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Farmageddon launched in India

September 17th, 2014
Indian government minister speaks at Compassion-sponsored conference

Indian government minister Mrs Maneka Gandhi speaks at Compassion-sponsored conference

India became the latest country exposed to the true cost of cheap meat as we launched the book and campaign, Farmageddon at a Compassion-sponsored conference in Jaipur. Organized by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), delegates from across India heard a star-studded line-up of speakers including government minister, Mrs Maneka Gandhi who spoke passionately about the need for action on farm animal cruelty.

India acts on gestation crates

From the podium, Mrs Gandhi praised Compassion in World Farming for being one of the best lobbying organisations for animal welfare. She went on that the Indian Government had effectively banned gestation crates for pregnant pigs, where sows cannot even turn around for nearly four months at a time. This is a hugely welcome move and echoes bans in the UK and EU which Compassion was instrumental in achieving.

The author meeting with minister Maneka Gandhi

The author meeting with minister Maneka Gandhi

After her speech, Mrs Gandhi welcomed a copy of Farmageddon as a gift and invited my close colleague and Compassion Ambassador, Joyce D’Silva, and myself to tea where we talked further about how to take things forward in India.

Farmageddon launched in Jaipur

The introduction for the launch of Farmageddon was given by Rajasthan state director, Dr Rajesh Maan who is in charge of animal husbandry. He, Joyce and I met before the conference session to discuss how we could improve things on the ground. Together with our affiliate partner in India, FIAPO, we are now looking to work with Dr Maan and his department to improve animal welfare regulation for dairy cattle in Rajasthan.

The need for measures to protect the pasture-based keeping of cows in India was underscored recently by plans for the nation’s first mega-dairy, which were defeated by a campaign to which Compassion gave support.

Meeting of minds: with Dr Rajesh Maan, Rajasthan's animal husbandry director, at the launch of Farmageddon

Meeting of minds: with Dr Rajesh Maan, Rajasthan’s animal husbandry director, at the launch of Farmageddon

India’s heritage

India has a rich history of enlightenment toward animals. However, the situation today for farm animals is mixed. India’s cattle are still largely revered with slaughtering of cows being banned across much of the country and most allowed to roam or graze pasture. However, in India too, agribusiness interests are pushing their ‘sustainable intensification’ agenda, encouraging yet another country down the factory farming route.

I remember speaking in Delhi twenty years ago warning of the impending influx of factory farming. Sadly, for poultry this has happened, with much of the commercial rearing of chicken and eggs being in factory farms. Working with FIAPO, we will fight this development. But with cattle, we have a chance to stop factory farming here before it starts.

I was struck by the energy and enthusiasm amongst the conference crowd. I was greatly encouraged by the number of young people packed into the conference hall. Although the challenges here as elsewhere are immense, I felt a tide of optimism running through this Jaipur gathering.

Speaking up for animals in Delhi

After the conference, we headed back to Delhi for a round of media interviews before visiting the seat of government. I was delighted to meet with the Ministry of Agriculture’s animal husbandry commissioner, Dr Suresh Honnappagol, who welcomed us and very kindly offered to send a copy of Farmageddon to each of the 36 state ministries across the country.

It is nearly four years now since I started the worldwide journey that would culminate in Farmageddon. It was a book inspired by the successful campaign to oppose Britain’s first US-style mega-dairy proposed for Nocton in Lincolnshire. How fitting therefore to add the land of the sacred cow to the list of countries – USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Brussels and the UK – where the book has been published.

I am really encouraged by the response to the book’s core message internationally; that animals belong on the farm, not in factories. Factory farming is starting to be recognised far and wide as a cruel mistake of the twentieth century; inefficient, unnecessary and outdated. Whilst in India the movement against factory farming is still young and has a big job to do, I sense real hope.

Special thanks to Arpan Sharma and his enthusiastic colleagues at FIAPO for organizing the conference and to the many enthusiastic people I met during this brief stay in India; together we can avert Farmageddon.


Compassion's Ambassdor, Joyce D'Silva (l) and I with India's animal husbandry commissioner, Dr Suresh Honnappagol (centre)

Compassion’s Ambassdor, Joyce D’Silva (l) and I with India’s animal husbandry commissioner, Dr Suresh Honnappagol (centre)

Next stop on the Farmageddon tour:  Pretoria, South Africa: 14th AMT South African Agricultural Outlook Conference, 30th September, 1.30pm


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


Factory Farming—It’s Illegal!

