Activist Chris Huriwai documentary challenges dairy industry

By Marena Mane

With his latest documentary, Milked, which aired at the Whānau Mārama: New Zealand International Film Festival recently, Māori animal rights activist and plant-based advocate Chris Huriwai is taking on Aotearoa's dairy giant.

Milked is the first of its sort in New Zealand and follows international documentaries, such as Cowspiracy and What the Health.

Chris Huriwai, of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Porou and Te Ātiawa, co-producer of the film, says his childhood on a farm gave him a close relationship with his environment from a young age, which drove him to become an environmental advocate.

“Having to interact on a daily basis with animals definitely put me on the track to start asking questions about our food production system … the environmental practices that are harming our much-beloved taiao (environment),” he says.

Huriwai says Amy Taylor, the director of Ahimsa Films, called him after seeing his videos on social media about the environmental degradation of our industrial farming system and asked him to collaborate with her on a project.

“We became a good duo. She's usually behind the camera and like today, I'm usually the one in front of the camera, has to be one of us.”

Helping hand

While taking on the world's largest dairy company, Fonterra, was confronting, says Huriwai, "the issues are incredibly serious". He says he could not have done it without the help of other advocates who are also speaking out against industrial dairy farming.

“I'm definitely not alone in terms of this kaupapa, supported by so many individuals and all the amazing people that contributed to our documentary," he says. "This is definitely not a crusade that I'm on alone. And I've got a lot of amazing support around me.”

Huriwai claims industrial farming practices harm the climate, affect how Māori gather and harvest food and water, and that dietary guideline recommendations are "racist" from a Māori perspective.

“So, you know, if we want to talk about tinana (physically), our hinengaro (mentally), our wairua (spiritually), it affects us in so many ways … and so we felt the need to kind of set the record straight,” he says.

Huriwai hopes the documentary will be released on Netflix, although it is currently only being shown at the New Zealand International Film Festival.

“But if that doesn't happen, we're willing to put it on a free platform so it can be as accessible as possible," he says. "If people want to see where screenings currently are, they can go to our website at milked.film."

Some of the following footage is disturbing so viewer discretion is advised.