New Zealand To Slaughter 150,000 Cows Whether Farmers Like It Or Not

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New Zealand announced plans to slaughter around 150,000 cattle to eradicate a bacteria, and the government has authority to remove cows even if the farmers refuse.

The country has already culled around 24,000 cows from herds around the island, and plans to remove another 128,000 in the coming year under a plan agreed to by the cabinet Monday, The Associated Press reported.

New Zealand has around 10 million cows — nearly twice its human population — and about two-thirds of them are for dairy production.

Authorities believe they can save most of the cow population, a pillar of New Zealand’s economy, by slaughtering cows carrying or that have been exposed to Mycoplasma bovis, a bacterium that causes a host of other bovine diseases, including mastitis (infections to the udder), pneumonia and arthritis, but does not affect humans.

“This is a tough time, and the pain and anguish they’re going to go through is really hideous,” Katie Milne, national president of the advocacy group Federated Farmers, told the AP. “And we have to support them as neighbors, community members, farmers, friends.”

Officials say they will slaughter cows at any farm where the bacteria is found, whether the animals are healthy or not. Some will be turned into meat, but the sicker animals will have to be incinerated. The government will compensate farmers for the cattle, and the whole operation is expected to cost around $616 million.

The authorities have the power to seize cattle even if the owner resists, but hope they don’t have to use it. If successful, New Zealand would be the first country to fully eradicate the bacteria, which also affects herds in Europe and the U.S. (RELATED: Hillary Clinton Buddies Up To New Zealand Prime Minister)

“We don’t know, in the long-term, what impact it could collectively have on an industry that is incredibly important to New Zealand’s economy,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

“I personally do not want to look back on this time … and say I wish we had tried harder,” Ardern said. “We have this one shot to eradicate, and we are taking it together.”

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