September 15th, 2014

This time last year I welcomed the publication of Chickens’ Lib by Clare Druce as a fascinating history of the organisation with the same name and a damning indictment of the poultry industry.  I’m thrilled to share with you the great news that Clare’s book is now available as an e-book on all platforms. Compassion and Chickens’ Lib enjoy a longstanding relationship of working together to end factory farming. I invited Clare to reflect upon what’s been accomplished and where we go from here.

Clare Druce, co-founder, Chickens' Lib

Clare Druce, co-founder, Chickens’ Lib


As those who work to improve the lot of farmed animals know all too well, it’s a stony path we tread. Progress is painfully slow, and sometimes less satisfactory than we’d hoped. For example, we all rejoiced to see an end to the barren battery cage. But our joy was severely limited, for the big producers have moved over to the still legal ‘enriched’ cage, a contraption little better for the hens, and in some ways worse. The fact that UK enriched cages on average house fifty hens, with little more living space afforded per hen than to those in ‘old-style’ cages, it will surely be harder to identify ailing birds, or to inspect those in the curtained laying areas. In addition, the catching process prior to transport to slaughter will be even more stressful.

My conviction, explained in my book, Chickens’ Lib, is that progress of a revolutionary kind is not only vital but feasible.

A battery cage

A battery cage

More than thirty years ago, and deeply depressed by what I’d recently seen of battery cages, I became convinced that there must be something in our animal protection laws with which to challenge the status quo. I found that indeed such a thing existed – the Welfare of Livestock (Intensive Units) Regulations 1978. These stated that intensively kept livestock must be thoroughly inspected daily. Taking caged hens as our example, Chickens’ Lib illustrated the impossibility of the task. As a result of our calculations the RSPCA mounted a successful prosecution, causing consternation throughout the poultry industry. But the industry need not have worried – a hellish existence for countless factory farmed animals was to continue, while useful legislation to protect them gathered dust, no more than fine words on paper. Sadly, the RSPCA did not accept Chickens’ Lib’s contention that the demands of the 1978 Regulations (included in current legislation) could be used to indict every battery farmer in Britain.
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Farmageddon in the USA

September 5th, 2014

IMG_2270I’m just back from the latest leg of the Farmageddon tour in the USA where I had the huge pleasure of speaking to audiences hungry for change.

The last night was spent in New York where a gathering of supporters joined me for a night co-hosted with Mia MacDonald, executive director of Brighter Green who showed her powerfully moving film about the growing meat crisis in China, What’s for Dinner?. I shared some of the highs and lows of a three year journey writing Farmageddon and particularly highlighted the serious water pollution I encountered in China and the USA where factory farming is contributing to dead zones in lakes, rivers and the sea. Thank you to Mia for a great evening and

Brighter Green's Mia MacDonald

Brighter Green’s Mia MacDonald

to everyone who joined us.

The day before, I had the privilege of speaking at Emory University, the culmination of an intense but exhilarating few days in and around Atlanta, Georgia.

Compassion in World Farming has recently opened an office in Georgia, USA, bringing the number of countries we are based in to ten. Our US operation is run by Leah Garcés, an outstanding leader in the farm animal welfare movement, who is focusing on the growing issue of chicken factory farming in the US state that boasts the title of ‘poultry capital of the world’.

It was particularly fitting then to be invited to speak at America’s biggest independent book festival held in Decatur. I was introduced by the internationally published journalist and author, Maryn McKenna, who later posted an article for National Geographic about our conversations, ‘Off grain, Onto grass: An author urges changes in animal farming’.

In Decatur with Will Harris, White Oak Pastures

In Decatur with Will Harris, White Oak Pastures

Out of 600 authors taking part, I was chosen as one of a dozen to be given special feature at the festival. We drew a crowd for the Farmageddon presentation where I was able to pay tribute to the work of one of Georgia’s local farmers, Will Harris of White Oak Pastures who’s mixed grass-based farm provided the perfect antidote to the scenes of factory farming I’d witnessed whilst writing the book.

I want to say thanks to Alice Murray, founding president of the Decatur Book Festival and a journalist for thirty years, for her enthusiasm for Farmageddon and for helping get the word out. Alice was one of a team of local people who brought the festival to life nine years ago and has seen it grow, attracting leading authors and 80,000 visitors.


Compassion's US director, Leah Garces

Leah Garces, Compassion’s US director – leading the charge on chicken

I was pleased to welcome the ground-breaking commitment by international food company, Unilever, to finding new and humane ways of avoiding the killing of male chicks in the egg industry. It once again shows the leadership that companies can bring for a better, more humane food future and I commend our US office for their engagement in helping bring about this latest move.

Being in Atlanta for a few days, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit the King Centre celebrating the life and leadership of Martin Luther King Jr, one of the most outstanding leaders for social reform of the twentieth century and someone for whom I have the very greatest of admiration. Whenever the path of change gets difficult, I will always remember the words that he wrote: “only when it’s dark enough, can you see the stars”.


