Archive for the ‘International’ Category

Campaigning for Animals in Europe

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Eurogroup for Animals has been the leading voice for animal welfare in the European Union for many years. Based in Brussels, Eurogroup has 48 member organisations, including Compassion, which has a long history of membership and active participation. It’s an honour to serve on Eurogroup’s Board. Reineke Hameleers’s appointment as Director in 2013 signalled a new era for the organisation. 

Philip: What led you to Eurogroup and how do you see the future for Europe’s animals?

Reineke Hameleers, Director, Eurogroup for Animals

Reineke Hameleers, Director, Eurogroup for Animals

Reineke: I have always been intrigued by the way humans coexist and interact with other animals. This was the focus of my master’s thesis at Maastricht University. It’s the reason why I want to work in animal welfare. The human/animal relationship has far reaching consequences economically, ethically and socially. It became clear to me during my work, first as a volunteer and then as a regional director of the Dutch Society for the Protection of Animals, that one cannot protect animals without protecting people as well. The massive problems we face and the instrumental way animals are treated are disheartening. But it’s my passion and faith in the European project that keeps me going. The EU is not only of significance to Europeans but also to our relationship with billions of animals. We need Europe to improve animal welfare and Eurogroup for Animals has a pivotal role to play in this important development.

Philip: Which specific challenges does Europe face to achieving positive and meaningful change for animals?

Reineke: The EU has to show that it’s relevant to the lives of ordinary Europeans. It’s not only about markets and money Eurogroup for Animals logobut also about values and ideals. The Amsterdam and Lisbon treaties demonstrated the EU cared about animal welfare. They recognised animals as sentient beings. Eurogroup for Animals helps the EU to see that it can really contribute to the proliferation and protection of these values. Seven out of ten Europeans polled believed animal welfare should be improved, no matter how much it cost. Animal welfare is intrinsically connected to other values like our own wellbeing, our health, protection of the environment and a sustainable economy. An appalling example is how Europe treats its pigs, the majority are still being castrated, tails are being docked routinely and outdoor access or enrichment of housing are rare. This situation stands far from the sentience principle in the Treaty and is representative for a lot of other farmed animals.

In the new political term Eurogroup for Animals will campaign actively for better pig welfare among other species. Another key challenge is the transportation of livestock. We count on the new Commission to respond to the call of many citizens to revise the current regulation on transportation and introduce a maximum transport duration of 8 hours for mammals and 4 hours for poultry. It’s vital to invest in local sustainable food chains. Moreover, there are a lot of ‘forgotten’ species for which no specific regulation exists at all, like rabbits, dairy cows and equines. And then we haven’t spoken about the challenges for cats and dogs, wild animals and animals used in testing and research. I’m afraid my contribution to this blog is too short to cover all the challenges to implement that very important recognition of animal sentience in EU law and reality.
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Why Weren’t We Told?

Friday, October 24th, 2014

My guest today is Clive Phillips, who is Professor of Animal Welfare in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland in Australia. Clive is Chair of Animal Welfare at the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics

Clive Phillips

Clive Phillips

Can the public be excused for not knowing about the circumstances of food animal production? We were first warned about the inhumanity of using animals as machines 50 years ago, but dietary habits change slowly. Then intensive animal production was in its infancy. Now most of us live in cities and animals are crowded into sheds far away, and the public rely mostly on the media rather than first-hand knowledge for information about farming.

Just as you and I probably do not know the details of how the car that we drive works, so the public are largely ignorant of the way in which animals are kept for meat and milk production. In a recent survey researchers at the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Queensland found, for example, that most of the public believe that meat chickens are reared in cages, whereas the normal intensive industry practice is to rear them in huge barns on the floor.

Recently most of the massive growth of the intensive livestock production has taken place in developing countries, which is another reason that consumers are largely ignorant of the cruelty that the animals suffer. Poultry exports from Brazil are increasing exponentially, as the rain forest is decimated to produce soya and maize for the birds. Between 2001 and 2011, Brazilian chicken meat exports increased from 1 to 3.5 million tonnes per year.
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In conversation with leading South Africa professor

Monday, September 29th, 2014
David Bilchitz

Professor David Bilchitz

Pretoria: I’m pleased to return to South Africa where I have been invited back to speak about the threat posed by industrial agriculture at the 14th AMT South African Agricultural Outlook Conference. The invitation arose from my earlier tour of the country where we launched Farmageddon in South Africa.

It was then that I had the great pleasure of meeting Professor David Bilchitz, director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional Human Rights and International Law. He and I spoke together at the historic Constitutional Court auditorium in Johannesburg. I am so pleased therefore to have had the opportunity to catch up with David again and am thrilled to share our conversation with you.

