterra operates.” A very interesting claim.
They have many other similarly bold claims. One Fonterra marketing campaign is an powerful attempt to increase the amount of milk that people drink, including setting up clubs in schools that teach people about milk’s “nutritional power”.
Milked does a great job of showing why such claims at the very least require more nuance and at worse are life-threateningly dangerous. For example, milk is often marketed as a vital source of calcium to keep our bones strong.
People from all backgrounds in Western countries are likely to have grown up hearing about the need for milk to grow and keep our teeth and bones healthy.
However, modern studies consistently find no link between increased dietary intake of calcium and a reduction in bone fractures. In fact, the countries that have the highest rates of calcium intake also have the highest rates of bone structures. Studies straight out of New Zealand support these claims as do others from around the globe.
One nuance that dairy marketing always conveniently misses. is that whilst among European and European-descendent populations, lactose is sometimes tolerated well, a large number of people around the world are in fact lactose intolerant.
Actually, it has been said that the majority of people around the world are lactose intolerant. Yet whilst most people’s bodies are suited to drink milk or consume dairy, it is consistently marketed as if it is a must-have healthy choice for everyone.
Chris especially points out the biological differences among Maori and Pasifika people, who are far more likely to be lactose intolerant than the descendants of settlers in New Zealand.
Education about the link is not common so they are not always noticed but ingestion of dairy allegedly causes increased mucus production and unhealthy sinus inflammation in many people.
Children are especially vulnerable to these effects. Yet there is a huge campaign targeted at schools that uses slogans like “dairy for life” in an attempt for them to make profit-boosting customers for life.
Science is starting to suggest that there’s a link between this lactose intolerance among different populations and the fact that Maori men are 70% more likely to die from prostate cancer than non-Maori men.
This is a particularly personal topic for Chris as he never got to meet his grandfather due to the disease and all the facts indicate that people of his heritage are some of those suffering most.. Many chronic diseases were unheard of before colonisation but now, with one of the highest dairy consumption rates in the world, the native people of New Zealand seem to suffer from exceptionally high rates of diabetes, heart disease and various cancers.
Despite the differences in suitability for ingestion, the dairy industry in New Zealand steams ahead in its attempt to have as many people as possible buying their products without ever giving any of the necessary attention to the nuances that exist in regard to who it is most or least suitable for.
It is not just the native people of New Zealand that this is problematic for. The industry currently markets its dairy product towards Asia incessantly, particularly in the south and the east. This is despite many of those areas having populations who are allegedly up to 100% lactose intolerant.
Many diseases that were not widespread problems in Asian communities are being exported out of New Zealand in exchange for profit just as Maori people have been targeted so the industry can make extra money. It’s been seen that obesity rates and various diseases skyrocket among Asian communities that have Western diets pushed upon them.
Milked then goes on to explore whether dairy is really suitable for anyone at all though, even if it will affect some people worse than others. Anyone who’s a human that is.
We don’t believe that any other animals drink other species’ milk. If we were forced to choose between other animals’ milk to drink ourselves then cows’ is an odd choice due to its hormonal profile and how unlike one another cows and humans are.
The macho ‘science’ of the 80s that espoused the need specifically for animal protein for people to develop strong and healthy bodies is increasingly being questioned by modern science. It is perfectly possible to reach a person’s protein requirements from a diverse range of plant foods that have the added benefit of providing a large range of nutrients and antioxidants.
The animals and animal products that we eat, are themselves made from plant proteins that they eat, and yet we wastefully plunge huge amounts of resources into feeding plants to these animals who are then raised and fed to some humans, rather than putting those resources into just feeding a wider number of humans.
The industry does a good job of fighting against guidelines that try and provide some nuance to these realities too. Nutrition guidelines provided by governments are something generally trusted by members of the public and play a big role in shaping people’s dietary habits.
Yet, in New Zealand, like many other countries, when these are curated or updated, consultations are held with key stakeholders and industry leaders, meaning that private profits become a factor in what is finally published.
