Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

Jeffrey Masson on learning from animals

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015
Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is a long standing friend of Compassion’s. We last saw him as a guest in our office in Godalming, Surrey in 2009, when he spoke about his book, The Face on Your Plate: The Truth about Food. His latest book, Beasts: What Animals Can Teach Us About Human Natures, is a fascinating read challenging us to question ourselves: ‘What makes us so violent to one another (never mind to other species), and is there anything to be done about it?’

I took a recent chance to catch up with Jeffrey to ask him to reflect on his work as a popular and prolific author about animals.

Philip: Your books about animals and our relationship with them are essential reading. What is the most important conclusion you have come to about how we should live with animals and what we should do about it?

Jeffrey: We should live with them with as little exploitation as possible, and ensuring that any animal in a relationship with us lives his or her life as nature intended:  this means we have to consider whether our dog companions are living as full a life as possible, and even with cats, we cannot simply ignore them.  We have to think of them as family members who need us to be constantly mindful of their happiness.

Beasts by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Beasts by Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson

Philip: Your work means you are routinely exposed to reports on animal cruelty. How do you keep yourself positive in the face of such a constant stream of suffering?

Jeffrey: To be honest, I don’t watch horrific videos of animal suffering any longer. I feel I know already and do not need to be reminded. But somebody has to be willing to get the footage and make sure those who are not convinced see them.

Philip: Your last book, Beasts, is as much about people as it is about animals. What prompted you to write it? What are you seeking to achieve?

Jeffrey: I always wanted to write a book about the holocaust but I could not think of what lesson we could take away from it: Yes, people are unbelievably cruel. But we knew this already. What we did not know is that no other animal on the planet is as cruel as us. This needed to be shown, and I think I accomplished that.

Philip: What lessons can we learn from Beasts and your work generally for animals in putting a stop to factory farming?

Jeffrey: What we need to realise after recognising our own history of cruelty is how much of an outlier we are among other animal species, even other apex predators: So for example, while we have killed 200 million of our own species in the 20th century alone, during that same period, orcas (killer whales) have killed exactly none! So we need to look at other animals, like orcas, gorillas, orangutans, giraffes, and other charismatic megafauna, and even wolves, to learn how to live in the world in a more peaceful and compassionate manner. Animals have a great deal to teach us about our own nature.

Have you seen the advice from David Cameron’s best friend?

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

More Human book cover 41njmo+sYxL“Banning factory farms” says Steve Hilton, “won’t just be better for animals; it will make us better humans.” That’s one of the conclusions by former adviser and friend of UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, in his new book, ‘More Human’.

In an explosive chapter on food, Hilton asks, “What has happened to us that we think it’s all right to throw live chicks into a mincing machine just because they are male; that piglets’ tails are chopped off and their front teeth broken to prevent ‘stress-induced cannibalism’ and chunks of their ears cut out for identification, all without painkillers; that cows are milked to breaking point so they live out just a third of their natural lives?” He rails against the take-over of our food system by factory farms which produce poorer quality food in ways which are frankly inhuman.

The chapter sits well alongside others dealing with health, childhood and poverty. The thread running throughout the book is that government, business and the lives we lead, the food we eat – everything – has become too big and distant, too industrial. “Inhuman” as Hilton puts it and its time to do something about it.

I was privileged to be at Hilton’s launch party in London last night along with heavy hitters from government past and present including George Osborne, Oliver Letwin and Michael Heseltine. We were entertained by a Hungarian gypsy band which underscored Hilton’s roots – his family fled their home during the Hungarian Revolution.

David Cameron urged to ban factory farming

David Cameron urged to ban factory farming

I had chance to chat with the guest of honour, David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, who was lucid on farm animal welfare issues. I encouraged him to read Hilton’s chapter on food and promised to send more information. I am following up our conversation today with a letter calling for government action over misleading labelling, the wasteful use of antibiotics to prop up factory farming, and the spread of factory farm dairying.

I was pleased Compassion was able to help Hilton and his team with information on factory farming. I was particularly pleased to see him call for a ban on the practices listed in our Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare. And I couldn’t but agree with Hilton’s take on factory farming: “We shouldn’t just ‘not subsidise’ them. We shouldn’t just regulate them better, or make them more transparent. We should ban them.”

Book review: In defence of life by Julian Day Rose

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

In defence of life: Essays on a radical reworking of green wisdom

by Julian Day Rose (Earth Books, 2013)

In defence of life book cover jhp51e63ee14aaefNestled along the banks of the Thames is the stately home which so inspired Kenneth Grahame to write the children’s classic, ‘The Wind in the Willows’. Ratty, Mole and Badger clubbed together to persuade the flamboyant and self-destructive Toad, fascinated by the latest shiny things, to see the error of his ways.

That same estate provided inspiration for this modern collection of essays delving into food and the latest shiny things of industrial farming. Sir Julian Day Rose presents a fast and furious x-ray view of what’s happening beneath the skin of today’s global food system. He reveals how the mantra of ‘sustainable intensification’ is wheeled out regardless of the consequences, in much the same way as Toad careering about the road in his flash motorcar.

