Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

Chief scientist admits British farming is bad for birds

Monday, October 27th, 2014
Farmland birds suffer steep declines © istockphoto

Farmland birds suffer steep declines © istockphoto

“We can’t have farmland birds at the level they used to be with the agricultural system we have today” claimed the UK Government’s chief scientific advisor, Professor Ian Boyd, at a meeting discussing UK agricultural strategy in London last week. His assessment came on the day the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released new figures showing Britain’s farmland bird populations have reached their lowest level on record.

Yet, despite the growing chorus of disquiet, the government seems hell-bent on turning the screw tighter under the guise of ‘sustainable intensification’, the main topic in the room at the UK agriculture strategy session. Professor Boyd made clear his part in balancing agriculture with the environment: “I and my colleagues put the information up and ask society through their elected politicians to make that choice.” The continued decline of once-common farmland birds shows policy-makers aren’t listening.

According to DEFRA’s own latest statistics, farmland bird populations have dropped by more than half over the last forty years with the biggest dip happening between the late 1970s and early 1990s. That was when intensification really took hold, with its chemical-soaked monocultures of crops, the demise of mixed farming and increased use of pesticides. Hardest hit have been the farmland specialists like the grey partridge, turtle dove, tree sparrow and corn bunting – down by over 85 per cent in four decades. Strong downturns in more recent times have been shown by species like the skylark, lapwing, starling and kestrel.

Britain’s soils have only 100 harvests left

© Peter Zvonar

© Peter Zvonar

It’s not only birds at risk from over-intensive farming as scientists warn that Britain’s soils have only 100 harvests left. “With a growing population to feed, and the nutrients in our soil in sharp decline, we may soon see an agricultural crisis,” said Professor Nigel Dunnett of Sheffield University.

“Meanwhile we are also seeing a sharp decrease in biodiversity in the UK which has a disastrous knock-on effect on our wildlife. Lack of pollinators means reduction in food,” he told The Independent newspaper.

Threat of ‘Silent Spring’ remains

As pesticide protagonists lick wounds over recent EU action to ban the use of neonicotinoids on crops used by bees, there are fears that a ‘Silent Spring’ could still become reality: the highly respected International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warns that global use of these pesticides is responsible for ongoing threats similar to those “posed by organophosphates or DDT”.

Birds and bees have become just as much a victim of agricultural intensification as the pigs, chickens and cows crammed into factory farms. The industrial rearing of animals goes hand in hand with intensive crop production, often grown to feed incarcerated animals. Concerted action is needed to ensure that farming becomes genuinely humane and sustainable. Sadly, strong interests and blinkered thinking seem determined to stand in the way.

 

Why Weren’t We Told?

Friday, October 24th, 2014

My guest today is Clive Phillips, who is Professor of Animal Welfare in the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland in Australia. Clive is Chair of Animal Welfare at the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics

Clive Phillips

Clive Phillips

Can the public be excused for not knowing about the circumstances of food animal production? We were first warned about the inhumanity of using animals as machines 50 years ago, but dietary habits change slowly. Then intensive animal production was in its infancy. Now most of us live in cities and animals are crowded into sheds far away, and the public rely mostly on the media rather than first-hand knowledge for information about farming.

Just as you and I probably do not know the details of how the car that we drive works, so the public are largely ignorant of the way in which animals are kept for meat and milk production. In a recent survey researchers at the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics at the University of Queensland found, for example, that most of the public believe that meat chickens are reared in cages, whereas the normal intensive industry practice is to rear them in huge barns on the floor.

Recently most of the massive growth of the intensive livestock production has taken place in developing countries, which is another reason that consumers are largely ignorant of the cruelty that the animals suffer. Poultry exports from Brazil are increasing exponentially, as the rain forest is decimated to produce soya and maize for the birds. Between 2001 and 2011, Brazilian chicken meat exports increased from 1 to 3.5 million tonnes per year.
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Buy pork from farms not animal factories

Friday, October 17th, 2014

It’s been a momentous week for Compassion. Our patron, Joanna Lumley has supported us in our protest against Gadhimai; and our biggest, new campaign ‘End the Cage Age’ has launched and been featured in two national newspapers (Daily Mail and The Sunday Times [£]). This gathering impetus for animal welfare is wonderful to see and I wanted to put my support behind another brilliant campaign.