It’s a big factor too. 3 of the 4 issues that the dairy industry raised at the last consultation resulted in the relevant guideline being erased. This included one that suggested dairy alternative products were a viable source of various nutrients.
Some members of New Zealand’s government seem particularly passionate about affording these protections to the dairy industry. When Shane Jones MP, who has an extensive history of comments ranging from controversial to offensive, is interviewed about dairy alternatives by Chris he says “We should not tolerate, we should not acquiesce for one inch of the political journey with these people”. His words invoke feelings of battle, of which there is one to save the planet, but it would seem he is passionately against the planet!
All of these considerations don’t even go into the effects of all the unnatural additives and chemicals which are involved in the process of the vast majority of meat production. The amount of hormones that naturally occur in milk, which is designed to rapidly turn a baby calf into a huge cow, is something that should make us question it for human ingestion by itself.
However, the problem becomes even more concerning when we also look at the hormones that are given to the cows by farmers and the industry which make the cows grow as quickly as possible and produce as much milk as they can.
What we end up with is an extreme unnatural concoction of hormones in this white gold which science is only just beginning to understand the adverse effects of.
The last aspect of the health concerns around animal products that the movie explores is the extensive usage of antibiotics in the dairy and meat industry.
Doctors around the world have repeatedly expressed concerns in recent years, that antibiotics will cease to be of any use if we keep using them at a rate at which diseases adapt on a wide scale.
Antibiotics were a huge medical innovation that has saved countless lives since their introduction but they will cease to be of any use to us if they continue to be used to support the livestock industry.
Even if we don’t have all the obvious facts yet on the effects of lactose-intolerant people consuming dairy and the ingestion of hormonally extreme foods, it will undoubtedly be obvious if in the coming years we can no longer fight infections due to our reckless approach to supporting the dairy industry with unwise antibiotic usage.
It appears the world’s medicine isn’t the only area where things are being approached recklessly, with the economic reality of the dairy in New Zealand also being brought into question during Milked.
Debt among dairy farmers is skyrocketing as leading figures in the industry pressure them to constantly expand their livestock. Dairy farmers in New Zealand held under $10 billion in debt in 2000 but this has now rocketed to almost $40 billion and looks like it will continue climbing.
That’s an extra $30 billion that dairy farmers have borrowed in the last 20 years. The dairy industry should take some responsibility for this. The thing is, if the dairy industry’s profits are not considered a necessity, then dairy farmers don’t need to push on with indebting themselves to accommodate aggressive attempts to increase dairy demand among populations who it isn’t healthy for.
It is essential for the dairy industry’s survivability, however, that production continues at a massive scale. The milk dehydrators that have been invested in, which Chris explores in milked, need to be paid for and can not be economically justified unless they have huge amounts of product to work with.
This is also why ‘interested parties’ pushes back so hard, when people try to introduce new alternatives to dairy into the market and into people’s diets.
Milked does a really great job of exploring the alternatives to dairy that are currently available or are in production. Many of them currently show a lot of promise in terms of efficiency of production in both economic and environmental terms as well as being nutritious and a lot kinder to animals.
Hemp is one plant that has repeatedly struggled throughout modern history to get the support it deserves but can be used to make many protein-rich products as well as having the ability to take up nitrate from the soil at a rate four times that of pine.
This could prove crucial in reversing the effects of years of soil degradation by the meat and dairy industry and the excessive amounts of fertiliser it requires.
Remilk is one up and coming alternative that Chris looks at very optimistically as a potential disruptor to the current dairy industry. In fact, it basically is a dairy product but is made without animals.
By using specific microbes and putting them through a process in a fermentation tank, animal-free dairy can be made. The end product is identical to cow’s milk. The wonders of science!
The co-founder of Remilk, who is interviewed in Milked, claims that with a few years it may be ten times cheaper than milk too! This takes 5% of the resources and 1% of the waste that cow’s milk does, without needing to harm any cows.