Philip: Is industrial animal agriculture growing in South Africa?

David: Historically African communities were small scale and free range in the truest sense of the word. The animals usually lived decent lives in a natural environment with the humans who raised them. With South Africa’s urbanisation and an increasing demand for food, we have also seen a growing demand for meat, eggs and dairy products. Despite many people remaining poor in South Africa, there is an increasing demand for meat, which has led to the push towards more intensive farming methods for animals. Increasingly small scale farms are giving way to warehouses of broiler and battery chickens.

CIWF-SA has been campaigning strongly to improve the plight of pigs which are still subject to the physical and mental torture of sow stalls. Largely there is limited awareness on the part of the public of the significant shift that has occurred gradually over time from small-scale farming towards the factory farming of animals.

Philip: What are problems that factory farming will lead to in South Africa?

David: Factory farming is neither good for humans, animals or the environment. On the human front, South Africa needs the growth of small scale farming which can help improve the livelihoods of rural South Africans. Small scale farms can also provide the opportunity for better welfare, environmental and labour standards for those working on these farms. The monopolistic concentration in large factory farms is in fact detrimental to economic development for the large number of people living in rural poverty. Factory farming also fails to transform the economy so as to provide greater ownership to larger numbers of previously disadvantaged South Africans. Small-scale farming would thus contribute to the much-needed land-reform process in South Africa.

Factory farming is devastating for animal welfare. It treats animals ‘like units in an industrial process,’ said the famous South African author J M Coetzee. It has no regard for their intrinsic value and does not respect their basic rights to bodily integrity and to live in an environment in which they can flourish. Arguably this runs counter to the essence of the new constitutional framework which requires a concern for those who are weakest and most vulnerable. And, finally, it is devastating for the environment through a range of effects it causes. These include massive pollution which often companies involved in this sector are not required to remedy; and also the large increase in greenhouse gases which contributes to the rapid advance of climate change. Producing meat is also inefficient and prevents the better utilisation of the environment to provide more vegetarian food to address the needs of the hungry and starving in our world.

Philip: You have an outstanding track record in representing many different disadvantaged groups of people and you’ve also been involved in many causes to help animals including the campaign to prevent the culling of elephants. Do you see similarities in the cases relating to humans and animals?

Prof David Bilchitz and I at the Johannesburg launch of Farmageddon

Prof David Bilchitz and I in April at the launch of Farmageddon in South Africa

David: The struggle for human and animal rights are not separate and distinct. They have the same philosophical basis and in fact an exclusive focus on either humans or animals is inconsistent with the notion of equality and dignity which underlie this discourse.

A focus on humans alone falls foul of a kind of categorical reasoning that was characteristic of apartheid and systems of gender and sexual orientation oppression. Privileging the human over all other animals for no other reason than their species is just as arbitrary as privileging white people over black people or men over women (for no other reason than their race or gender).

Rights must be the preserve of all who have the abilities to experience and achieve purposes within the world. Most animals have some of these capacities and therefore must be accorded the respectful treatment that is due to them. This means a major shift in the current exploitative approach towards animals and, in the immediate future, requires a rooting out of the worst forms of abuse that most people do not support.

We also know that the abuse of animals is strongly connected to the abuse of human beings, particularly women and children. A violent society like South Africa needs to recognise the power that stimulating a compassionate approach to animals can have in promoting a kinder and more caring ethos in the society. We must expand the circle of compassion to include nonhuman animals and in so doing we will advance the great ideals of the liberation struggle in South Africa and the constitution.

David Bilchitz is Professor at the University of Johannesburg and Director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law. He has also campaigned for shelters for the homeless, has taught literacy and numeracy skills to street children, and has been involved in the campaign to prevent the culling of elephants. 

Is China Turning the World into Its Personal Factory Farm?

Wednesday, 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.

Farm Animals in the Bigger System by Jonathon Porritt

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The problem about sustainability is that it’s all about systems thinking. And the modern world just doesn’t do systems thinking – whether you’re talking science, policy-making, health, education – or anything else that matters, for that matter!

Jonathon Porritt

Jonathon Porritt

That little observation was dropped into the middle of a particularly lively discussion I was taking part in last week as part of Forum for the Future’s Reconnections at Findhorn – over an absolutely delicious vegetarian meal! And unfortunately for all of us, it’s spot-on.

So let’s indulge ourselves for a moment with a celebration of the systems approach that lies at the heart of Philip Lymbery’s Farmageddon. His subtitle (“The True Cost of Cheap Meat”) provided the way in here: from cheap meat, the scope widens out to embrace not just animal welfare, but human health, antibiotics, environmental pollution, water consumption, soil erosion, land use, accelerating climate change, corporate accountability, the failings of democracy, and the future of capitalism!
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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.