Crocodile tears from Crafars

Written By: - Date published: 3:20 pm, September 29th, 2009 - 36 comments
Categories: capitalism, farming - Tags:

I saw one of the Crafar brothers on the TV last night. Crying fake tears over calves that a whistle-blower had revealed were being left to starve on one of their farms. The Crafars are prime examples of what’s wrong with the capitalist class and, because capitalism is essentially a system that rewards sociopathy and greed, they’re our biggest dairy farmers.

Leaving a hundred calves to starve to death is just another in the Crafars’ long list of crimes. And I mean crimes literally. Frank and Allen and Allen’s wife Elizabeth have repeatedly been found guilty on dozens of criminal charges arising out of breaches of the RMA due to their dirty farming practices. They’ve fouled our rivers to increase their profits and they’ve never tried to change their ways. In fact, one judge went so far as to expressly doubt their supposed remorse was real.

The Crafars, called “poster boys for dirty farming” by Environment Waikato have refused to take any responsibility. Instead, they blame “marijuana-smoking greenies” . And because capitalism isn’t really about merit, it’s about cronyism, Federated Farmers have resolutely protected these people. Apparently brain-damaged Fed Farmers dairy chairman Lachlan McKenzie said “I don’t judge people on their past, but on their actions to date” in excusing the Crafars’ actions.

Now, the Crafars are threatening to sell their farms to the Chinese if they keep on being punished for breaking environmental safeguards. They seem to think we would rather let them fill our rivers with sh*t than have some foreigners own the land.

I reckon the Government should just seize the land off them. Ultimately, land owners only own title to land, which is subsidiary to the radical title held by the Crown. The Crafars refuse to use their title with respect for the law, their animals, and our environment. Their titles should be confiscated.

36 comments on “Crocodile tears from Crafars”

  1. the sprout 1

    Easily one of the most unconvincing attempts at looking like you’re crying I’ve ever seen. About as good at acting as farming I’d say

  2. aj 2

    I cam to the same conclusions you did. This must be a huge embarrassment to the more grounded members of Fed Farmers and to responsible landholders in general.

  3. LawGeek 3

    I agree with you re the Crafars being unpleasant people who deserve every misfortune they receive, but this post demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding as to what radical title means.

    Radical title is nowadays nothing more than an expression of sovereignty over a jurisdiction. It used to be that the sovereign actually granted land to those who pleased him (William the Conquerer stands out here), but that hasn’t been the case for centuries in England. In New Zealand, the monopoly of the Crown granting land was just used as a way to more efficiently fund the colony after the land was acquired (somewhat dubiously in most cases) from Maori. In fact, the use of the word “confiscation” in your post echoes some of the shonky actions of the Crown in acquiring radical title over land from Maori.

    Nowadays, radical title is for all intents and purposes just a legal fiction. It is not a property right in the sense that we think of it. Suggesting that the Crown should be able to reclaim land on a whim, without any process, is vile. They don’t even do that under the Proceeds of Crime act, and Act which in my opinion violates various fundamental rights as it is. If you want the Queen to be able to reposess New Zealand as her personal fiefdom, by all accounts continue to advocate such a ridiculous action. Otherwise, learn the meaning of the law before you continue to spout off.

    • Zetetic 3.1

      I understand what radical title is perfectly well, thanks.

      I believe we should reassert the underlying premise of it – that land belongs to the people at large (the people, via their parliament now being sovereign); that title is merely ownership of a bundle of rights to land, not the land itself.

      If people like the Crafars refuse to use their land in accordance with the fair and legal expectations of the people, then the people should take it back.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.2

      Suggesting that the Crown should be able to reclaim land on a whim, without any process, is vile.

      Nobody said anything about just arbitrarily taking the land from them. There was a process implied – commit crime that is detrimental to the land, lose the deed to the land.

      Seems reasonable to me.

      • the sprout 3.2.1

        Also causes a lot of damage to the national and international image of farming.

      • Lew 3.2.2

        Why stop there? Why not expropriate the lands and possessions of people who commit other sorts of crimes — like, say, murder — on some patch of ground, as seems to have happened by default in the so-called Christchurch house of horrors. Or those allow their otherwise-valuable land revert to scrub and gorse, or those who degrade it by, say, cutting down their trees to let in the sun? After all, if it’s a principled justification you’re making here, these would surely follow. Of course, it’d be inconsistent to only expropriate land where cute baby animals were mistreated.


        • LawGeek

          Lew – see my comment below. I can’t say much more than that I agree with you.

