Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

When the thunder comes…an historic week in America

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015
US President, Barack Obama

US President, Barack Obama

“Progress on this journey often comes in small increments. Sometimes two steps forward, one step back, compelled by the persistent effort of dedicated citizens” said Barack Obama last week. “And then sometimes there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”

The US President was welcoming the Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage, making it legal across the country. But his words could apply just as well to our part of the movement for social justice, striving to end factory farming.

I was privileged to be in the USA during such an historic week. My team and I travelled through eight US states in eight days looking at the impact of factory farming; filming and researching for the sequel to the book, Farmageddon.

How wonderful to see the great change happen in America. The White House was illuminated with rainbow colours, and people cried in the streets with joy. Many thought the day would never come. Others, however, never doubted it would.

In this same week, Obama also gave a moving eulogy at the funeral of the Reverend Clementa Pinckney at the College of Charleston’s campus, shot in church by an extreme racist, in Charleston along with 8 others. Obama spoke of “the imperative of a just society”. Instead of hatred, the victims’ families spoke of love and of continuing the path toward equality.

During the same week, the Confederate flag, a symbol of hatred in America, was replaced with the flag of Pride, a symbol of love. Justice and freedom, two founding principles of America, prevailed and took centre stage. Potent reminders that change is always possible.

Obama’s words spoke of patience and perseverance and of the undeterred optimism required to achieve social change. He talked of admiration for those who never give up. “Today should also give us hope” he said, “that on the many issues with which we grapple, often painfully, real change is possible. Shift in hearts and minds is possible.”

As people who want to see social justice extended to farm animals through ending factory farming, we can take great heart from those words. We know ourselves how it feels to take two steps forward and one back. But each step we take is a step closer to that thunderbolt. For animals, people and the planet.

Book review: Project Animal Farm by Sonia Faruqi

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

Project Animal Farm

by Sonia Faruqi (Pegasus Books, New York, 2015)

Project Animal Farm book coverPeople love stories about people. All too often, books about how we treat animals miss this point. Not so with Project Animal Farm. Full of surprises, it charts a four year journey into the belly of industrial agriculture. New York investment banker turned investigative journalist, Faruqi, seems to have fallen into a hidden world the industry would rather you didn’t see.

Brought up with a picture-book image of farming, this self-proclaimed city girl finds herself at a loose end on a dairy farm. From there, the unexpected happens…

Haunted by the sights, sounds and smells of factory farms, Faruqi writes about getting drawn into the lives of those who run them in an intensely personal tale. She recounts characters she meets on farms in eight countries, from America to Asia and the Middle East. She meets a family farmer scared of becoming a big farm and the treadmill they seem to be on; “with all the high-volume, low margin bullshit, farmers just keep on getting bigger and bigger.” She gets laughed at uncontrollably by a psychotic abattoir worker. She sees supposedly organic dairy cows in Canada tethered and zapped with electricity for trying to defecate in the wrong place.

“You can gauge a farm’s compassion” she writes “by your family’s reaction – outsiders form the litmus test.” How true. Through Faruqi’s writing, we get to see those who open their doors and those who don’t. Green fields or barbed wire fences, the contrast couldn’t be stronger.

Her journey ends with a thoughtful set of ideas for putting things right; common sense solutions to help bring about a better future for food, animals and the people who work with them.

What I really liked about the book was how it felt like reading a story never meant to happen. How one thing led to another, driven more by fate than design. A ‘project’ born out of happenstance, not planning. And with it comes a unique and honest take on food and farming. Written in the most vivid and engaging way, this remarkable book demands to be read by anyone who cares about where their food comes from.

Has cheap meat had its day?

Monday, June 15th, 2015

PJL - Lundy - May 2013Artificial meat could push conventional meat into the premium luxury market as the world’s population grows and livestock production fails to keep pace with demand, according to a recent report by researchers at Murdoch University in Australia. The study by the Veterinary and Life Sciences department also said meat producers would need to find solutions to animal welfare, health and sustainability issues “in the face of competition from emerging non-traditional meat and protein products.” I went up to Billingham in the English northeast, to find out about one of these protein sources thought to be about to give meat a run for its money.

