Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

Rachel Carson Week – Her Legacy

Friday, April 18th, 2014
RACHEL CARSON  Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service

A year ago, I was on the last leg of writing Farmageddon, travelling from Rachel Carson’s childhood home to the banks of the world-renowned Chesapeake Bay.

I was keen to learn what inspired Carson to take such a keen interest in the countryside. I also wanted to find out her legacy.

I stood on the banks of Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States and an area of stunning natural beauty.

I spoke with leading figures who told me how the bay is under threat from what, in Carson’s day, would have seemed an unlikely source – chickens. Yet, the same phenomena that gave rise to a countryside covered in chemical pesticides also brought about chicken farming on a massive scale.

Over three-quarters of a million chickens down there and not a bird in sight

Over three-quarters of a million chickens down there and not a bird in sight



Today, there are now nearly as many chickens in the three States surrounding Chesapeake Bay as there was across the entire USA sixty years ago. That’s an awful lot of birds in one area.

(L to r) The author, Philip Lymbery, cameraman Brian Kelly and pilot Neil Kaye.

(L to r) The author Philip Lymbery, cameraman Brian Kelly and Lighthawk pilot Neil Kaye.

I took to the air and water to see things for myself. I talked with some of the valiant band of waterkeepers fighting to preserve this wonderful place. I strapped into a four-seater chopper thanks to the generosity of Lighthawk who kindly donated the flight.


You can see some of what I discovered in the last of our Rachel Carson trilogy of films.

In 1962, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring carried an introduction by Lord Shackleton, a member of the UK House of Lords, who wrote:

“We in Britain have not yet been exposed to the same intensity of attack as in America, but here too there is a grim side to the story.”

Things were bad in Britain, but worse in America. The US had given birth to techniques that treated the countryside like an industrial site, with unforeseen but devastating consequences.

Half a century on, history is repeating itself; mega-farms using the latest industrial practices pioneered in the US and now being exported to Britain and the rest of Europe and beyond. It seems we are being driven closer to Farmageddon.

Thanks to the legacy of Rachel Carson, we have a gathering movement to help change things before it’s too late.

To get your copy of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, click here

Rachel Carson Week – Muck Safari in Maryland

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

Maryland, USA: This time a year ago, I was on a mission – writing Farmageddon – to find out how modern day America had heeded Rachel Carson’s warning of the perils of industrial farming.

I travelled from Pennsylvania and Rachel’s childhood home to the historic waterway of Chesapeake Bay. I wanted to see whether the countryside offered clues to Carson’s legacy.

Chicken muck spreading in Maryland, USA

Chicken muck spreading in Maryland, USA

I learned that one of the biggest threats to Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is the muck from vast numbers of chickens reared industrially in its watershed. It wasn’t long before I found out why:

A farm tractor clanked along with what looked like thick red smoke belching from the back of a long green trailer. It billowed across the adjacent road as reddish-brown lumps sprayed out onto the field behind. Poultry manure was being blown into the air and over the field.

RACHEL CARSON Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy

Photo: ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy



I was on a ‘muck safari’ with local waterkeeper, Kathy Phillips. “The stuff along the ditches and field edges; if it rains could run-off and end up in Chesapeake Bay,” Kathy explained; “The pungent smell of chicken manure being spread is a familiar part of spring here”.

Kathy moved here with her husband in the 1970s to live the beach life. After running for County Commissioner on a clean water ticket, Kathy became local waterkeeper, charged with enforcing federal law protecting the cost of Assateague.

“CAFOs are everywhere in this area,” she told me, using her favoured acronym for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, better known as factory farms. “They only grow corn and soya in these parts to support the area’s poultry industry.”

Poultry manure is used as cheap fertiliser to spread on the fields growing the corn and soya that will end up as chicken feed. At first glance, it’s a virtuous circle: the chickens eat the corn and their droppings replenish tired soils.

The only flaw is the vast number of chickens in such a small area. Chicken manure is heavy in nitrogen and phosphorus, precious nutrients in the right amounts, but too much or at the wrong time and the rain washes it into waterways where it becomes a serious pollutant.

Rachel Carson raised the alarm over widespread use of chemical sprays in the countryside. As it turned out, it was all part of an industrial approach to farming that would see chickens, pigs and cows disappear from the land and into factory farm sheds, their feed grown in pesticide-soaked fields elsewhere.