Through the pages of this book, Rose combines personal insight, passion and directness with a lifetime of first-hand experience. What comes through is his pioneering spirit, turning his estate organic well before it was the thing to do. He took on the forces of homogenised food and opposed government plans to ban raw milk.

In China what will the future look like?

Wednesday, May 6th, 2015

Last September I had the opportunity to work with Brighter Green’s founder and executive director, Mia MacDonald, and am a fan of her work, particularly in China. We gave a joint presentation in New York, Brighter Green’s hometown, on the challenges of feeding the world and how factory farming makes that task harder. Like ours, Mia’s work is very much at the meeting point between animal welfare, the environment and sustainability. Here, I’m pleased to share some of Mia’s insights.

Philip: Why did you establish Brighter Green?

Mia MacDonald

Mia MacDonald

Mia: The idea for Brighter Green evolved from my concern for the environment and animals, as well as my experience in sustainability, issues of equity, and conservation. I’d meet and work with terrific environmentalists from many different countries, but very few had an interest in animal welfare, or much knowledge of it.

Likewise, I knew a lot of people working on animal protection issues who weren’t that well versed in environmental realities. Then I’d see issues like animal agriculture that had huge significance for animals and the environment, and sustainable development, but they weren’t the focus of development work. So, I saw a need for a public policy organisation that could work on animal welfare and environmental issues in a global context.

Philip: What are your aims and activities?

Mia: Brighter Green’s mission is to raise awareness of and encourage policy action on issues that span the environment, animals, and sustainability. One of the major areas we’ve worked in is the global spread of Western-style systems of food and agriculture. These are centred on the massive production of animal products and “feed” crops at the expense of the environment, food security, animals, biodiversity and access to and control of food systems.

Philip: What is the most pressing environmental issue of our time and how can we address it successfully?

Mia: Climate change since it encompasses almost every other issue, but of course natural resource exploitation due to human action is an enormous challenge. It’s made worse by climate change, but also exists independently from it. And animal agriculture and particularly industrial animal agriculture are significant—and growing—culprits in global warming and in the degradation of land, water, forests and the ecosystems that both wild animal and human communities depend on.

Book Review: Honourable Friends? by Caroline Lucas

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Honourable Friends?Honourable Friends?

by Caroline Lucas (Portobello Books, 2015)

Honourable Friends? Parliament and the Fight for Change, gives a real ‘of-the-moment’ and ‘from the trenches’ snapshot of life in Parliament. Caroline tells her story from the insightful perspective of an outsider, on the inside for the first time.

Honourable Friends? takes readers on a compelling journey in three parts. Firstly, we join Caroline as she arrives in Parliament and finds out that much about the way it works is either “obscure or downright weird”. In the second part Caroline starts to work to reform Parliament and to use its existing processes to represent her constituents and to campaign on key issues.  The final section offers her vision.

I shared in Caroline’s bafflement when, on arrival in Westminster, she was given a pink ribbon to hang her sword on a hook outside the Chamber but wasn’t allocated an office. Instead she, like all other MPs, was expected to camp out at a café table.

Offices, we discover, are Westminster “currency”. Having an acceptable office in which to work is a perk that is allocated by the main political parties and their whips as a reward for well-behaved MPs. Officials told Caroline that MPs would have to wait for up to a fortnight: the whips needed time to decide which MPs deserved an office with a river view and which MPs would have broom cupboards with limited ventilation.

Whilst some of Parliament’s daily workings are just strange and quirky, Caroline describes others as “actively malign; and probably kept that way deliberately.”  For example, the right for individual MPs or cliques of MPs to ‘talk out’ Private Members Bills, and the antiquated system for voting that Caroline explains works to keep power in the hands of the whips.

The story of the failed campaign by MPs from different parties to introduce electronic voting is also highlighted in the book. The challenge of reforming Westminster, warns Caroline, is that it’s a race between new MPs seeing what needs to change and those same MPs being absorbed into the prevailing culture”.

There’s a warning for all new MPs from Caroline, who advises: “If you are ready to accept it all, the place will treat you like minor royalty bringing with it the risk that you lose your sense of perspective (even of reality) and also forget who you are there to serve.”

With Honourable Friends? Caroline also signals what she sees as some of the biggest challenges for the future, including the battle against climate change and the threat presented by the EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), that is under discussion. The TTIP, warns Caroline, would allow corporations to sue sovereign governments in so-called arbitration tribunals on grounds that their profits are threatened by policies or laws that protect the environment, or animal welfare, or food safety or privacy.

Importantly, throughout the book, Caroline gives hope to every campaigner, by showing how the nearly impossible can sometimes be achieved. By writing letters, visiting MPs, protesting outside Parliament change can be achieved and disasters averted. Honourable Friends? demands to be read by anyone with an interest in how politics currently works and how it could be.



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.