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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 in London and Devon

July 14th, 2014
Sir David Madden opening the London event

Sir David Madden opening proceedings in London

Crowds of Compassion supporters gathered at London’s Royal Geographic Society over the weekend to be part of the Farmageddon campaign. An audience of hundreds heard former British High Commissioner and Compassion trustee, Sir David Madden open proceedings with an outline of why he and fellow Board members set me as their CEO on a global journey to uncover the realities of factory farming.

Isabel Oakeshott: how co-writing Farmageddon changed my life

Isabel Oakeshott: how co-writing Farmageddon changed my life

Political journalist and commentator, Isabel Oakeshott, spoke passionately about how writing Farmageddon with me changed the way she thinks about food. Throughout the course of writing the book, Isabel was political editor of the Sunday Times. Her latest project is writing the biography of Prime Minister David Cameron, who she said is amongst those who now have a copy of Farmageddon!

Our very own ambassador, Joyce D’Silva, talked about Compassion’s impact for animals, not least in getting Europe-wide bans some of the cruelest systems ever invented; veal crates, sow stalls for pregnant pigs and barren battery cages, all of which kept animals in extreme confinement and unimaginable suffering.

The afternoon was rounded off by veterinarian, former UN official and now our campaigns director, Dil Peeling, who gave a stirring call to arms in ending factory farming. “If you do only one thing today, please take action in our campaign to stop taxpayers’ money being used to fund factory farming.

Thank you to everyone who came out on Saturday to be with us. It was a real pleasure to meet so many of you personally. We are so grateful for all your wonderful support!

Ways with Words

DSCF2490

Ways with Words festival at Dartington Hall, Devon

The previous day, I’d been at Dartington in Devon, a splendid medieval hall set in a 1,200 acre estate and home to the Trust of the same name specialising in the arts, social justice and sustainability. It is a grand venue that I’m familiar with from several years of taking part in the annual Rural Business School of Duchy College in Cornwall Challenge of Rural Leadership Course held there each January. This time, I was seeing the setting in the new light of summer as speaker at the Ways With Words literary festival.

I had the real pleasure of working with The Telegraph’s commissioning editor for books,

Sameer Rahim who chaired the conversation about Farmageddon with an engaged audience.

In conversation with Sameer Rahim (left), The Telegraph books editor

In conversation with Sameer Rahim (left), The Telegraph books editor

Farmageddon on tour

With 25 speaking dates now behind us, forthcoming tour dates include:

I look forward to perhaps seeing you along the way.

With thanks and all best wishes for your support.

DSCF2522For your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.


Is China Turning the World into Its Personal Factory Farm?

July 9th, 2014

My research for Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat (Bloomsbury) took me across the world.  One of the most fascinating and frightening destinations was China, to which I dedicated a chapter in the book. We also filmed our findings and these can be seen in our Farmageddon on Film series. More recently, I was struck by an article that really captured the pivotal role China could have in the future of food worldwide. Here, is that article, thanks to my guest blogger, Benjamin Cost, the Food Editor at shanghaiist.com:

 

Looks like heirloom, free-range, grass-fed food may not be long for this world. Not only is China turning to factory farming to appease its insatiable appetite, but it’s apparently forcing the rest of the world to follow suit, sparking major environmental concerns. Quartz reports:

Late last year, in the wake of a Chinese state-owned pork company’s controversial takeover of US-based Smithfield, Mother Jones magazine posed a provocative question: Since US pork production costs are below China’s, and China’s meat consumption was growing fast, did the deal mean that the US was becoming China’s factory farm?

High production targets based on exports to China have raised fears for Scotland’s salmon farmers, because environmental rules designed to protect the industry might have to be weakened to meet production increases of 32% over the next six years, which would be needed to yield promised exports to China. Scotland’s salmon farms have already been plagued with outbreaks of sea lice and are prone to accidentally releasing fish into the wild.

On the other side of the world, in New Zealand, China’s consumption of dairy products has been a huge boon to the economy. Dairy and forestry products contributions to GDP grew four-fold largely thanks to China. But once again, the industry’s plans to keep up with China’s future demands is raising concerns. One proposal from dairy giant Fonterra, New Zealand’s largest company, is to put New Zealand’s famously grass fed, free range cattle into “indoor housing”—essentially creating factory farms where none had existed before.

Is China a window into the future of world food production?

Is China a window into the future of world food production?

Unfortunately while transforming New Zealand into a giant feedlot might satisfy China’s appetite for kiwi cattle, it won’t do the same for sheep. Despite the fact that New Zealand’s 31-million-strong flock outnumbers its people seven to one, it’s not nearly enough, and Australia might have to step in to fill the void.

And as China’s upper class grows, so will its already ravenous appetite for meat, putting a strain on the world’s meat and grain supply. China’s grain consumption is growing by 17 million tons per year, and it now buys around two thirds of soybean exports in the world, a crucial ingredient in animal feed.

China is already buying up vast tracts of arable land in foreign country to meet this demand, one of its latest purchases being 3 million hectares of Ukrainian farmland.

All this is exacerbated by the fact that rampant domestic food scandals are prompting Chinese consumers to turn to foreign imports, despite ridiculous ‘protectionist’ measures to get Chinese consumers to buy local. Not to mention the Chinese market’s aversion to GMOs.

Okay, elephant in the room: obviously, Chinese demand is stimulating economies and helping keep food industries afloat – British and American meat companies, to name a few. However, in the long term, experts say the environmental ramifications could be irreversible.

Reproduced by permission from Benjamin Cost, Food Editor, Shanghaiist.


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.