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FARMAGEDDON IN SOUTH AFRICA

April 21st, 2014
Farmageddon launched in South Africa

Farmageddon launched in South Africa

I arrived into Cape Town and headed to the Spier estate, famous for its wines, to meet with Angus McIntosh, a farmer who passionately believes in rearing his animals on grass. After tea and homemade bakes, we were with his three thousand laying hens and mixed herd of cattle on rotational grazing.

Angus talks passionately about the perils of industrial agriculture now creeping into South Africa; “It’s not about production”, he says, “there’s enough produced to feed 12 billion people. What we need now is a qualitative approach to food.” I couldn’t agree more.

Before meeting trustees and supporters of CIWF South Africa for supper, I was on Cape Talk radio, speaking to Bruce Whitfield and his much listened-to The Money Show. You can listen to how it went here.

The next day started with the most beautiful presentation by children at Forest Heights Primary School on why cages must go. Grateful thanks to Principal Bosman, teacher Vivienne Rutgers and all the children involved for a very special moment.

Outside Kalk Bay Books with owner, Audrey Rademeyer

Outside Kalk Bay Books with owner, Audrey Rademeyer

Then it was on to launching Farmageddon in South Africa. The venue was Kalk Bay Books, Cape Town’s

Jackass Penguin, Boulders Beach

Jackass Penguin, Boulders Beach

number one place for book launches, a stone’s throw from the world-famous Boulders Beach with its colony of endangered Jackass Penguins. Our host for the evening was Cape Talk radio’s John Maytham, who chaired the event in front of a packed crowd, launching Farmageddon to a new nation.

An early start and more media preceded a visit to one of the region’s pioneering farms, Elgin Free Range Chicken. I went on a whistle-stop tour by company director, Jeanne Groenewald, before heading to one of the retailers she supplies; Woolworths.

It was an honour to present Woolworths with the first Compassion Good Egg Award ever awarded to an African company, for Woolworths’ commitment to sourcing only free range eggs.

(l to R) Philip with Tom McLaughlin (Woolworths) & CIWF SA director, Louise Van Der Merwe

(l to R) Philip with Tom McLaughlin (Woolworths) & CIWF SA director, Louise Van Der Merwe

After media interviews, I was on a plane to Johannesburg then on to Pretoria. Here I met CEO of the Red Meat Producers Organisation, Gerhard Schutte, before we were filmed for a television discussion about Farmageddon and the future of farming in South Africa.

The evening was spent at Johannesburg’s Constitutional Court, where factory farming was in the dock; Farmageddon was the topic at a lecture event hosted by Professor David Biltchitz, director of the nation’s institute for human rights and international law.

A morning spent filming with renowned national television programme, Carte Blanche, scheduled to feature Farmageddon on 4th May, was followed by a drive out toward Sun City. This was to be my only real chance to see the wild side of South Africa, with grateful thanks to Eileen and David Chapman, who took me on a taste of the bush. We spent a fantastic day on the

On Safari with Eileen & David Chapman

On Safari with Eileen & David Chapman

Pilanesberg game reserve, where we had breathtaking views of some of South Africa’s most iconic wildlife.

Huge thanks to Compassion’s director in South Africa, Louise Van Der Merwe, and everyone involved in organizing an action-packed week for animal welfare.

Heartfelt thanks to all the kind, generous and supportive people I met during my brief but most memorable time in South Africa.

The moment when lions crossed in front of us...

The moment when lions crossed in front of us…

Next stop for Farmageddon; Toronto, Canada.

 

For your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.

 

TALKING JUSTICE AND FREEDOM

April 20th, 2014
Philip with Prof David Bilchitz at the Johannesburg launch of Farmageddon

Philip with Prof David Bilchitz at the Johannesburg launch of Farmageddon

Johannesburg: The second launch gathering of Farmageddon was held at the historic Constitutional Court.

My presentation opened with an acknowledgement that we were meeting in a place where the words ‘justice’ and ‘freedom’ perhaps hold more meaning than anywhere else in the world.

