Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

Eat your Greens for Meat Free Week

Monday, March 16th, 2015

MeatFreeWeek_UK_2015_72dpi‘Meat free week’, is a new initiative to encourage us to think about meat and where it comes from. At Compassion in World Farming, we are only too aware that most meat these days still comes from factory farms. Where animals are caged, crammed and confined. But did you know how resource intensive it can be too? A kilo of beef needs ninety bath tubs of water to produce. That’s just one example. Raising awareness about what’s involved is why I’m supporting Meat Free Week.

This is a great opportunity to spread the word about moderating our meat intake and when we do eat meat, to make informed choices about how it has been reared. It’s a simple way for every one of us to make a difference to the planet, three times a day.

And even better news; you can sign up to go meat-free for a week in aid of Compassion. Tackle some new recipes whilst raising awareness of the benefits of reducing meat consumption. If you already don’t eat meat, you can get your friends and family to take part. Sign-up on the Meat Free Week website here.

Meat Free Week encourages creativity and thoughtfulness when it comes to our food, which I think can only be a force for good. So spread the word and let’s get people talking and taking action on these issues affecting every single one of us.

Meat free week flyer

Farmageddon: New look and film launched

Thursday, March 12th, 2015
Copies of the new-look Farmageddon paperback in the entrance of Foyles, Waterloo

Copies of the new-look Farmageddon paperback in the entrance of Foyles, Waterloo

Described by Joanna Lumley as ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for food and farming, a year and several reprints later, Bloomsbury is relaunching Farmageddon in a new-look paperback format. To celebrate, we’ve pulled together this short film showing some of the key moments of the three-year journey behind the closed doors of the factory farm industry.

Battle lines are drawn; they see a more industrial approach to farming, with little room for luxuries like animals out in fields, as the way forward. After all, we need to feed a growing population; billions of extra mouths expected on the planet within decades. That means, like it or not, animals confined in mega-farms, disappearing from the landscape and replaced by crops grown in prairies with the aid of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. At least, that’s the web of justification spun to prop up an outdated approach to feeding people; one that also happens to be the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet.

Foyles Bookshop, Waterloo stocking copies of the new look paperback of Farmageddon

Foyles Bookshop, Waterloo stocking copies of the new look paperback of Farmageddon

What the intensive farming lobby doesn’t acknowledge is that the system already produces enough to feed everybody – and plenty more. Industrial farming makes up a third of global production and is responsible for the greatest damage and the greatest inefficiency. The biggest single area of food waste comes not from what we throw in the bin but from feeding human-edible crops to industrially reared animals, losing much of its calorific value in the process.

Farmageddon exposes the myths propping up factory farming. It calls for a rethink; one that focuses on food for people, rather than producing mountains of feed for confined animals. Already available in the UK, Netherlands, USA, Canada, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand, Farmageddon has now also been translated and published in Italy and Japan, with further translations scheduled in Poland, Taiwan (Chinese) and Czech by the end of the year.

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



Pigs versus People

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

In my final film from my Farmageddon travels, I visited the community at the forefront of the swine flu pandemic in 2009.

Speaking to a local official, he tells me that yet more land is going to be used to develop pig factory farms. “They could use the land for agriculture – for corn, beans – these are things the community needs and would bring jobs.” Instead, the powerful pig industry plans to bring in intensive pig farms that don’t bring jobs for the local community. What they bring is pollution, smells and sickness breakouts.

It’s a depressing struggle for the people of the community against these intensive farms; moving onto their land and scarring their community further with pollution and threatening their health. It’s hard to see who benefits from these arrangements. In the battle against factory farming, La Gloria is losing. The pigs don’t want to be kept in factory farms – they’re not winning. The locals don’t want to live next to factory farms – they’re not winning. So who is? It’s a high price to pay for so-called cheap meat.

Watch my latest film for more on pigs versus people.

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

Swine Flu: Ground Zero?

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

I visited a community that was at the forefront of the swine flu pandemic. It is almost impossible to describe the absolute stench that is emitted from one of the world’s biggest pig farms in South East Mexico.

On our journey, I saw at least 15 large-scale farms littered throughout the area. Despite the stench, smell pollution is the least of the problems presented here. We travelled to a town called La Gloria to investigate why some locals fell ill. They were displaying symptoms of what they believed to be swine flu. I spoke to locals who claimed their drinking water had been contaminated.

To see more on how intensive pig farming effected the locals, watch my latest film.

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

In Defence of Factory Farming: How a ruinous system is kept afloat – Part 5

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

It is my pleasure to introduce the fifth and final part in the series of my guest, Peter Stevenson’s, exploration of the interweaving threads that justify and entrench factory farming.  Thank you Peter for sharing with us in detail the varying strands that support and allow factory farming to thrive and for highlighting that a fresh approach is needed to developing a fair and kind food system.  Please read the whole series here.

