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New Zealand's school climate-change curriculum vexes farmers

A new school curriculum in New Zealand that tells students how to tackle climate change deniers and advises them to eat less dairy and meat has upset its farming community, which makes up the backbone of the country’s economy.

Farmers say they feel targeted by the new course, adding to frustrations over a centre-left coalition government push for them to reduce carbon emissions and clean up waterways, part of a plan for the country to be carbon neutral by 2050.

Launched in January and aimed at secondary school students in a country that celebrates its 100% pure image, the course is based on material from leading science agencies and explains the impact of climate change and how students can contribute.

It points to intensive agriculture as one cause of greenhouse gases and includes advice to eat less dairy and meat, have meatless days each week, eat more fruit and vegetables, drive less, recycle and buy second hand when possible.

However, some farmers say the message is unfair. “If they are going to continue to bite the hand that feeds them, and farming feeds New Zealand, then they are going to lose out in the long term,” said dairy farmer Malcolm Lumsden from the country’s northern Waikato region.

Agricultural goods make up more than 60% of New Zealand’s exports, with demand for its grass-fed dairy and meat products soaring in the past decade, especially from China.

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