Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

When will factory farming’s Volkswagen moment arrive?

Monday, September 28th, 2015
Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor

Peter Stevenson, Chief Policy Advisor

Will we get a moment when the whole factory farming enterprise is revealed as fundamentally rotten? Or will it be more of a slow burn – rather like the banks that repeatedly receive huge fines as the latest mis-selling scandal is exposed? These are the questions I discussed over the weekend with Compassion’s chief policy advisor and veteran campaigner, Peter Stevenson.

Industrial farming is in a shaky place. It devours its own foundations. Man’s continued existence is completely dependent upon six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains”: attributed to Confucius. But today’s intensive agriculture is undermining soil quality and overusing water.

Factory farming’s need for huge quantities of grain to feed animals has driven the intensification of crop production. With crop monocultures and agro-chemicals, it has degraded agricultural soils, eroding their fertility. Pollinators like bees and other farmland wildlife are in sharp decline.

“Will something finally happen that reveals factory farming for what it is; cruel, inefficient and damaging to the very resources we need for future food production?” Peter asked.

He also pointed out how industrial farming is responsible for unhealthy diets that he believes fuel global warming. Limiting temperature rises to 2°C is the main goal of climate change policy. All sectors recognise that they must reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But not livestock. Not our diets. Their emissions are set to soar. So much so that studies warn that agriculture’s emissions will on their own push us almost up to the 2°C threshold by 2050. Only a halving of global meat consumption will allow food’s emissions to diminish.

The Science of Animal Welfare

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Interview with Don Broom

Professor Donald Broom

Professor Donald Broom

One of the most important tools in the box for challenging animal cruelty is animal welfare science (AWS). AWS uses rigorous scientific methods to study the welfare of animals, including those used in agriculture. We instinctively know keeping animals in cages is wrong. However, our views carry more weight when they’re supported by science; research which catalogues and quantifies the extent to which animals have good welfare or are suffering.

Foremost among animal welfare scientists is Donald Broom. He was appointed the first Professor of Animal Welfare in the world in the Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge in 1986. Professor Broom’s distinguished career includes university teaching, advising British and European political bodies, and writing key texts in animal welfare science, including Sentience and Animal Welfare in 2014 and Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare with Andrew F. Fraser.

Following publication of the fifth edition of Domestic Animal Behaviour and Welfare, I interviewed Professor Broom about a lifetime advocating the science of animal welfare:

Philip: The first edition of Farm Animal Behaviour was published in 1974 and you were involved with farmed animal welfare before that. How would you assess the progress made to date in the UK and Europe?

Donald: The scientific world and people in general did not consider animal welfare to be a scientific discipline in the 1970s and 1980s. Since I became Professor of Animal Welfare in Cambridge in 1986 I have been defining concepts and, together with other scientists, developing scientific assessment methods. We are now in a situation where, at least in the European Union, a scientific report is required before any legislation and most commercial standards or animal protection campaigns are initiated.

World’s biggest food service company commits to animal welfare in the US

Friday, August 7th, 2015

Compass Group logoI recently shared with you the wonderful news that the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart, has adopted a ground-breaking animal welfare policy. I am thrilled to say that a similar move has now been taken in the USA by Compass Group, the world’s largest food service company.

Compass Group, which provides catering services to universities, corporate cafés, arenas, and more, has issued a comprehensive set of policies and renewed commitments on improving farm animal welfare within its US supply chain.

Compassion in World Farming worked closely in the US with Compass to develop benchmarks and goals for phasing out cruel and outdated farming practices. Today, Compass has become a leader in farm animal welfare policies for food businesses and I congratulate them.

When a food giant like Compass Group commits to higher animal welfare, they pave the way for other companies to follow suit.

Since joining Compassion as CEO, I’ve strongly believed in harnessing the power of corporations to change the game for farm animals. Since 2007, we’ve worked with over 600 companies worldwide to bring real welfare benefits to over 250 million animals every year.