          I would add, Draco, that despite a) protesting that he knows what radical title is and b) Later suggestions that he wanted the NZ people to decide the conditions, thats not what Zetetic actually argued. He said:

          “I reckon the Government should just seize the land off them. Ultimately, land owners only own title to land, which is subsidiary to the radical title held by the Crown. The Crafars refuse to use their title with respect for the law, their animals, and our environment. Their titles should be confiscated.”

          The terms used are “just seize” on the basis of the residual radical title held by the Crown. That sounds an awful lot to me like using an obsolete legal fiction to arbitrarily take land.

          The reference to residual title and “just seizing” land make no sense if what is actually being adovcated is an amendment to the RMA making people liable to forefeit their land if convicted of repeated breaches of said legislation.

          As I said above, I entirely agree that the Crafars are shits, but advocating arbitrary, authoritarian actions in response, then claiming you did nothing of the sort when called up on it is both inappropriate and dishonest.


    I don’t think a bunch of animal abusers have anything to do with capitalism.

  5. Tigger 5

    Well, it makes a nice change from the right blaming it all on the gays and solo mothers…

  6. I agree the Crafars don’t deserve any sympathy.

    But I don’t agree it’s an indictment on the whole capitalist system. It the Crafars are breaking the rules they should be punished – and they have been – repeatedly. Ultimately they may well end up going bust as a result of their legal troubles and shoddy practices. The family’s debts are said to be massive.

    Will you give the capitalist system credit if it drives them out of business and so effectively cleans up the mess? 🙂

    Allowing the Crown to take someone’s title sounds draconian and slightly scary, and in the case of the Crafars would be out of all proportion to their wrongdoing.

    • lprent 6.1

      I think that Z is more than a little draconian by nature.

      But it would not be the capitalistic system that drives them out, it will be the constraints on that system from the legal and bureaucratic systems. By all accounts they have managed to accumulate a considerable empire. However their capitalistic behavior has violated the norms in society.

      If the capitalistic system drove them out of business, then you’d expect to see some widespread boycotting of their goods, or perhaps some dynamiting of their outflows to the rivers by the people downstream. Good thing that those laws are in place eh?

      • gitmo 6.1.1

        “By all accounts they have managed to accumulate a considerable empire.”

        Not sure how much of that empire they own though.

        “Crafar Farms, which originally owned one family farm, grew over a period of a decade to have 20,000 milking cows, 10,000 other stock, 200 staff and around NZ$200 million of debt with Westpac, Rabobank and PGG Wrightson Finance.”

        Reading the article it sounds as if he’s a complete nut.

      • Scott 6.1.2

        I agree that an unbridalled capitalist system would probably let the Crafars get away with anything they wanted to do on or with the land. But that’s not the form of capitalism we have. The very things that they have done to the land may end up destroying them financially. So capitalism (when moderated by sensible controls) works…

        I’m not ready to give up on my precious free market yet.

        • lprent

          I’m not interested in giving up a free market either. Worked in or trained for it my whole life. I can see exactly its strengths – who’d want a central 5 year plan?; and its weaknesses – who’d trust the free market to make strategic decisions for more than 10 years? In the latter case, it is rare to find a company that even has plans for more than 5 years. They try to get the ROI a *lot* less than that.

          At the micro-level, the weakness of the free market is that they don’t value the transparency that makes a theoretical free market work. One of the things you realize when looking at finance is how much of it is based on imperfect information to get returns. It also applies to people trying to conceal their shoddy working practices like inadequate management and control that this family demonstrate.

      • Lew 6.1.3

        Yeah, as Gitmo says, the capitalistic system is taking well care of them in the long run, because evil incompetent fools who don’t care for their animals tend to fail economically, particularly in the dairy game where maintaining a fair — if not great — standard of stock wellbeing is critical to sustaining productivity.

        It’s a shame that the system works too slowly to save the stock, but this is why we have MAF and the like to keep capitalism honest, although they have proven themselves worse than useless in this case. They should be all over this lot of cowboys like flies on shit, and it was with great pleasure that I heard the glib and casual Greg Reid of MAF investigations eviscerated by Mary Wilson on Checkpoint this evening. If he’d done his homework, he’d have known that you don’t use phrases like ‘Inspectors rocked up to find …” and proceed read from the Big Book Of Corporate Doublespeak and expect Ms Wilson to allow you to get away with it. If the attitude toward a tough prime-time interview on NZ’s evening news of record is that slack, it’s hardly surprising that their investigations are made of suck and fail as well.


  7. Red Rosa 7

    Apparently the Crafars are great believers in Ayn Rand, which is understandably not being quoted by the right-wing bloggers! To their credit, none of the regular NZ Right blogs carry anything but criticism of this sorry mess, though there are some disturbing comments popping up.