Next stop for the Farmageddon Tour: 13th September - Jaipur, India: India for Animals Conference



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

Congratulations Unilever! – pledging solution to killing of male chicks

September 2nd, 2014
© istockphoto

© istockphoto

I am so pleased to share with you groundbreaking news that the major food manufacturing company, Unilever, has committed to searching for humane alternatives to the industry-wide practice of killing male chicks in the egg industry.

Since most commercial egg production uses specialist breeds deemed useless for meat and as the males don’t lay eggs, they are dispatched shortly after hatching, leading to the annual destruction of many millions of chicks every year.

In a statement released today in the US, Unilever has pledged funding support for technologies that would “eliminate the culling of male chicks in the industry” through being able to determine the sex of chicks before they hatch. It has also been looking at ways to replace eggs altogether as an ingredient in some of its products. Unilever’s decision could save over a million male chicks every year rough handling and from what is often an inhumane death.

This commitment by Unilever could have a profound influence on a serious animal welfare problem in the egg industry that has long been hidden from view. It is a hugely welcome development and has the potential to change the egg industry globally for the better. I am proud that Compassion in World Farming, along with colleagues at Farm Forward, The Humane League and The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), has been able to work with Unilever on developing this new commitment. We look forward to lending our full support to bringing it to fruition.

Male chicks of egg-laying strain are commonly killed soon after hatching

Male chicks of egg-laying strain are commonly killed soon after hatching

Unilever’s track record of animal-friendly policies is growing: It has committed to going cage-free on all eggs used in North America and is already more than half way there. Unilever’s leading brands, Hellmann’s, Amora and Calvé, make up the largest dressings business in the world, and Hellmann’s is the world’s number one mayonnaise brand. In 2008, the company received a Good Egg Award from us at Compassion for committing to source only cage-free eggs for its dressings in Western Europe.

It made a further commitment to move to 100% cage-free eggs on all of its products, including Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Hellmann’s, Amora and Calvé mayonnaises globally by 2020, a commitment already taking shape. Unilever won an additional Good Egg Award in 2012 for extending its cage-free commitment to its Hellmann’s brand in the US.

I am truly excited by this new pledge by Unilever which I hope will lead to an end to the killing of male chicks, a seemingly intractable problem until now.

How can we produce more meat? That’s the wrong question

September 1st, 2014

How will we produce more meat to feed the planet’s growing population?

A new report suggests that’s a silly question. The report from academics at Cambridge and Aberdeen universities, Importance of food-demand management for climate mitigation, addresses an issue all too often ignored in this debate: unsustainable demand for meat and dairy products.

Much of the talk around meat is how we produce more to keep up with demand, which is growing worldwide. But we’re building our house on sand. Ramping up meat production to satisfy demand is unsustainable. If we are to build our future food model on solid foundations then the question needs to be: how can we feed a growing world population? In answering that question, we can achieve global food security and feed everyone without wrecking the planet in the process.

The answer is to consume less meat and to waste less. As the report says: “There are… options for reduction on the demand side that are rarely considered. As I explain at length in my book, Farmageddon, getting farm animals back on the land will actually reduce food waste before the food even gets to our plates. If you put ruminants like beef cattle and dairy cows on grass they will turn something we can’t eat into something we can. If you cram them into sheds and feedlots and feed them grain that we could be eating then you are wasting a vast amount of food. As the report confirms, animals squander the majority of grain’s calorific value when converting it into meat and dairy. Figures vary, but a 70% loss is not over-egging it. That is not to mention the criminal amount of meat and dairy produce we waste as consumers.

Those pushing for more production often do so with technological “solutions”, which is misleading, as it makes them look like they are forward-thinking. In fact their way of thinking is stuck in the past, it is an outdated model and in danger of pushing our planet past tipping point.

When presented by huge, existential issues like this, one is tempted to shrug one’s shoulders and think “there’s nothing I can do about it, so what’s the point in trying?” The beauty of a focus on demand and food waste is that individuals can make a difference, simply by cutting down on their own food waste, not overconsuming meat and choosing meat and dairy products from animals raised on the land.

This new report is a welcome addition to the growing body of evidence1 that supports a truly sustainable solution to our future food dilemma.

1Articles by Eisler, Mark C., et al, Smith, Pete, et al. , Havlík, Petr, et al. Hedenus, Fredrik, Stefan Wirsenius, and Daniel JA Johansson, Ripple, William J., et al, Bellarby, Jessica, et al and Garnett, Tara all support this idea.

This blog first appeared on the Huffington Post on 1st September 2014.


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.