How long is the movie Milked?
Whilst Milked manages to cover many aspects of New Zealand’s dairy industry and look at things in impressive detail, its run time is still only an hour and a half. The production team has put together a very impressive balancing act of keeping the documentary very informative without it overstaying its welcome and becoming boring.
Even if you think you have a short attention span it’s still worth giving Milked a go, especially if you’re interested in things like veganism and plant-based lifestyles. There really is a lot to learn and Milked keeps things varied enough to make this interesting topic accessible to most people.
Where can I watch Milked documentary?
Many documentaries that cover important topics have their effectiveness stunted by being stuck behind a paywall or subscription which means the issue they’re dealing with doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
Luckily, Milked is perfectly watchable for free for anyone with an internet connection. You can find it on YouTube where it premiered in March 2022 as well as on the video streaming service WaterBear.
So there’s really no need to put off watching it, it’s enjoyable, informative and perfectly accessible to anyone who knows how to navigate through YouTube.
Milked documentary opinions
The awards that Milked received should speak for themselves in proving the documentary to be one of the year’s most impressive and important pieces.
Some of the awards include:
- Winner – Best of Show – Impact Docs Awards
- Winner – Gold Award – Spotlight Documentary Films Awards 2021
- Winner – Best of Show – IndieFEST Film Awards
- Nominated – Whanau Marama – New Zealand International Film Festival 2021
Normally films with such acclaim need to be paid for in one way or another but this is a rare opportunity to see an acclaimed film for free.
It’s also a watching experience that’s likely to get you thinking about what you eat and where it comes from. Basic gore videos can be off-putting and don’t often convince people to give up meat that easily.
Milked takes its time to explain the cultural and historical reasons that the dairy industry is so dangerous but also addresses the fact that there are alternatives out there.
People don’t need to just give up a huge portion of the options available to them for every meal, but just learn how they can replace the environmentally destructive things they want to cut out.
Aside from getting people to think about plant-based diets and veganism, Milked is also a great inspection of industries who use their power and influence to manipulate consumers, governments and workers and what steps they take to ensure their grip on power can be used to maximise profits wherever possible.
The dairy industry isn’t normally an issue that people think of as having a colonial or cultural aspect but Chris has clearly done his research and presents these essential angles in a way that isn’t too heavy whilst still dealing with them head-on.
Milked stands out from the rest of the crowd in the slew of vegan and environmental films that have become extremely popular over the last decade or so.
If you enjoyed other hits like Cowspiracy, What the Health, or Seaspiracy, then this will be right up your street. It manages to refrain from some of the sensationalism that other titles in the genre are sometimes prone to and does a great job of striking a balance between catching and keeping the viewer’s attention alongside presenting an honest story of investigating a complex and important issue.
You don’t have to be from New Zealand to enjoy this film and anyone interested in this topic on a global scale will benefit greatly from the insight a more localised angle gives.
New Zealand is a small country that people may not think of as hosting leading world threats but Milked gives an insight into just how powerful their dairy industry is, which can help viewers to understand how these seemingly small operations from all corners of the earth, in fact, operate in a very global and ambitious, although seemingly dangerous way.
New Zealand’s dairy industry has made a big deal of pushing back since the film came out, with guest appearances on the news and an onslaught of new PR to counteract the film’s effect. This should tell you all you need to know about how hard-hitting this piece is.
New Zealand’s dairy industry is nothing if not powerful and so the fact they have made such a concerted effort to respond to a free documentary on YouTube should tell you that this movie really means business.
For all vegan and animal rights enthusiasts, this is a much watch. For those who are interested in learning about health, culture, colonialism, and even personal stories, this is a great documentary film too.
Is Milked available on Netflix?
Milked isn’t currently available on Netflix, but it doesn’t need to be. Anyone who can access Netflix must have an internet connection anyway, so they can watch it for free right now on YouTube!
We highly recommend you check it out!