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Farm Animal Feelings get Scientific

March 19th, 2015

Jonathan Balcombe is Director for Animal Sentience for the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy in Washington, DC. He is the author of Pleasurable Kingdom, Second Nature and The Exultant Ark. This is the link to Jonathan’s website. As an internationally recognised expert and respected author in animal behaviour, I’m very excited to share with you Jonathan’s article called ‘Farm Animal Feelings get Scientific’. 

Jonathan Balcombe and friend.

Jonathan Balcombe and friend.

It is hard to say whether I’ve learned more about the behaviour of farm animals from reading scientific studies or from first-hand interactions at a local sanctuary for rescued animals where I volunteer on Saturday mornings. As an ethologist (a student of animal behaviour), I’ve perused my share of published papers about everything from flooring preferences in hens to eureka moments in calves. But there is no substitute for the experience of rubbing a grateful pig’s belly or watching a row of hens sunbathing in a beam of sunlight.

Despite their unfair relegation to the minor leagues of respectability, the animals who humans raise to be eaten are among the most studied of all. Much of the research is done in the industry’s interest of maximising yields, but a good amount of pure behavioural research has also been amassed. As the former scientific taboo on studying animal minds and feelings has lifted, we are gaining exciting perspectives on their inner lives.

One of the more surprising results was a 2004 study with the provocative title Chickens prefer beautiful humans. When presented with pairs of photographs of human faces, chickens showed an astonishingly close (98 percent) correlation of face preference to those of humans rated. It remains uncertain what this says about a chicken’s aesthetic sense, but the idea of chickens preferring any humans has poignancy, given how inhumanely we treat them. Here in America we currently slaughter about 300 chickens every second, and poultry are not even covered by the federal humane slaughter law.
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Eat your Greens for Meat Free Week

March 16th, 2015

MeatFreeWeek_UK_2015_72dpi‘Meat free week’, is a new initiative to encourage us to think about meat and where it comes from. At Compassion in World Farming, we are only too aware that most meat these days still comes from factory farms. Where animals are caged, crammed and confined. But did you know how resource intensive it can be too? A kilo of beef needs ninety bath tubs of water to produce. That’s just one example. Raising awareness about what’s involved is why I’m supporting Meat Free Week.

This is a great opportunity to spread the word about moderating our meat intake and when we do eat meat, to make informed choices about how it has been reared. It’s a simple way for every one of us to make a difference to the planet, three times a day.

And even better news; you can sign up to go meat-free for a week in aid of Compassion. Tackle some new recipes whilst raising awareness of the benefits of reducing meat consumption. If you already don’t eat meat, you can get your friends and family to take part. Sign-up on the Meat Free Week website here.

Meat Free Week encourages creativity and thoughtfulness when it comes to our food, which I think can only be a force for good. So spread the word and let’s get people talking and taking action on these issues affecting every single one of us.

Meat free week flyer

Farmageddon: New look and film launched

March 12th, 2015
Copies of the new-look Farmageddon paperback in the entrance of Foyles, Waterloo

Copies of the new-look Farmageddon paperback in the entrance of Foyles, Waterloo

Described by Joanna Lumley as ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for food and farming, a year and several reprints later, Bloomsbury is relaunching Farmageddon in a new-look paperback format. To celebrate, we’ve pulled together this short film showing some of the key moments of the three-year journey behind the closed doors of the factory farm industry.

Battle lines are drawn; they see a more industrial approach to farming, with little room for luxuries like animals out in fields, as the way forward. After all, we need to feed a growing population; billions of extra mouths expected on the planet within decades. That means, like it or not, animals confined in mega-farms, disappearing from the landscape and replaced by crops grown in prairies with the aid of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. At least, that’s the web of justification spun to prop up an outdated approach to feeding people; one that also happens to be the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet.

Foyles Bookshop, Waterloo stocking copies of the new look paperback of Farmageddon

Foyles Bookshop, Waterloo stocking copies of the new look paperback of Farmageddon

What the intensive farming lobby doesn’t acknowledge is that the system already produces enough to feed everybody – and plenty more. Industrial farming makes up a third of global production and is responsible for the greatest damage and the greatest inefficiency. The biggest single area of food waste comes not from what we throw in the bin but from feeding human-edible crops to industrially reared animals, losing much of its calorific value in the process.

Farmageddon exposes the myths propping up factory farming. It calls for a rethink; one that focuses on food for people, rather than producing mountains of feed for confined animals. Already available in the UK, Netherlands, USA, Canada, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand, Farmageddon has now also been translated and published in Italy and Japan, with further translations scheduled in Poland, Taiwan (Chinese) and Czech by the end of the year.

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



Pigs versus People

March 11th, 2015

In my final film from my Farmageddon travels, I visited the community at the forefront of the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Speaking to a local official, he tells me that yet more land is going to be used to develop pig factory farms. “They could use the land for agriculture – for corn, beans – these are things the community needs and would bring jobs.” Instead, the powerful pig industry plans to bring in intensive pig farms that don’t bring jobs for the local community. What they bring is pollution, smells and sickness breakouts.

It’s a depressing struggle for the people of the community against these intensive farms; moving onto their land and scarring their community further with pollution and threatening their health. It’s hard to see who benefits from these arrangements. In the battle against factory farming, La Gloria is losing. The pigs don’t want to be kept in factory farms – they’re not winning. The locals don’t want to live next to factory farms – they’re not winning. So who is? It’s a high price to pay for so-called cheap meat.

Watch my latest film for more on pigs versus people.

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

Swine Flu: Ground Zero?

March 4th, 2015

I visited a community that was at the forefront of the swine flu pandemic. It is almost impossible to describe the absolute stench that is emitted from one of the world’s biggest pig farms in South East Mexico.

On our journey, I saw at least 15 large-scale farms littered throughout the area. Despite the stench, smell pollution is the least of the problems presented here. We travelled to a town called La Gloria to investigate why some locals fell ill. They were displaying symptoms of what they believed to be swine flu. I spoke to locals who claimed their drinking water had been contaminated.

To see more on how intensive pig farming effected the locals, watch my latest film.

For 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.