I am proud to support the Pig Pledge Campaign. Their 3-minute film tells the story of Tracy Worcester’s ten-year worldwide battle against animal factories. Having worked with Tracy over the years, I know how dedicated and tenacious she is. She has helped to put pig welfare on the agenda, both politically, and for consumers.

She says: “When it comes to pork, please change your shopping habits to support a better future for pigs, farmers and the planet by buying meat from real farms not animal factories. To highlight your commitment, please sign the Pig Pledge.”

I couldn’t agree more. Factory farms are bleak, outdated methods of producing meat and I ask everyone to make the conscious effort to avoid supporting them with our purchases, as Tracy has outlined in the pledge.

Hundreds of millions of pigs around the world are kept in factory farms. This is damaging, not only to the pigs themselves, but to the environment and local communities.

We need to take a stand, alongside The Pig Pledge campaign and the Soil Association, who, like Compassion, are supporting this movement.

Pigs should be able to express their natural behaviours

Pigs should be able to express their natural behaviours

Let’s move away from the dark age of pig production, in which pigs throughout the world are increasingly kept confined. I urge you all to stand up against factory farming, for the good of our own health and the environment as well as for the welfare of these pigs.

 

 

 

‘End the Cage Age’ – Our biggest ever campaign launched!

Monday, October 13th, 2014

© Compassion in World FarmingToday I’m incredibly excited to share with you that we are launching our biggest ever campaign. Our aim is nothing short of ending the use of cages in farming. I see cages as the ultimate cruel symbolic representation of factory farming. They embody everything that is wrong with the system. They constrict and confine animals, preventing them from turning around and displaying their most basic natural behaviours.

Despite the obvious failings of this medieval system, Europe still incarcerates around 700 million farm animals in cages every year.

Pigs, hens, duck and geese are often confined to cages for much of their lives; even tiny quail are often imprisoned in factory farm cages.

In the UK, more often than not, people think of rabbits as pets. Our recent investigation revealed that most farmed rabbits spend their entire lives in battery cages. Breeding does are often kept in solitary confinement for two years. In one farm, we filmed the crude artificial insemination process of the breeding does, showing them being roughly pulled out of their cages, inseminated and forcefully put back in.

Czech rabbit investigation 41931At Compassion, we firmly believe that all rabbits should be able to roam, hop, and express all their natural behaviours. None of the 330 million rabbits factory farmed in Europe every year are able to do these most basic of things. With dead rabbits strewn about and ammonia levels high from the waste left to pile up under the cages and lack of ventilation, it is unsurprising that these rabbit farms are breeding grounds for infection and disease. In rabbit factory farming, 5 – 7 times the amount of antibiotics are used compared with pig or poultry farming.

I’ve had enough of outdated cages still being used in modern European farming. If you feel the same, please get involved with our major new campaign. It’s time to evolve. It’s time to End the Cage Age.

cageage-no-strap-sidebarPlease, take the time to watch our film and share it with as many people as possible. And if you believe that farm animals should no longer be kept in cages, join the campaign today. Every generation must make its mind up which injustice and cruelty to animals it is going to stop. The time has come for this generation to stand up and End the Cage Age.

Thank you.

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In conversation with leading South Africa professor

Monday, September 29th, 2014
David Bilchitz

Professor David Bilchitz

Pretoria: I’m pleased to return to South Africa where I have been invited back to speak about the threat posed by industrial agriculture at the 14th AMT South African Agricultural Outlook Conference. The invitation arose from my earlier tour of the country where we launched Farmageddon in South Africa.

