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Irish lambs to the slaughter…in Singapore

October 21st, 2014

irishsingapore5When Compassion’s Investigations Unit came back from Singapore with evidence that 1,700 Irish lambs had been slaughtered there, I found it hard to believe what I was hearing.

Looking at the basic facts – that animals were flown more than 7,000 miles just to be killed on arrival, rather than being slaughtered in Ireland and their meat sent to Singapore – it is very difficult to understand the logic.

Of course, there are circumstances around the live export of these lambs over such a huge distance that will be used to explain why it was “necessary” but at its most basic level it is simply nonsensical.

Add to that the fact that these Irish lambs were slaughtered in makeshift killing tents without the mechanical restraints that are required by law in Ireland and the rest of the EU and without first being stunned, and I fail to see how the Irish government can justify it, as they attempted to in the Irish Sunday Times (£) coverage of our findings.

As our Campaigns Officer, Pru Elliott, said: “You have to seriously question whether taking animals from lush Irish fields and subjecting them to a 7,000-mile journey just so they can be slaughtered can ever be in the interests of the welfare of the animal or even for the Irish sheep industry.”

irishsingapore1We have been monitoring the situation in Ireland because animals are being shipped out from there not just to Singapore but to countries in the Middle East and in North Africa. In these Middle Eastern and North African countries, we have seen some horrific slaughter methods being used.

Animals have been beaten, dragged by the tail, limbs or even eye-sockets. We have seen them stabbed and even shot before having their throats cut. Their ordeal is not over when the knife comes down, as the slaughter can be carried out by inexperienced and inexpert people, who slash at the animals’ throats until they let enough blood for them to lose consciousness.

We’re urging Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney to stop the export of Irish animals to countries outside of the EU where they face conditions that would not only be illegal in the EU, but often breach even basic internationally recognised slaughter recommendations set down by the World Organisation for Animal Health.

I don’t believe the Irish government can allow the export of live animals, recognised as sentient beings under EU law, to countries where they may face brutal slaughter and simply wash their hands of any problems.

The journeys are nonsensical, the slaughter is often brutal – these animals deserve far better.

Take action.  Help us stop the export of live animals from the EU.

Buy pork from farms not animal factories

October 17th, 2014

It’s been a momentous week for Compassion. Our patron, Joanna Lumley has supported us in our protest against Gadhimai; and our biggest, new campaign ‘End the Cage Age’ has launched and been featured in two national newspapers (Daily Mail and The Sunday Times [£]). This gathering impetus for animal welfare is wonderful to see and I wanted to put my support behind another brilliant campaign.

I am proud to support the Pig Pledge Campaign. Their 3-minute film tells the story of Tracy Worcester’s ten-year worldwide battle against animal factories. Having worked with Tracy over the years, I know how dedicated and tenacious she is. She has helped to put pig welfare on the agenda, both politically, and for consumers.

She says: “When it comes to pork, please change your shopping habits to support a better future for pigs, farmers and the planet by buying meat from real farms not animal factories. To highlight your commitment, please sign the Pig Pledge.”

I couldn’t agree more. Factory farms are bleak, outdated methods of producing meat and I ask everyone to make the conscious effort to avoid supporting them with our purchases, as Tracy has outlined in the pledge.

Hundreds of millions of pigs around the world are kept in factory farms. This is damaging, not only to the pigs themselves, but to the environment and local communities.

We need to take a stand, alongside The Pig Pledge campaign and the Soil Association, who, like Compassion, are supporting this movement.

Pigs should be able to express their natural behaviours

Pigs should be able to express their natural behaviours

Let’s move away from the dark age of pig production, in which pigs throughout the world are increasingly kept confined. I urge you all to stand up against factory farming, for the good of our own health and the environment as well as for the welfare of these pigs.




‘End the Cage Age’ – Our biggest ever campaign launched!

October 13th, 2014

© Compassion in World FarmingToday I’m incredibly excited to share with you that we are launching our biggest ever campaign. Our aim is nothing short of ending the use of cages in farming. I see cages as the ultimate cruel symbolic representation of factory farming. They embody everything that is wrong with the system. They constrict and confine animals, preventing them from turning around and displaying their most basic natural behaviours.

Despite the obvious failings of this medieval system, Europe still incarcerates around 700 million farm animals in cages every year.

Pigs, hens, duck and geese are often confined to cages for much of their lives; even tiny quail are often imprisoned in factory farm cages.