With every new company that comes on board, we take another step forward to a day when the only factory farm left is an empty one.


The Profound Pope

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Pope Francis © iStock neneos

Pope Francis is proving himself to be quite the radical reformer.

His recent Encyclical, Laudato Si’, addresses not just Catholic bishops, but everyone. He roundly condemns the modern paradigm of growth and profit at any cost and calls on political leaders to pay more than lip service to the earth’s massive environmental and social problems, from climate change to the lives of the poor, saying: “A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress”.

His challenge extends to all of us: “The pace of consumption, waste and environmental change has so stretched the planet’s capacity that our contemporary lifestyle, unsustainable as it is, can only precipitate catastrophes”. This is of course something I whole heartedly agree with, having witnessed habitats being systematically destroyed in the pursuit of mass consumption and factory farming.

Not only is our massive misuse of resources deplored, but the encyclical goes so far as to say “we need to grow in the conviction that a decrease in the pace of production and consumption can at times give rise to another form of progress and development”. This is enlightened thought indeed!

There is a better way. The Pope proposes an “ecological conversion”, which is based on “attitudes which together foster a spirit of generous care, full of tenderness” and which “entails a loving awareness that we are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion.” He says that this change in lifestyle “could bring healthy pressure to bear on those who wield political, economic and social power.”

Although factory farming is not condemned as such, the encyclical emphasizes the importance of caring for the earth and its creatures, including “showing care for other living beings”, assisting small-scale farmers, planning a diversified and sustainable agriculture and the rotation of crops – just what we at Compassion believe in.

Our relationship with the other creatures in the world is clearly of great importance to Pope Francis. He quotes from the most recent edition of the Catechism which he says “clearly and forcefully criticises a distorted anthropocentrism: ‘Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection… Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God’s infinite wisdom and goodness. Man must therefore respect the particular goodness of every creature, to avoid any disordered use of things’”.

As the organisation which led the successful campaign to achieve recognitions of animals as sentient beings in the European Union, we welcome this emphasis within the encyclical. Add to this, the Pope’s recent speech at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), where he deplored the wastefulness of using so much of the earth’s crops as animal feed, and we can feel that here is one religious leader who is largely in sympathy with Compassion’s own aims of a fairer and more compassionate food and farming system.

The fallacy of Old Macdonald’s farm!

Monday, July 27th, 2015

FARMSET all_animals_zoomed_out_angled_CV1A9629It’s the old cliché, a myth peddled to children before they can even walk or talk, with colourful picture books showing happy animals grazing by duck ponds and hens clucking around the yard.

In these story books the farmer and his wife are a plump picture of health – their bonny children and a mischievous-looking collie at their sides. But in reality this idyll is no more reflective of the average working farm than a schmaltzy Hollywood romance is of the average relationship.

Each year, 50 billion farm animals are processed in factory farms. But it’s not a well-known fact. So my organisation, Compassion in World Farming has created YOUR FARM – The Honest Farm Toy to show what life is really like down on the farm.

It’s about time we packed away the fake farm toys and saw that animals raised on farms worthy of a Disney film are in the minority. Instead, two in every three farm animals across the world, live in misery – imprisoned in factories where they are routinely deprived of the freedoms that are so central to their welfare.

When I read George Monbiot’s recent article in the Guardian I wholeheartedly agreed with his observations of the farming industry, and see the vast majority turning a blind eye to the exploitation of the world’s farm animals and inhaling the spun fairy-tale at every opportunity.

In England today, only eight per cent of farms are ‘mixed’ – rearing more than one type of animal and also growing crops. They face a desperate struggle to survive. They have all too often been replaced by farms that specialise in one area: whether it is producing cereals, eggs, chicken, milk, pork or beef. These places would make a dismal day out for anyone, and would shock most schoolchildren. The Old Macdonald fallacy won’t stay credible much longer.

I think that if we are to truly reconnect with our food, we need to know where it comes from and this is where YOUR FARM comes in.

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.