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Major South African Supermarket Pledges Sow Stall-Free

July 24th, 2014
’Kinder to sows’ sticker soon to be appearing in Woolworths South Africa

’Kinder to sows’ sticker soon to be appearing in Woolworths South Africa

I am delighted to share with you the news from South Africa that major supermarket, Woolworths, has taken the ground-breaking step of only selling fresh pork produced without the use of sow stalls.

This announcement is a hugely welcome development and comes after years of hard work on this issue by Compassion in World Farming’s director in South Africa, Louise van der Merwe. Speaking from Cape Town, Louise joined the celebration saying, “We are extremely pleased that Woolworths and their pig farmers are changing the way sows are treated. We hope that other producers will soon follow suit”.

Instead of tiny crates, little bigger than the pregnant sows themselves, Woolworths has pledged that for its fresh pork, all expectant mother pigs will be kept in group housing where they will have the freedom to move around and socialise.

Presenting the Good Egg Award to Woolworths MD, Zyda Rylands, in April

Presenting the Good Egg Award to Woolworths MD, Zyda Rylands, in April

It is a move which comes just three months after Woolworths received a Good Egg Award from us for committing to cage-free eggs, an award that I had the pleasure of presenting to company Managing Director, Zyda Rylands in April.

Talking about Woolworths’ latest commitment on sow stalls, Zyda shared that this was a move that they and their customers have wanted to take for a number of years; “I am sure that they [our customers] will be happy to know that they will soon be able to buy more humanely produced pork at Woolies”.

Compassion led the campaign that achieved a ban on sow stalls – one of the worst factory farm systems – in the UK since 1999 and in the EU since January last year. Woolworths can be rightly proud of taking this historic step in South Africa, moving to eliminate the system from its supply chain. It again demonstrates the company’s commitment to better welfare.

Sow stalls – banned in Britain

Sow stalls – banned in Britain, going from Woolworths South Africa



Louise and all of us at Compassion look forward to working with Woolworths on taking next steps along what they term their “Good Business Journey”.

Guardian exposes ‘dirty secret’ of UK poultry industry

July 23rd, 2014

BC (035)The Guardian has just published an investigation which they say uncovers a “catalogue of alleged hygiene failings in the poultry industry”. The article with accompanying video suggests that two thirds of fresh chicken on sale in the UK are contaminated with the food poisoning bug, Campylobacter.  It goes on to say that, following their investigation, three of the UK’s leading supermarkets have launched emergency investigations into their chicken supplies.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) have reportedly decided to shelve a promise to name and shame supermarkets and processors for their campylobacter rates, a move prompted by “push-back” from industry and interventions from government departments.

The Guardian’s investigation shows the murky depths plunged by chicken factory farming and the risks posed to human health.

I call on the UK Government to take urgent action to tackle this serious public health risk and to recognise that allowing chickens to be crammed into stressful intensive sheds is likely to lower their immune system and worsen problems with disease.

The horsemeat scandal had a dramatic effect on consumer confidence in the food chain. The decision by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to shelve plans to publish rates of food poisoning contamination again calls into question the Government’s commitment to transparency as part of fixing the broken food system.

Together we will end factory farming

July 20th, 2014
Message from a Compassion supporter

Message from a Compassion supporter

“Everything only gets one life. Ever. Let’s give them a decent one.” CIWF supporter

Huge thanks again to our wonderful supporters who joined us in London last week to meet the team behind Farmageddon. It was such a pleasure to have the chance to meet so many of you and to feel your enthusiasm for bringing about a better day for farm animals.

I hope you will enjoy this short video summary of the day, again with grateful thanks.

Farmageddon was the result of a three year journey beyond the closed doors and chemical drums of a run-away industry. Sometimes, it was difficult not to feel overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the problem. Every time I meet the people who power our movement – you – our wonderful supporters, I’m filled with renewed hope all over again. For you, I dedicate this passage:

At the same time, I set out to find seeds of hope. I wanted to find better ways than the industrial ascendancy. I discovered they are often all around us; here small acorns in need of nurturing; elsewhere thriving oaks. I felt privileged to see the pasture plains of free-ranging animals in Georgia; uplifted by fields in Argentina dancing defiantly with butterflies in contrast to their lifeless pesticide-soaked GM neighbours.

I learned a lot from watching chickens in China roaming woodlands and pigs living inquisitive, active lives on a model farm in Beijing. I’ve been inspired by extensive farms in Britain and Europe, taking care of their animals, looking after the environment, and producing great food to boot. I found so much more than the few scattered crumbs of comfort I was expecting – and on my own doorstep too.”

Through writing this book, I have become convinced that we can all make a big difference. It has been a privilege to listen to so many people and to tell their stories. I have been left in no doubt about the tremendous power we all have to bring about change – from Farmageddon to a better future for people, animals and the planet.

Thank you for being that change.

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


Is the concept of ‘Sustainable intensification’ impeding progress?

July 18th, 2014

‘Sustainable Intensification’ is the latest buzz term in policy discussions aimed at getting more food from the same area of land with less impact on the environment. As I’ve written before, what really worries me is how ‘sustainable intensification’ has become dangerously misleading; so much so that agri-industrial interests have leapt on it as a call to arms, hijacking it in a bid to crank up intensive farming. And in so doing, the meaning behind those words is lost.