I was the guest of Professor David Bilchitz, the director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional Human Rights and International Law (SAIFAC). It was such an honour to speak alongside the Professor, who is also one of the high profile signatories of Compassion’s ‘Vision for fair food and farming’ along with Dr Jane Goodall and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Farming in South Africa is going through a period of change. Large-scale industrial farming has started to creep into the country, particularly over the last 15 years. In talking with farmers, supermarket leaders, concerned citizens and audience members on the night, I’ve been struck by how similar the problems are here to those noted in Farmageddon. To me, the answer lies in bringing about a food policy for the 21st century. This should be based on quality food for everyone forever. Instead, here in South Africa as in so many parts of the world, the US-style industrial farming model is being wheeled out – a tired farming policy, as I’ve discussed before, based on ‘produce more’, but wasting so much and ignoring the fact we already live in a world of plenty.

It was good to reach new people interested in the future of our food, as well as to say ‘hi’ to longstanding friends and supporters of Compassion in World Farming, many of whom I was meeting for the first time. It was great to hear the enthusiasm in the room for a food revolution; one that benefits animals, people and the planet.

A big thank you to everyone there on the night and to Professor Bilchitz for hosting; greatly appreciated.

For your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.

 

Rachel Carson Week – Her Legacy

April 18th, 2014
RACHEL CARSON  Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

RACHEL CARSON
Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

A year ago, I was on the last leg of writing Farmageddon, travelling from Rachel Carson’s childhood home to the banks of the world-renowned Chesapeake Bay.

I was keen to learn what inspired Carson to take such a keen interest in the countryside. I also wanted to find out her legacy.

I stood on the banks of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States and an area of stunning natural beauty.

I spoke with leading figures who told me how the bay is under threat from what, in Carson’s day, would have seemed an unlikely source – chickens. Yet, the same phenomena that gave rise to a countryside covered in chemical pesticides also brought about chicken farming on a massive scale.

Over three-quarters of a million chickens down there and not a bird in sight

Over three-quarters of a million chickens down there and not a bird in sight

 

 

Today, there are now nearly as many chickens in the three States surrounding Chesapeake Bay as there was across the entire USA sixty years ago. That’s an awful lot of birds in one area.

(L to r) The author, Philip Lymbery, cameraman Brian Kelly and pilot Neil Kaye.

(L to r) The author Philip Lymbery, cameraman Brian Kelly and Lighthawk pilot Neil Kaye.

I took to the air and water to see things for myself. I talked with some of the valiant band of waterkeepers fighting to preserve this wonderful place. I strapped into a four-seater chopper thanks to the generosity of Lighthawk who kindly donated the flight.

 

You can see some of what I discovered in the last of our Rachel Carson trilogy of films.

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring carried an introduction by Lord Shackleton, a member of the UK House of Lords, who wrote:

“We in Britain have not yet been exposed to the same intensity of attack as in America, but here too there is a grim side to the story.”

Things were bad in Britain, but worse in America. The US had given birth to techniques that treated the countryside like an industrial site, with unforeseen but devastating consequences.

Half a century on, history is repeating itself; mega-farms using the latest industrial practices pioneered in the US and now being exported to Britain and the rest of Europe and beyond. It seems we are being driven closer to Farmageddon.

Thanks to the legacy of Rachel Carson, we have a gathering movement to help change things before it’s too late.

To get your copy of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, click here

 

WOOLWORTHS WINS FIRST GOOD EGG AWARD FOR AFRICA

April 17th, 2014

Philip presenting Good Egg Award to Woolworths' Zyda RylandsCape Town: It’s great when people get recognised for doing good things. Today, I was proud to present prominent South African retailer, Woolworths, with the honour of becoming the first

company in Africa to be awarded Compassion in World Farming’s Good Egg Award.

Speaking from the podium to staff, directors and suppliers at the company’s seven storey headquarters, I talked about how taking care of animal welfare also improves the quality of the food. It was a privilege to recognise Woolworths with the award for selling only free range eggs; half a million hens enjoy fresh air and sunshine as a result of that one commitment.