In the UK, more often than not, people think of rabbits as pets. Our recent investigation revealed that most farmed rabbits spend their entire lives in battery cages. Breeding does are often kept in solitary confinement for two years. In one farm, we filmed the crude artificial insemination process of the breeding does, showing them being roughly pulled out of their cages, inseminated and forcefully put back in.

Czech rabbit investigation 41931At Compassion, we firmly believe that all rabbits should be able to roam, hop, and express all their natural behaviours. None of the 330 million rabbits factory farmed in Europe every year are able to do these most basic of things. With dead rabbits strewn about and ammonia levels high from the waste left to pile up under the cages and lack of ventilation, it is unsurprising that these rabbit farms are breeding grounds for infection and disease. In rabbit factory farming, 5 – 7 times the amount of antibiotics are used compared with pig or poultry farming.

I’ve had enough of outdated cages still being used in modern European farming. If you feel the same, please get involved with our major new campaign. It’s time to evolve. It’s time to End the Cage Age.

cageage-no-strap-sidebarPlease, take the time to watch our film and share it with as many people as possible. And if you believe that farm animals should no longer be kept in cages, join the campaign today. Every generation must make its mind up which injustice and cruelty to animals it is going to stop. The time has come for this generation to stand up and End the Cage Age.

Thank you.


Compassion fronts International campaign to stop slaughter festival

October 9th, 2014
Injured goat at Gadhimai Festival © Flickr

Injured goat at Gadhimai Festival © Flickr

Sometimes you find out about an animal welfare nightmare so terrible you simply have to do everything within your power to stop it. When we found out about the Gadhimai festival, and the suffering it causes to hundreds of thousands of farm animals, we knew we had to take action on a global scale.

In just two months time the Gadhimai slaughter festival is set to take place in Nepal. Estimates expect the inhumane sacrifice of over a quarter of a million farm animals. At Compassion we’re mounting an international campaign to stop the festival in support of the grass-roots campaign being run by Animal Welfare Network Nepal.

The good news is we’re not alone. On my recent trip to India I discussed plans to stop this terrible festival with Mrs Maneka Gandhi, the Indian government minister, who is at the heart of a huge movement across India to stop this mass-slaughter.

Indian government minister, Maneka Gandhi, speaks out against Gadhimai slaughter

Indian government minister, Maneka Gandhi, speaks out against Gadhimai slaughter

The festival, which takes place in the name of the goddess Gadhimai, has been going on every 5 years for the last 260. This year’s festival is expected to be the biggest yet and if allowed to continue will cause immeasurable suffering to the animals involved.

In the run up to the festival tens of thousands of buffalo will be corralled into a giant pen, with no shelter and severely limited access to water. This 28th and 29th of November over 100 slaughter men will be let loose into the enclosure. The buffalo will then be beheaded, one by one. It’s no easy task to behead a buffalo – and for many it will take more than one attempt. The way animals are treated throughout this festival is completely in breach of internationally recognised guidelines set down by the World Organisation for Animal Health of which Nepal is a member.

As well as sponsoring the work of our friends at Animal Welfare Network Nepal we’re mounting an international campaign on the Nepalese Government. We know tourism is a key part of the Nepalese economy; it’s important the government realise that the world, and its potential holiday makers, are watching and waiting to see how the Government tackles this brutal festival.

We’ve worked with animal protection groups in over 20 countries to coordinate lobbying work, and we’re expecting media stunts and demonstrations to take place outside Nepalese embassies in London, Berlin, New York, Prague, Melbourne and Tokyo. Compassion’s own protest will take place in London on October 11thclick here to join us either in person, or on-line.

Even if you can’t join us in person, do please sign Compassion’s petition and join the 70,000+ campaigners who already have.

As members of the international community, working together, I know we can put an end to this brutal festival and the suffering of hundreds of thousands of animals.

South African farming industry faces Farmageddon

October 3rd, 2014
Speaking in Pretoria at the Agricultural Outlook Conference

Speaking in Pretoria at the Agricultural Outlook Conference

As keynote speaker at a leading industry conference in South Africa, I was given the perfect platform to warn of the consequences from adopting western industrialised farming methods. It was the annual AMT Agricultural Outlook Conference held in Pretoria where economics, politics, pollution and the future of the South African farming sector were all on the agenda.

Either side of the conference, I had the chance to talk about the role of animal welfare in farming at related meetings with the South African government’s chief veterinary officer, Dr Botlhe Modisane, who is expected next president of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE); and with Methodist Bishop Ziphoh Siwa, the presidential leader of the nation’s Council of Churches.