It was then that I had the great pleasure of meeting Professor David Bilchitz, director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional Human Rights and International Law. He and I spoke together at the historic Constitutional Court auditorium in Johannesburg. I am so pleased therefore to have had the opportunity to catch up with David again and am thrilled to share our conversation with you.

Philip: Is industrial animal agriculture growing in South Africa?

David: Historically African communities were small scale and free range in the truest sense of the word. The animals usually lived decent lives in a natural environment with the humans who raised them. With South Africa’s urbanisation and an increasing demand for food, we have also seen a growing demand for meat, eggs and dairy products. Despite many people remaining poor in South Africa, there is an increasing demand for meat, which has led to the push towards more intensive farming methods for animals. Increasingly small scale farms are giving way to warehouses of broiler and battery chickens.

CIWF-SA has been campaigning strongly to improve the plight of pigs which are still subject to the physical and mental torture of sow stalls. Largely there is limited awareness on the part of the public of the significant shift that has occurred gradually over time from small-scale farming towards the factory farming of animals.

Philip: What are problems that factory farming will lead to in South Africa?

David: Factory farming is neither good for humans, animals or the environment. On the human front, South Africa needs the growth of small scale farming which can help improve the livelihoods of rural South Africans. Small scale farms can also provide the opportunity for better welfare, environmental and labour standards for those working on these farms. The monopolistic concentration in large factory farms is in fact detrimental to economic development for the large number of people living in rural poverty. Factory farming also fails to transform the economy so as to provide greater ownership to larger numbers of previously disadvantaged South Africans. Small-scale farming would thus contribute to the much-needed land-reform process in South Africa.

Factory farming is devastating for animal welfare. It treats animals ‘like units in an industrial process,’ said the famous South African author J M Coetzee. It has no regard for their intrinsic value and does not respect their basic rights to bodily integrity and to live in an environment in which they can flourish. Arguably this runs counter to the essence of the new constitutional framework which requires a concern for those who are weakest and most vulnerable. And, finally, it is devastating for the environment through a range of effects it causes. These include massive pollution which often companies involved in this sector are not required to remedy; and also the large increase in greenhouse gases which contributes to the rapid advance of climate change. Producing meat is also inefficient and prevents the better utilisation of the environment to provide more vegetarian food to address the needs of the hungry and starving in our world.

Philip: You have an outstanding track record in representing many different disadvantaged groups of people and you’ve also been involved in many causes to help animals including the campaign to prevent the culling of elephants. Do you see similarities in the cases relating to humans and animals?

Prof David Bilchitz and I at the Johannesburg launch of Farmageddon

Prof David Bilchitz and I in April at the launch of Farmageddon in South Africa

David: The struggle for human and animal rights are not separate and distinct. They have the same philosophical basis and in fact an exclusive focus on either humans or animals is inconsistent with the notion of equality and dignity which underlie this discourse.

A focus on humans alone falls foul of a kind of categorical reasoning that was characteristic of apartheid and systems of gender and sexual orientation oppression. Privileging the human over all other animals for no other reason than their species is just as arbitrary as privileging white people over black people or men over women (for no other reason than their race or gender).

Rights must be the preserve of all who have the abilities to experience and achieve purposes within the world. Most animals have some of these capacities and therefore must be accorded the respectful treatment that is due to them. This means a major shift in the current exploitative approach towards animals and, in the immediate future, requires a rooting out of the worst forms of abuse that most people do not support.

We also know that the abuse of animals is strongly connected to the abuse of human beings, particularly women and children. A violent society like South Africa needs to recognise the power that stimulating a compassionate approach to animals can have in promoting a kinder and more caring ethos in the society. We must expand the circle of compassion to include nonhuman animals and in so doing we will advance the great ideals of the liberation struggle in South Africa and the constitution.

David Bilchitz is Professor at the University of Johannesburg and Director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional, Public, Human Rights and International Law. He has also campaigned for shelters for the homeless, has taught literacy and numeracy skills to street children, and has been involved in the campaign to prevent the culling of elephants. 

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.