Archive for the ‘International’ Category

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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South African farming pioneer shows the way

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014
Angus McIntosh

Angus McIntosh

Looking back on my visit to South Africa, a highlight was meeting Angus McIntosh, who kindly showed me his 114 hectare farm outside Stellenbosch. Angus grew up on a cattle ranch in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. He studied Management Accounting at Stellenbosch University and was a stockbroker for Goldman Sachs in London for four years. On his return to South Africa, he started farming bio-dynamically. I was recently back in touch with Angus as I wanted to learn more about how he farms and why.

Philip: My visit to your farm during my recent visit to South Africa was fascinating. I know Compassion’s supporters will be interested to learn more about what you do. Please describe for us us how you raise the animals on your farm.

Angus: Our 350 cattle are outside on pasture all year round. We are the only pure grass fed beef operation in the country. We move our cattle four times a day to new pasture. This is known as the high density grazing methodology proselytised by Allan Savory. It also sequesters carbon which conventional beef operations don’t do. Our 4,000 laying hens lay their eggs overnight in Eggmobiles. These are moved daily to new pasture.
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Compassion in France

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Over the last two decades, major reforms have been achieved for farm animal welfare; like Europe-wide bans on veal crates and barren battery cages.  However, there is still so much more to do.  And in many ways, the next steps will be that much harder.  They will require a more concerted approach in key countries throughout Europe if we are to persuade Brussels to make the next big leap for animal welfare.  That is why Compassion is so determined to forge into Europe. To bring the voice of the concerned citizen, the compassionate consumer to bear on those governments with the most influence, and make it stick.

Amongst the countries we are focusing on is France.  I am so looking forward to soon sharing with you an interview with the person leading the charge for us in Paris, Leopoldine Charbonneaux.

Before that, I would like to share some encouraging news of how concern at the growth of industrial farming is genuinely spreading far and wide.  Last Sunday, Leopoldine and her colleagues at CIWF France, joined people from across the nation in a demonstration against factory farming. 

nov_0028

It was initiated by a local citizens group, Novissen, fighting a mega dairy project in the north of France. They are concerned for the potential impact on the landscape, on health, on the environment, on farmers and the animals.  CIWF France was proud to join them and over 40 organisations in opposing a backward step for the French countryside.

Whereas pig and poultry farming in France is already appallingly intensive, the average dairy herd is still around 50 cows, often with good access to pasture. The projected dairy farm in the North of France was originally looking for planning permission to build a zero grazing unit, whereby 1,000 dairy cows would be permanently housed. Public pressure has succeeded in limiting permission to 500 cows instead of 1000.

Compassion’s new voice in Paris will continue to join those opposing mega-dairies and similar developments. We are leading new campaigns to inform the general public and authorities on the many damaging effects of intensive farming: on animals, on the environment, on farmers’ livelihoods, public health, and food quality. By raising the issues, we hope to stop French dairy farming from intensifying and following the road taken for pigs and poultry. 

I look forward to sharing more news and insights into Compassion’s efforts to bring the Government in Paris on side. Look out for the in-depth interview with Leopoldine, posting soon.

Thank you as ever for your support. Together, we will continue putting the ‘world’ into Compassion in World Farming.

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.