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Italy hears Farmageddon message

October 6th, 2015
UN FAO presentation

UN FAO presentation

Last week brought great opportunities to engage with key policymakers for change.  With Farmageddon published in Italian earlier in the year, I was delighted to be the first in a series of presentations to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), billed as ‘Meet the Partners’. The event was opened by the FAO’s director of livestock production, Berhe Tekola and was live-streamed worldwide in addition to being well attended.

The next day saw me taking the Farmageddon message to Parliament in Rome. Interested MPs and their staff joined the conversation about industrial farming and its harmful effects on the countryside, health and the ability of future generations to feed themselves.

Outside the Italian Parliament in Rome

Outside the Italian Parliament in Rome

That night, my team and I were hosted by an Italian government diplomat along with a host of UN officials, where the linkages between industrial farming and other areas of societal concern, like climate change, became clear. Burgeoning livestock production, fuelled by factory farming, is already responsible for 14.5 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than all the world’s planes, trains and cars put together.

We discussed how, on business as usual projections, agriculture alone could take the world to the cusp of what in climate change circles they describe as the 2 degree Celsius ‘maximum safe limit’. The gathering discussed how the world’s governments need to heed this warning when they meet in Paris for the next round of climate talks later this year.Farmageddon_cover_Italy

Last but not least were two appearances at the Ferrarra international literary festival. The first was a national radio discussion panel, a kind of ‘Any Questions’.  The second was a packed audience of about 700 people in Ferrarra’s new theatre to discuss the future of food.

Huge thanks to our dedicated team at CIWF Italia, ably lead by Annamaria Pisapia, for making the action-packed week happen.

The release of Farmageddon in Italian by publisher, Nutrimenti, has given us a real platform to take the factory farming message to a much wider audience.

We are now looking forward to the imminent release of Farmageddon in China…

When will factory farming’s Volkswagen moment arrive?

September 28th, 2015
Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor

Will we get a moment when the whole factory farming enterprise is revealed as fundamentally rotten? Or will it be more of a slow burn – rather like the banks that repeatedly receive huge fines as the latest mis-selling scandal is exposed? These are the questions I discussed over the weekend with Compassion’s chief policy advisor and veteran campaigner, Peter Stevenson.

Industrial farming is in a shaky place. It devours its own foundations. Man’s continued existence is completely dependent upon six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains”: attributed to Confucius. But today’s intensive agriculture is undermining soil quality and overusing water.

Factory farming’s need for huge quantities of grain to feed animals has driven the intensification of crop production. With crop monocultures and agro-chemicals, it has degraded agricultural soils, eroding their fertility. Pollinators like bees and other farmland wildlife are in sharp decline.

“Will something finally happen that reveals factory farming for what it is; cruel, inefficient and damaging to the very resources we need for future food production?” Peter asked.

He also pointed out how industrial farming is responsible for unhealthy diets that he believes fuel global warming. Limiting temperature rises to 2°C is the main goal of climate change policy. All sectors recognise that they must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But not livestock. Not our diets. Their emissions are set to soar. So much so that studies warn that agriculture’s emissions will on their own push us almost up to the 2°C threshold by 2050. Only a halving of global meat consumption will allow food’s emissions to diminish.
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Big Announcement from McDonald’s – and What It Could Mean for Hens Everywhere

September 9th, 2015

McDonalds-Golden-Arches (1)

In countries like the US where there is very little legislation protecting farmed animals, it is often up to food companies to create major shifts in the market. When we look back at game changing moments, a select few come to mind. One of those moments came in 2012, when McDonald’s US made an announcement to move away from gestation crates (sow stalls) for pregnant pigs, where sows are kept in crates so small they cannot even turn around or lie down easily. Following their announcement, dozens of companies followed their lead.

The announcement McDonald’s made today is equally as groundbreaking: within 10 years they will be cage-free on all of their egg supply in both the US and Canada. They join a growing list of US companies, including Compass, Aramark and Sodexo, who also have announced cage-free policies.

This victory is tremendous. McDonald’s purchases 2 billion eggs each year in the US and 120 million eggs each year in Canada. That equates to over 7 million hens that are set to benefit each year as a result of this commitment.

McDonald’s has already gone cage-free across all 28 countries in the EU, and recently announced that McDonald’s New Zealand and Australia will also be going cage-free for eggs. The US and Canadian announcement tacks on yet another two countries to join their growing list of countries with cage-free policies.

This announcement will likely have a ripple effect within the industry at large, as their gestation crate announcement did. In short, I fully believe that this announcement signals the end of the cage-age for laying hens in North America, and beyond.

McDonald’s will be cage-free on all of their egg supply in both the US and Canada within 10 years

McDonald’s will be cage-free on all of their egg supply in both the US and Canada within 10 years

From all of us that have been working for many years, and in my case, decades, to rid our food system of cages for farmed animals, the significance cannot be overstated. And the excitement can be shared across all of the organisations that had a hand in influencing this leading global food company to adopt such a powerful stance against cages. In addition to Compassion, other organisations, including the Humane Society of the United States, have been working for years to encourage McDonald’s, along with other leading food companies, to implement a cage-free egg policy.