Here, Compassion’s chief policy advisor, Peter Stevenson, takes a closer look at the issue and asks, is this term, ‘sustainable intensification’ actually now getting in the way, holding back much needed progress?

Guest blogger, Peter Stevenson

Guest blogger, Peter Stevenson

What is the real key to feeding a growing world?

Feeding the growing world population is a major challenge.  The term ‘sustainable intensification’ (SI) often dominates discussions in this area.  It is, however, too narrow a concept as it puts its focus on production while ignoring other key aspects such as consumption and the inability of those living in deepest poverty to afford food.  Also, SI gives too much weight to quantity of production and neglects the nutritional quality of the food produced.

These difficulties would be mitigated if the ‘sustainable’ part of the term were given a broad definition encompassing all the elements needed to build a well functioning food system.  However, policy makers often put much more emphasis on the ‘intensification’ part of SI giving scant attention to the element of sustainability.  At its worst policy makers use SI to advocate even more industrial farming.

SI stems from the (erroneous) belief that to feed the anticipated world population of 9.6 billion we need a huge increase in food production; often we’re told we need to produce 70% more food.  And on this false premise governments and agri-business insist that further intensification is essential.

But do we really need to produce so much additional food? At present 24% of global calories are lost or wasted post-harvest or at the retail or consumer level.  36% of the world’s crop calories are fed to animals but only 17%-30% of these calories are returned for human consumption as meat or milk.  This means that 25%-30% of the world’s crop calories are being wasted by being fed to animals.  By just halving the various forms of food waste we could feed an additional 3 billion people.  We don’t need to produce much extra food; we just need to use food more sensibly.

Olivier de Schutter, until recently UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, has written that the global food system is “à bout de souffle” – on its last legs.  So, what should characterise a new system?

We need to farm in ways that minimise water use and pollution and that restore soil quality, biodiversity and ecosystems.  Intensification often entails monocultures and increased use of agro-chemicals.  These undermine the natural resources on which agriculture depends thereby diminishing the ability of future generations to feed themselves.

Grain-fed beef; inefficient and unsustainable

Grain-fed beef; inefficient and unsustainable

Reduction in the use of human-edible crops as animal feed is vital. In a world in which resource efficiency is rightly prized it’s ruinously inefficient to feed 60% of EU crops to animals.  Animals should be farmed on grasslands or in integrated crop-livestock systems where they are fed on crop residues.

We should moderate our consumption of the most resource-intensive and climate-damaging foods.  We would benefit from switching to healthy diets.  The current western diet – including its high quantity of industrially produced meat – is a disaster contributing to high levels of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

The new food system must be very well suited to the needs of the developing world.  Many of the world’s poor would benefit from increased meat consumption to address nutritional deficiencies.  However, the developing world should aim for a balanced intake of animal foods and should not adopt western diets with their adverse impact on health.

To combat hunger, the livelihoods of the poorest – particularly small-scale farmers – must be improved.  Smallholder farmers must be helped to increase their productivity in ways which match well with their circumstances.  However, this should not entail the introduction of industrial livestock systems as these exclude participation of the most impoverished farmers.

Our food system must be able to serve all these goals.

Peter Stevenson

Peter Stevenson is the Chief Policy Advisor of Compassion in World Farming. He studied economics and law at Trinity College Cambridge and is a qualified solicitor. He also worked for 15 years as a theatre director. He played a leading role in winning the EU bans on veal crates, battery cages and sow stalls as well as a new status for animals in EU law as sentient beings.  He has written comprehensive legal analyses of EU legislation on farm animals and of the impact of the WTO rules on animal welfare.

Farmageddon – Hope dawns in China

July 17th, 2014

17 07 14 Blog - China - A happy moment Shanghai arrival-croppedThere’s a growing awareness of food safety in China. People in the cities are coming to realise that much of their food is produced in factory farms, with all the welfare and environmental drawbacks. It’s taken some pretty horrendous incidents for this cultural shift to start happening; year after year, there have been serious food safety scandals, such as the recent contamination of milk with melamine, which caused serious health effects in young children. Like elsewhere, parents in China are keen to ensure their child gets the very best and safest food.

The connection between how farm animals are kept and the quality and safety of the resulting food is starting to be recognised in China. It provides us with a real foot in the door to help promote less intensive farming in this, the most populous country on Earth.

In the shadow of Beijing, I arrived at a place called ‘Little Donkey’; a model farm project run by World Animal Protection (previously known as World Society for the Protection of Animals – WSPA) and the Food Animal Initiative (FAI).

About 1,000 chickens are free ranging in pine woodland on the farm. The chickens are a dual purpose breed, producing eggs as well as being sold for chicken meat. It was great to see birds dust-bathing, scratching, perching, nesting, running and flapping; doing all the things that makes life worthwhile for these busy, inquisitive creatures.

Pigs too are kept here; reared on deep-bedded compost that allows these intelligent animals to root around and enjoy comfortable bedding. It’s a system that could be used on a large scale. It provides an alternative animal-friendly model to intensive pig farming.

Having seen some of the biggest, most intensive pig farms in the world here in China, at least this visit proved that an alternative is possible. Take a look at our exclusive footage, sponsored by World Animal Protection (previously known as World Society for the Protection of Animals – WSPA), to see what I saw….

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

Farmageddon on film

Read the whole story

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.