The industrial setting is said to have inspired Aldous Huxley’s ‘Brave New World’. Two huge tower blocks burst out of the warehouse below. Behind them is a mass of frames and pipes. Inside, rows of people stare at computer screens overseeing the fermentation of wheat into a source of protein promising to be the more efficient replacement for meat from farm animals. This isn’t ‘lab meat’, created from stem cells in a petri dish, but something much more here and now. In fact, it is already widely available in supermarkets in many countries including Britain.

Mycoprotein is used to make to make Quorn products

Mycoprotein is used to make Quorn products

Using a fermenting process similar to beer or yoghurt, a tiny member of the fungi family, called mycoprotein, grows explosively in each fermentation chamber, enough to produce nearly 100,000 burgers a day.

Food scientist, Dr Tim Finnigan has been working for the company behind this innovation, Quorn Foods, for the past 25 years. It’s aimed at the ‘flexitarian’ market, those who want to cut down on the amount of meat they eat, he tells me. There’s a lot of talk about eating less meat for our health and the environment. “And that’s where Quorn is really helpful in transitioning because it’s familiar” Finnigan said. “It’s not asking you to do anything weird or different, you can still have chilli, spaghetti bolognaise, all your usual foods, and just as good in the majority of cases I would argue, but without having to use meat.”

Farmageddon wins prestigious award in Italy

Thursday, June 11th, 2015
Actor, Luca Zingaretti, presents me with the Golden Doves for Peace Award ©RenatoFranceschin

Receiving the International Golden Dove for Peace Award from actor Luca Zingaretti ©RenatoFranceschin

I would like to say a heartfelt and sincere thanks to the Institute for International Research Archivio Disarmo for the very great honour of recognising Compassion in World Farming by awarding me the International Golden Dove for Peace Award (Colombe d’oro per la Pace).

The Institute’s 31st awards ceremony was held at the National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome last night. I would like to offer grateful thanks to its President, Fabrizio Battistelli, and distinguished panel of judges for bestowing this great honour.

During my acceptance speech, I paid tribute to the inspiration and vision of Compassion’s late founders, Peter and Anna Roberts. I accepted the award on their behalf and that of everyone who makes the charity the strong international voice for farm animals. The timing of the award was particularly poignant; only the weekend before, Peter and Anna’s ashes were scattered under their favourite oak tree.

Farmageddon was the culmination of three years travelling the world with Sunday Times journalist, Isabel Oakeshott, to expose the true cost of factory farming. Our journey brought home to me how the well-being of people and the environment is inextricably linked to the welfare of animals. Ultimately, Farmageddon is a story of hope; that a common sense approach to food, without factory farming, is by far the best way to ensure decent food for everyone forever.

Luca Zingaretti reading from Farmageddon

Luca Zingaretti reading from Farmageddon

I would like to say special thanks to actor, Luca Zingaretti (Inspector Montalbano), for reading so beautifully the entire introduction of Farmageddon during the citation. Special thanks to Farmageddon’s publisher, Nutrimenti in Italy and Bloomsbury in London. To Annamaria Pisapia, Compassion’s director in Italy, for her support throughout. To my co-author, Isabel Oakeshott. And thanks and shared congratulations to all Compassion’s trustees, staff and supporters worldwide.

Congratulations to journalists, Laura Silvia Battaglia, Giampaolo Cadalanu (La Repubblica) and Corrado Formigli, who were also awarded on the night.

When I look back at the people who have received the International Golden Dove for Peace Award in the past, I feel like a small man amongst giants. Jesse Jackson, Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and Jane Goodall to name but some. But I hope by accepting this wonderful award, it will help inspire people from all walks of life to stand up for peace, social justice and humanity. By walking together with giants, we can all bring about a better world.

Golden Dove for Peace Award

Golden Dove for Peace Award

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.

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.