    The best solution would be for the banks to step in and appoint receivers immediately. Clearly, current management is totally inadequate, and a new team of people is required to see the 22 farms (!) through the current season until buyers can be found. This will not be cheap, but the current cash losses must be massive already and the assets will be deteriorating by the day.

    So far, Federated Farmers’ response has been about par for the course, but Fonterra are getting cold feet today, judging by Henry vdH’s comments on Stuff. General farmer reaction in the ‘shock, horror’ category. Presumably more to come from MAF.

  8. vto 8

    I agree those tears were pathetic and a lie.

    Is that what you can get away with in the North Island?

    People like that don’t last in any decent form..

  9. LawGeek 9

    ETA: Sorry, reply to Zetetic upthread, clicked reply to the wrong post.

    Ok, lets take your proposal to its logical conclusion:

    “If people like the Crafars refuse to use their land in accordance with the fair and legal expectations of the people, then the people should take it back.”

    Growing marijuana is illegal, but lets make it a bit stronger than that: say, growing marijuana with intent to supply. You do that on your land. You get convicted and sent to prison for, say, 6 months.

    Should you also have your land confiscated because it was used to further an unlawful purpose? You can’t logically argue that the crafars should have their land confiscated without also saying that this should result in a confiscation as well.

    How do you draw the line? The maximum penalty for the offence? I think possessing a class B drug for supply has a higher punishment that RMA effluent breaches. Or, ultimately, is it just “uses of the land Zeteteic disagrees with?” That’s fine, but some day (in fact right now!) your political opponents will be in charge of enforcing the law, and you’ll be the one in the gun.

    As I said, I entirely understand the sentiment re the Crafars, but your suggestion is just terrible public policy.

    • Zetetic 9.1

      Well, because I’m Zetetic “uses of the land Zeteteic disagrees with” is likely to be exactly the grounds for repossession I would agree with.

      However, in a democratic country, I think what offences should be see a landowner liable for repossession of the land should be decided by elected officials advised by competent advisers.

    • Pascal's bookie 9.2

      ” You can’t logically argue that the crafars should have their land confiscated without also saying that this should result in a confiscation as well.”

      Sure you can. You just need more premisses. The Carfars actions were damaging the land, repeatedly, and in violation of laws set up to protect the land and the environment. Those laws are there, partially, to protect the property rights of others whose property is damaged by polluters. The Crafars seemed to treat those laws with scant regard. So there’s a start.

  10. Zaphod Beeblebrox 10

    No wonder they went broke. To make money out of production animals, you and your staff have to know something about animal husbandry.

    If MAF doesn’t make the effort to ensure our animal welfare standards are up to scratch (5 inspectors for the whole of NZ is an international embarassment) it is only a matter of time before our trading partners will.

  11. torydog 11

    There is absolutely no justification for letting animals suffer!

    These guys are either greedy, stupid or both!

  12. BLiP 12

    And what do the National Ltd floozies at Federated Farmers have to say about this potential risk to New Zealand’s international reputation . . . sweet fuck all.

    • ak 12.1

      Well of course not BLiP. And watch this story disappear at uber-warp speed from the media and all other right-wing outlets.

      Look at Crafar’s rhetoric: “district communists” “red-tape bludgers” “killing productive sector” etc etc

      This is just the gory tip of a filthy iceberg seeded long ago: the blood and pus from these calves and countless others are on many, many hands – as are the bruises and lakes of tears still to come from the extreme edge of the strutting, unwitting saps of the great Helenhate orgy of 06 -08.

      Every tory scribe, pharisee, blogger, bitcher, tin-pot griper, “journalist” and talk-back sniper can take a bow and taste the putrid fruit of their irrational hatred.

      But of course they won’t: watch the red-faced mob now bury Crafar along with his calves – and point their reeking guilty fingers every other which way but home.

      • RedLogix 12.1.1


        Eloquent and forceful as always. Funny how Fed Farmers are locked into a delusional right wing nuttiness, while their members profit hugely from participating in the largest socialist collective in the country.

  13. RedLogix 13

    A pity Fonterra couldn’t take the business over, put some competent managers in place, and negotiate a long-term solution with the banks to sell the properties in a planned fashion.

    It would mean assuming a fair chunk of debt, but ultimately it would be in the interests of the whole industry to resolve this tragic mess constructively.

  14. George D 15

    While Labour’s spokesperson for agriculture, Jim Anderton, defends MAF, there will be no political change. His replacement won’t be any better.

    The issue is dead guys, why are you even talking about it. There’s no point complaining about what cannot be changed.

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