For my STEP Signature Project I went on a study abroad trip to New Zealand to learn about their human – animal interactions. Throughout the trip, I was able to make comparisons between New Zealand and the United States and gain a greater appreciation for both countries and their treatment of animals.
My view of the world has changed a great deal from participating in this study abroad. By being able to compare both the US and New Zealand, I have become more aware of how different other countries operate than the US. Given that the mountainous terrain of NZ is so different from the flat plains of the US, New Zealanders have a unique way of working their livestock operations. This includes raising different animals, feeding their animals a grass diet, as well as having large farms that may not involve daily human-animal interactions. They also appear to have a greater focus on preserving NZ’s resources and beauty than we do here in the US. This experience was eye-opening and allowed me to broaden my view of the world.
The places that struck me the most during my experience in NZ were the tours at Deer Genetics NZ and Taupo Beef. I found these experiences to be the most memorable due to their focus on raising animals for purposes that are not common in the US as well as their focus on preserving the environment. What made Deer Genetics NZ so unique was that they raised genetically superior deer to produce high-quality trophy stags. These stags were then sold to outfitters where they would be hunted on game reserves. They also sold the velvet produced by young bucks. The velvet is often used for medicinal purposes in Asian cultures. Before the study abroad trip, I didn’t know anything about the trophy hunting industry or how velvet could be sold as a type of medicine. I now realize how important this niche market can be for a community.
Another interesting part of the trip was our visit to Taupo Beef. Taupo Beef is a beef finishing farm that is located near Lake Taupo, one of the cleanest lakes in the world. The New Zealand government has put a cap on how much nitrogen is allowed to be produced by farms neighboring the lake in order ensure the lake stays clean. Taupo Beef works with chefs and the local people to see how much people are willing to pay for food that is environmentally friendly. I found this stop to be particularly thought provoking because I could relate this to the problems of Lake Erie which is near my hometown. I believe that Taupo Beef is an excellent model for what we can one day achieve even though it may take the US many years before we can reach that level of environmental protection.
Lastly, the friendships that I have made on this trip will also have a lasting impact on me. I have had the opportunity to get close with all of my classmates from the trip and I know that I will be able to count on them for anything. My classmates and my experiences with them are the reasons that this trip will be truly unforgettable.
The study abroad trip to New Zealand was an eye opening experience. Before the trip, I didn’t know anything about raising deer or the trophy hunting community. I also learned about the lengths NZ is taking in order to protect the environment as well as how it affects people such as farmers. I found these tours to be very interesting and allowed me to see different sides of the animal industry than I have seen in the US. By comparing the human-animal interactions found within each country, I am able to apply this to my future career in animal husbandry. This experience has allowed me to have a greater understanding of how another countries country’s culture influences how their animals are treated and how that, in turn, affects the animals’ behavior.