In my next video exploration – I discover more about how the industrialisation of chicken farming is polluting one of the USA’s best-known coastlines.

To get your copy of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, click here

Rachel Carson Day – Celebrating Silent Spring

Monday, April 14th, 2014
RACHEL CARSON Photo: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy

Photo: Everett Collection Historical / Alamy

Pennsylvania, USA: The car ride was surprisingly short; before I knew it, I was looking up at the childhood home of Rachel Carson. I had come to find out what inspired her to kick-start the environmental movement and how well we heeded her warning.

I stepped out into the chill morning air and reticent sunshine in suburban Springdale, Pennsylvania. A small black and white woodpecker clattered the branch above me. A simple white-boarded farmhouse looked down toward the leafy street. It was April 14th, and the anniversary of Carson’s untimely death less than two years after Silent Spring.

A sign outside the house welcomed the curious to the ‘Wild Creatures Nature Trail’, where Carson began her lifelong fascination with the natural world. It was inscribed with her own words as a fourteen-year-old:

The call of the trail on that dewy May morning was too strong to withstand . . . It was the sort of place that awes you by its majestic silence, interrupted only by the rustling breeze and the distant tumble of water.

I was on the last leg of my Farmageddon tour and wanted to find out what inspired Rachel Carson to be such a pioneering voice for the environment. Click here to see exclusive video footage of what I found… on Rachel Carson Day.

To get your copy of Farmageddon: the true cost of cheap meat, click here


A Minute’s Not-So-Quiet Reflection

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Guest blog by Conor Mark Jameson

Conservationist and author, Conor Mark Jameson

Conservationist and author, Conor Mark Jameson

The 50th anniversary of the US publication of Silent Spring inspired a flurry of headlines and comment in autumn 2012; particularly, of course, in North America, where author Rachel Carson is still widely revered.

UK publication of this iconic book came a year later, in 1963, although by then the ripples had already been felt on this side of the Atlantic. Prince Phillip is said to have brought advance copies of Silent Spring to these shores aboard the royal yacht, so alarmed had he been by the insights within it.

The words ‘silent spring’ were quickly ingrained in the public consciousness as the book sold worldwide. I sometimes wonder if any title, aside from religious texts, has been registered by so many, even those who have never picked up the book.

What’s less well remembered about Rachel Carson is an event that gives us the third of three consecutive half-century anniversaries, and which falls on 14th April 2014. On that fine spring Sunday evening, in a Maryland town called Silver Spring, Rachel Carson died. She had lived barely 18 months beyond publication of her world-changing book; long enough to witness its extraordinary initial impact, and to weather the extreme backlash it provoked from sections of industry and the scientific community. Long enough too to be vindicated by President Kennedy’s Scientific Advisory Committee, specially appointed to examine the validity of the issues ‘Miss Carson’ had raised and exposed.

Commemorating Rachel Carson – 50 Years On

Thursday, April 10th, 2014
RACHEL CARSON © Globe Photos / ZUMA Press Inc. - Alamy

Photo: Globe Photos / ZUMA Press Inc. / Alamy

It was mid-April in Pennsylvania, USA, and spring was in full swing. Birds sang and daffodils celebrated in rampant profusion outside the front door of the white clapboard farmhouse. I looked out from the childhood bedroom window of the late Rachel Carson, the mother of the modern environmental movement, who died this week 50 years ago.

In 1962 Rachel Carson’s seminal book Silent Spring shone a spotlight on the effects of spraying the countryside with chemicals, part of agriculture’s new industrialised approach.

Across the Atlantic, her voice was to be joined by the likes of Ruth Harrison, who wrote Animal Machines, and Peter Roberts, founder of Compassion in World Farming, both of whom focused on how this new way of farming was affecting the animals themselves.

As I gazed across the Allegheny valley where Carson grew up, I pictured the young girl inspired by the natural world around her: picking fruit from apple orchards, wandering nearby woods and hillsides, making countless discoveries as she went. I could see two enormous chimney stacks belching smoke into the blue sky. Carson grew up in a world where industry and countryside existed side by side. But during her lifetime lines became blurred and industrial methods found their way into farming, with devastating consequences.

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.