I’m convinced the key to success in our campaign to end factory farming by 2050 is to involve as many people and as many organisations as possible. Because there are many good reasons why factory farming should be stopped (e.g. animal cruelty, unhealthy food, environmental damage, food security, economic inefficiency and world hunger), there is room for everyone to make a difference regardless of their reason why.
This is why I believe our role at Compassion is to empower people and facilitate progress for positive change for farmed animals. My job is to inspire others like you to act because, frankly, Compassion, on our own, will not achieve the objectives we all wish to see. We must build the broadest of coalitions and the most far-reaching of initiatives to put an end to our present wasteful food culture which has, at its rotten heart, factory faming.
This point was brought home to me recently when I read the report, Plea for Sustainable Livestock Farming, signed by more than 100 professors from Dutch Universities. I was particularly fascinated by the diversity of academic expertise they represented, from environmental science to rural sociology, from Christian philosophy to journalism. Such a broad range demonstrated the wide cross-section of interests united in opposing factory farming. Their recommendations complemented the conclusions we made in our report, Eating the Planet, co-produced with Friends of the Earth. We are now working with the Dutch scholars to take this important initiative to an international audience of academics.
I firmly believe factory farming cannot sustain itself economically. It consumes a far greater proportion of crops, water and other finite resources than it produces benefit – in the form of food for human consumption. Currently, one third of the world’s cereal crop goes to feed the 60 billion or more farm animals reared every year to produce meat, eggs and dairy products – the majority of them on factory farms. This grain drain together with the climate change consequences of the livestock sector – producing one in five tonnes of total human-induced greenhouse gas emissions – is why leading commentators are increasingly encouraging society to consider eating less meat, dairy and egg products. And why Compassion is advocating a less is more approach; less but higher quality, higher welfare meat consumption as a key factor in building a humane and sustainable food future.
To make sure the supply for higher welfare products meets the demand, our Good Egg Awards, for example, encourages public sector authorities and commercial companies to switch to higher welfare products – cage-free eggs. In the three years of the programme so far, we have celebrated such diverse enterprises as Shropshire County Council, Sainsbury’s, the Tate gallery and Hellmann’s for going cage-free on their eggs, and bringing real benefit to 20 million hens every year as a result. This helps increase demand for cage-free eggs and in turn helps support the EU-wide ban on battery cages due to take place in 2012. In my view, involving companies and local authorities in the trend toward a better food system without factory farming is key.
Encouraging evidence of this gathering trend in ethical consumerism was provided by a recent survey published by the food industry research group, Mintel. “The animal welfare factor,” Mintel states, “has been helped by campaigning by celebrity chefs, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Jamie Oliver, who have raised awareness of poultry and pork farming practices.” Compassion is proud to work in partnership with Hugh on his Chicken Out! campaign.
Whether it’s because you oppose animal cruelty, don’t want to eat unwholesome food, care about environmental damage, concerned with food security, alarmed at economic inefficiency or outraged by world hunger – you have a vital and unique role to play to end factory farming by 2050. I promise you Compassion will be with you at every step of the way as we turn the key to success together.