McDonald’s cited consumers growing interest in transparency, and desire to know where their food comes from as one of the reasons why they adopted this bold policy. Not only do we celebrate this victory across the organisations who worked to get to this day, we also share it with each and every consumer who have been pushing food companies to do better. Those demands for a more humane and sustainable food system are making a real impact on the lives of farmed animals.

Calves pay the ultimate price for cruel trade

August 28th, 2015

Earlier this year, Compassion’s Investigation Unit uncovered the horrifying treatment of European animals exported for slaughter in Gaza. Following on from this, my organisation’s latest investigation tracks their journey Europe to Israel, telling the whole distressing story of these young and vulnerable calves from start to finish.

Working with Animal Welfare Foundation and Tierschutzbund Zürich, the team discovered that thousands of un-weaned calves are being transported from Lithuania, Romania and Hungary on long journeys, up to 4000km, with little or no welfare provision. The young cattle face hunger, exhaustion, beatings and squalid living conditions in the lead up tovlcsnap-2015-07-15-11h36m22s64 (1) a brutal, inhumane death.

For the defenceless calves facing export from Europe to Israel and Gaza this journey is one of immeasurable suffering. The trucks and sea vessels are not fit for purpose and many calves are transported when sick and weak – some are unable to stand.

At sea, where there is no regulatory body to enforce welfare legislation, calves suffer most. Mortality rates are believed to be high and it is common for animals to be thrown overboard during the journey. Their bodies can later wash up on the beaches in Israel.

Young calves have poorly developed immune systems, and as a result, mortality rates are high during transport. According to workers, calves are of such low value that regardless of how sick they became veterinary treatment is not administered.

A recent landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice said that European animal transport laws must be applied even during parts of the journey that happen outside of the EU. However, it is clear that for the five days these European calves spend at sea and during the onward journey in Israel, there is no one to ensure welfare legislation is complied with and no consequences for those that break the law.

On arrival in Israel, the cattle are taken to quarantine and then sent on to squalid, barren, ‘lock-up-and-leave’ fattening farms. Animals that survive the terrible cruelty to reach this point are then sent for slaughter. Some are inhumanly slaughtered at Israeli abattoirs without stunning whilst others are driven across the borders into West Bank and Gaza as documented in Compassion’s previous investigation.

I am pleased to report that the release of this investigation in Israel has triggered protesters to demonstrate outside the Romanian Embassy in Tel Aviv. I find it encouraging that our investigative films lead to people fighting for farm animals’ welfare, at both ends of this horrific trade.

I am sure, like me, you will be appalled by the findings of this investigation. As long as Europe’s leaders continue to prioritise trade over the welfare of animals, these vulnerable calves will be the victims who pay the ultimate price for this cruel industry.

Whilst the export of live animals from the EU is allowed to continue, Europe’s youngest and most vulnerable animals will fall victim to this abhorrent cruelty. Please join me and fight this trade.

Sir Peter O’Sullevan – a most remarkable man

August 18th, 2015

peter-osullevanWith great sadness, we mourn the passing of our Patron, Sir Peter O’Sullevan, who died aged 97. Many will remember his distinctive voice as renowned BBC racing commentator and writer. But behind the astute and kindly exterior was a dedicated campaigner for farm animal welfare.

In the 1990s, when the live animal export trade was at its height, Compassion was regularly holding “Ban Live Exports” demonstrations outside the then Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF). Sir Peter would quietly come along and add his presence to our demo’, not seeking publicity or camera, just being there.

Around that time he happily agreed to become a Compassion Patron.

When he retired from the BBC, he set up his Charitable Trust and made Compassion one of the six fortunate charities to benefit from its work. Every year a huge fundraising luncheon and auction is held, and the proceeds distributed to the charities.

About a year ago, Sir Peter read Farmageddon. He immediately bought copious copies to give to friends who visited him at home or in hospital. So, even in poor health, he was doing all he could to spread the word.

In 2014 he updated his autobiography, and referred to Compassion as “the saviour for hundreds of thousands of farm animals”. He went on to write, “Compassion in World Farming as an international campaigning charity has a special place in my heart because I hold the simplistic view that harmony is unlikely to break out among the self-styled superior beings until we learn both to cherish and respect the “lesser” creatures who are our responsibility”. Beautiful words.

Sir Peter was a man of extraordinary warmth, care and compassion. Being in his presence was always the greatest of privileges. We mourn his passing and give grateful thanks to him for his tireless commitment to animal welfare.

Farmageddon on film

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About Philip Lymbery

Philip Lymbery is Chief Executive Officer of Compassion in World Farming and co-author of Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat. He is an internationally respected authority on the impact of industrial agriculture on people, animals and the planet.