Meeting with South Africa's department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries; (left to right) Dr Songabe (Vet Health Director), me, Dr Botlhe Modisane (Chief Veterinary Director), Dr Tina, & Tony Gerrans (CIWF SA)

Meeting with South Africa’s department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries; (left to right) Dr Songabe (Vet Health Director), me, Dr Botlhe Modisane (Chief Veterinary Director), Dr Tina, & Tony Gerrans (CIWF SA)

I am grateful to Farmers Weekly (South Africa) magazine for sponsoring my conference session where I was invited to lay out the key messages from my book, ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’ and their relevance to the future of farming in South Africa.

I opened with a vision of what some call ‘sustainable intensification’: giving my eye-witness account of California’s Central Valley, where vast chemical pesticide-soaked monocultures of crops are interspersed with mega-dairies, where the bees have gone and the ecosystem broken down.

Penguins and small pelagic fish

African (Jackass) Penguin on Boulders Beach, South Africa

African (Jackass) Penguin on Boulders Beach, South Africa

I spoke of the plight of the African Penguin, much loved the world over and at the turn of the century, the subject of the world’s greatest wildlife rescue involving over a hundred years worth of volunteer man-power to rehabilitate oil stricken penguins.  A decade later, the birds’ numbers have dropped perilously close to extinction. Why? In no small part because they are being starved out of existence by the fishmeal industry to provide feed for industrially reared farm animals.

As the penguins collapse, so too does the ecosystem upon which the bigger fish destined for people’s plates also depends. It is an African echo of what I saw in Peru where wildlife has been decimated by the world’s largest single species fishery targeting the small pelagic Peruvian anchovy, ground down for fishmeal destined for export as animal feed to Europe and beyond.

I talked about animal welfare as a ‘canary in a coalmine’ indicator. Failing to address animal welfare brings with it serious risks for public health, the environment and sustainability.

Agri-situation in South Africa

The last 15 years have seen a marked shift toward large-scale intensification in South Africa, away from products intended for domestic consumption to those destined for export. It has been characterized by an upward trend in the general use of irrigation, fuel, fertiliser, mechanisation and GM seeds in South Africa – further evidence of a move toward intensification and a growing dependency by farmers on expensive inputs like artificial fertilisers, pesticides etc. These moves are associated with increased vulnerability for the poor, as land use shifts away from producing staples.

Powerful vested interests have constructed a narrative around intensification being the ‘only way to meet the needs of a growing population’, when in fact the opposite is true. Factory farming wastes food, rather than makes it. For every 100 calories of human-edible crops fed to industrially reared animals, 70% or more is wasted in conversion to meat, milk or eggs. In South Africa – the world’s fifth largest producer of cereals – about half of the nation’s maize is destined for industrially reared animals, mainly poultry. Three-quarters of the nation’s cattle are ‘finished’ in intensive feedlots, chomping on valuable grain, when they could be spending their last months more efficiently on grass.

The future is grass

Factory farming sets up an unnecessary competition between people and animals for food; a competition that can be avoided by keeping animals on pasture where they convert things people can’t eat – grass and marginal lands – into things people can eat; meat, milk and eggs. Like the UK, South Africa’s farmland is predominantly pasture, meaning that keeping animals on the land rather than in factories couldn’t be more practical or sensible as a means of feeding people.

South Africa is a nation with 12 million people food insecure and an unemployment rate of 25%.  As I told the conference, the quickest way to boost unemployment amongst the rural population and undermine local food security is to further roll-out intensification.

Farmageddon is a message of hope. The good news is that we can avert Farmageddon by keeping animals on grass and reducing food waste. It is a solution that brings with it multiple benefits for animals, people and the planet; be it animal welfare, food security, rural livelihoods, the environment and greater resilience in the face of challenges ahead from climate change. By raising animals in humane, sustainable systems based on the land we help to truly ensure that we can provide decent food to everyone forever.


Meeting with Most Reverend Ziphozihle Siwa, presiding Bishop of the Methodist church and president of South Africa's Council of Churches

Meeting with Most Reverend Ziphozihle Siwa, presiding Bishop of the Methodist church and president of South Africa’s Council of Churches

This was my second visit to South Africa this year; catch up on my earlier tour here.  Very many thanks in particular to CIWF South Africa’s director, Louise van Der Merve, Eileen and David Chapman, and Tony Gerrans for all your support and organisation; much appreciated.

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.