Accepting the award was Woolworths’ Managing Director for food, Zyda Rylands (pictured right), who shared her delight; “We are very proud and pleased because this award recognises our commitment to animal welfare and ethical sourcing.” There was great applause when Zyda declared it a team effort throughout the business. I really got the sense of a company celebrating and getting serious about its standards; a programme they promote under the title, Good Business Journey.

Woolworths moved away from battery eggs in 2004. A decade later, it remains the country’s only retailer to have done so; and now they want to do more. The company is well on its way to banishing battery egg ingredient from its manufactured products, three quarters of which are now using free range egg in the recipe.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people during my short stay in South Africa. I’ve been struck by how people are ready to hear that better food comes from animals kept on farms rather than factories. I’ve been so pleased at the reception we’ve received for ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of meat’. I’ve got the feeling that a movement for change is starting to rise in South Africa; I feeling redoubled today at Woolworths.

It’s difficult to underestimate the importance of that one company’s move; over 90% of South Africa’s laying hens are said to be kept in barren battery cages where they can’t even flap their wings. A major retailer nailing its colours to the mast of free range is therefore very significant, and reinforces my firm belief that trail-blazing companies can be such a force for good. Tantalisingly, at Woolworths today, they were talking about there being more good stuff to come…

A big thank you to Tom Mclaughlin at Woolworths for doing so much to help bring about the change and for making today’s event happen. Grateful thanks also to Compassion’s own director in South Africa, Louise Van Der Merve, who has built a long-standing liaison with the company.

Next stop on this Farmageddon tour; Johannesburg.

For your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.

 

Rachel Carson Week – Muck Safari in Maryland

April 16th, 2014

Maryland, USA: This time a year ago, I was on a mission – writing Farmageddon – to find out how modern day America had heeded Rachel Carson’s warning of the perils of industrial farming.

I travelled from Pennsylvania and Rachel’s childhood home to the historic waterway of Chesapeake Bay. I wanted to see whether the countryside offered clues to Carson’s legacy.

Chicken muck spreading in Maryland, USA

Chicken muck spreading in Maryland, USA

I learned that one of the biggest threats to Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is the muck from vast numbers of chickens reared industrially in its watershed. It wasn’t long before I found out why:

A farm tractor clanked along with what looked like thick red smoke belching from the back of a long green trailer. It billowed across the adjacent road as reddish-brown lumps sprayed out onto the field behind. Poultry manure was being blown into the air and over the field.

RACHEL CARSON Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy

RACHEL CARSON
Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy

 

 

I was on a ‘muck safari’ with local waterkeeper, Kathy Phillips. “The stuff along the ditches and field edges; if it rains could run-off and end up in Chesapeake Bay,” Kathy explained; “The pungent smell of chicken manure being spread is a familiar part of spring here”.

Kathy moved here with her husband in the 1970s to live the beach life. After running for County Commissioner on a clean water ticket, Kathy became local waterkeeper, charged with enforcing federal law protecting the cost of Assateague.

“CAFOs are everywhere in this area,” she told me, using her favoured acronym for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, better known as factory farms. “They only grow corn and soya in these parts to support the area’s poultry industry.”

Poultry manure is used as cheap fertiliser to spread on the fields growing the corn and soya that will end up as chicken feed. At first glance, it’s a virtuous circle: the chickens eat the corn and their droppings replenish tired soils.

The only flaw is the vast number of chickens in such a small area. Chicken manure is heavy in nitrogen and phosphorus, precious nutrients in the right amounts, but too much or at the wrong time and the rain washes it into waterways where it becomes a serious pollutant.

Rachel Carson raised the alarm over widespread use of chemical sprays in the countryside. As it turned out, it was all part of an industrial approach to farming that would see chickens, pigs and cows disappear from the land and into factory farm sheds, their feed grown in pesticide-soaked fields elsewhere.

In my next video exploration – I discover more about how the industrialisation of chicken farming is polluting one of the USA’s best-known coastlines.

To get your copy of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, click here

 

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.