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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.

As long as 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.

The Science of Animal Welfare

August 12th, 2015

Interview with Don Broom

Professor Donald Broom

Professor Donald Broom

One of the most important tools in the box for challenging animal cruelty is animal welfare science (AWS). AWS uses rigorous scientific methods to study the welfare of animals, including those used in agriculture. We instinctively know keeping animals in cages is wrong. However, our views carry more weight when they’re supported by science; research which catalogues and quantifies the extent to which animals have good welfare or are suffering.

Foremost among animal welfare scientists is Donald Broom. He was appointed the first Professor of Animal Welfare in the world in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge in 1986. Professor Broom’s distinguished career includes university teaching, advising British and European political bodies, and writing key texts in animal welfare science, including Sentience and Animal Welfare in 2014 and Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare with Andrew F. Fraser.

Following publication of the fifth edition of Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare, I interviewed Professor Broom about a lifetime advocating the science of animal welfare:

Philip: The first edition of Farm Animal Behaviour was published in 1974 and you were involved with farmed animal welfare before that. How would you assess the progress made to date in the UK and Europe?

Donald: The scientific world and people in general did not consider animal welfare to be a scientific discipline in the 1970s and 1980s. Since I became Professor of Animal Welfare in Cambridge in 1986 I have been defining concepts and, together with other scientists, developing scientific assessment methods. We are now in a situation where, at least in the European Union, a scientific report is required before any legislation and most commercial standards or animal protection campaigns are initiated.
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World’s biggest food service company commits to animal welfare in the US

August 7th, 2015

Compass Group logoI recently shared with you the wonderful news that the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart, has adopted a ground-breaking animal welfare policy. I am thrilled to say that a similar move has now been taken in the USA by Compass Group, the world’s largest food service company.

Compass Group, which provides catering services to universities, corporate cafés, arenas, and more, has issued a comprehensive set of policies and renewed commitments on improving farm animal welfare within its US supply chain.

Compassion in World Farming worked closely in the US with Compass to develop benchmarks and goals for phasing out cruel and outdated farming practices. Today, Compass has become a leader in farm animal welfare policies for food businesses and I congratulate them.

When a food giant like Compass Group commits to higher animal welfare, they pave the way for other companies to follow suit.

Since joining Compassion as CEO, I’ve strongly believed in harnessing the power of corporations to change the game for farm animals. Since 2007, we’ve worked with over 600 companies worldwide to bring real welfare benefits to over 250 million animals every year.

With every new company that comes on board, we take another step forward to a day when the only factory farm left is an empty one.


The Profound Pope

August 3rd, 2015

Pope Francis © iStock neneos

Pope Francis is proving himself to be quite the radical reformer.

His recent Encyclical, Laudato Si’, addresses not just Catholic bishops, but everyone. He roundly condemns the modern paradigm of growth and profit at any cost and calls on political leaders to pay more than lip service to the earth’s massive environmental and social problems, from climate change to the lives of the poor, saying: “A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress”.

His challenge extends to all of us: “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes”. This is of course something I whole heartedly agree with, having witnessed habitats being systematically destroyed in the pursuit of mass consumption and factory farming.

Not only is our massive misuse of resources deplored, but the encyclical goes so far as to say “we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development”. This is enlightened thought indeed!

There is a better way. The Pope proposes an “ecological conversion”, which is based on “attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness” and which “entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.” He says that this change in lifestyle “could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.”

Although factory farming is not condemned as such, the encyclical emphasizes the importance of caring for the earth and its creatures, including “showing care for other living beings”, assisting small-scale farmers, planning a diversified and sustainable agriculture and the rotation of crops – just what we at Compassion believe in.

Our relationship with the other creatures in the world is clearly of great importance to Pope Francis. He quotes from the most recent edition of the Catechism which he says “clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism: ‘Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things’”.

As the organisation which led the successful campaign to achieve recognitions of animals as sentient beings in the European Union, we welcome this emphasis within the encyclical. Add to this, the Pope’s recent speech at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), where he deplored the wastefulness of using so much of the earth’s crops as animal feed, and we can feel that here is one religious leader who is largely in sympathy with Compassion’s own aims of a fairer and more compassionate food and farming system.

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.