Peter Stevenson's two rescue dogs, Jodie and Jamie.

Peter Stevenson’s two rescue dogs, Jodie and Jamie.

The claim of necessity: we need to produce 70% more food by 2050

Finally factory farming wraps itself in the cloak of virtue. We’re the good guys come to feed the world. Its advocates tell us that 70% more food must be produced to feed the growing world population which is expected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. And as we need to produce so much extra food, further industrialisation is inevitable.

This ‘70% more’ message has become the prime driver of global food and farming policy. It is widely cited to justify industrial and technology-based solutions that respond to a challenge presented as a primarily quantitative one. The fixation with 70% more is such that policy makers tend to give insufficient attention to the danger that mounting industrialisation will undermine the natural resources – land, soil, water, biodiversity – on which our ability to produce food depends.

But what if it’s not true? What if we don’t need to produce 70% more? Then current policies, with their focus on a massive increase in production, would be based on a false premise.

De Schutter has said that “We live in a world which, if we managed our resources adequately, could feed almost twice the planet’s population. We produce the equivalent of 4500 calories per person per day.  That’s twice as much as the daily need of 7 billion inhabitants”.

It is clear that more than enough food is already produced to feed the anticipated world population in 2050 of 9.6 billion. The real challenge lies not so much in producing more but in wasting less, and ensuring a more equitable distribution of food and agricultural resources. As will be explained below, over 50% of global crop calories are lost or wasted or otherwise used in ways that do not contribute to the human food supply.

A 2014 report by the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition states that worldwide 25% of food calories are lost or wasted post-harvest or at the distribution/retail and consumer levels. In addition, 9% of global crop calories are used for biofuels and other uses.


Grain-fed cattle on factory farm

The University of Minnesota paper referred to earlier calculates that 36% of the world’s crop calories are fed to animals but, as explained above, only 17-30% of these calories are returned for human consumption as meat or milk. The effect of this is that 70-83% of the 36% of the world’s crop calories that are used as animal feed are wasted; they produce no food for humans. This means that 25-30% (70-83% of 36%) of the world’s crop calories are being wasted by being fed to animals.

In total, therefore at least 59% of the world’s crop calories are wasted:

  • 25% post-harvest or at the distribution/retail and consumer levels
  • 9% in use for biofuels and other non-food uses
  • 25-30% by being fed to animals.

UNEP has also looked at the waste entailed in feeding human-edible crops to animals. It calculates that the cereals which, on a business-as-usual basis, are expected to be fed to livestock by 2050, could, if they were instead used to feed people directly, provide the necessary food energy for over 3.5 billion people. If a target were adopted of halving the amount of cereals that, on a business-as-usual basis, would be used for feed by 2050, an extra 1.75 billion people could be fed.

Increased production may be needed in certain regions or specific cases but, in light of the various forms of loss and waste referred to above, the claim that a 70% increase in global food production is needed by 2050 substantially overestimates the quantity of extra production needed.

And so necessity, the last refuge of factory farming, crumbles. We do not need to produce huge amounts of extra food; we simply need to use what we produce more wisely.


An interlinked web supports factory farming and allows it to thrive. This web comprises many strands: legislation that appears strong on paper but in practice often proves illusory, a deceptive economics that by sleight of hand can make the costly appear cheap and a scientific orthodoxy that tends to restrict our view of what constitutes good animal well-being. Further support comes from claims to efficiency that bear little scrutiny, a questionable assertion that we need to produce 70% more food and avowed respect for animals as sentient beings while treating them as machines which if fine-tuned will be ever more productive. As a result industrial livestock production appears to be locked in to our food system.

We urgently need fresh thinking that allows us to develop a food system that provides healthy food, restores and enhances the natural resources on which agriculture depends and respects the animals that provide our meat, milk and eggs.

Pasture-based farming in Georgia, USA – the way it should be…

Peter Stevenson is Compassion in World Farming’s Chief Policy Advisor. His parents were Czech refugees who arrived in Britain in 1939. Peter studied economics and law at Trinity College Cambridge in the mid 1960s.   In 2004 Peter was the joint recipient with Joyce D’Silva of the RSPCA Lord Erskine Award in recognition of a “very important contribution in the field of animal welfare”.

He has written comprehensive legal analyses of EU legislation on farm animals and of the impact of the WTO rules on animal welfare. Peter is lead author of the recent study by the FAO reviewing animal welfare legislation in the beef, pork and poultry industries.  

Before joining Compassion in World Farming in 1991, Peter worked as a solicitor and, for fifteen years, as a freelance theatre director working in experimental fringe theatre and for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He lives in Scotland with Annie his wife who is a painter and two wonderful rescue dogs, Jamie and Jodie, who bully him with incessant demands for walks, play, food and fun.

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.