Posts Tagged ‘food system’

Hidden tragedy of horses forgotten?

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The current food scandal is shocking, if nothing else, for revealing the extent to which horse meat has fraudulently made its way into processed meat products labelled “beef”. It turns out that horse meat is so ubiquitous that UK government ministers now talk about an international criminal conspiracy.

The scandal has been met by popular outrage. The serious debate has focused on how a profusion of horsemeat got into the food chain and who’s to blame. But in all of the debate, it seems we’ve forgotten the welfare of horses themselves.

I fear for them. How were they treated? How did they die?

These horses are often not bred for food. They are mostly surplus animals who end up as meat. Their lives often start out as pets, or as working animals on a farm, or as race horses. When they become unwanted and unloved, their financial value drops and their meagre worth is determined by how much profit can be extracted from their carcasses.

We know that even in the best regulated slaughterhouses, cows, pigs, sheep and chickens are likely to suffer fear and anxiety. Horses too can suffer terribly during the slaughter process. Their future is now as cheap meat. Let’s look at what we know.

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Betrayal of consumer trust

Friday, February 8th, 2013

As the horsemeat scandal takes yet another twist, the true extent is revealed of the betrayal of consumer trust.  That so much horsemeat masquerading as beef could enter the British food chain is staggering enough.  It also begs the bigger question of what else is getting into our food without us knowing?

How do we know that meat from religiously slaughtered animals – their throats often cut whilst fully conscious – isn’t getting into the wider food chain?

How do we know that pig meat isn’t getting into non-pork products; something that would be of real concern to some religious communities?

How do we know that pork produced using cruel sow stalls, banned in Britain and partially so in Europe, isn’t being stocked on some supermarket shelves?

How do we know that meat from the offspring of cloned animals isn’t once again in the British food chain, as it was in 2010?  After all, there is no requirement to label meat and milk from the offspring of clones.  What’s more, the UK government leads the way in opposing any effective European restrictions on cloning.

What we do know is that much of the meat on many supermarket shelves is from factory farmed animals, but consumers are denied real power of choice because it isn’t labelled to say how it was produced.

And there’s another question that no one seems to be asking.  The horses that found their way into British burgers and ready meals; how were they killed? Did they end their lives in a state of fear, pain and misery?  I suspect we’ll never know.  After all, if their meat can slip into our food so widely without us knowing, how will we ever find out how they died?

The scandal raises more questions than answers.  What I do know is that urgent action is needed, not least by Government, to start rebuilding public confidence.  An obvious first measure would be to introduce compulsory labelling telling consumers how their food was produced.  By my reckoning, it’s the least they should do.

Horse Meat Scandal

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Now we know we can add horse meat in beef lasagne to a long list of food scandals. A litany that already includes mad cow disease, salmonella in eggs, antibiotics-resistant superbugs, etc..

Consumers feel betrayed.

Do we really know how our food is produced? Can we ever know what is in the food we eat? Are farmers and food producers to be trusted?

Today’s scandal of horse meat in beef products is likely the tip of the iceberg.  There are real and deep-rooted problems sitting below the surface of our broken food system. And the bottom line is that we clearly, all too often, just don’t know what’s in our food or how it’s produced. 

Beef lasagne products removed from supermarket shelves have been found to be almost entirely horse meat. The Food Standards Agency reports the product was produced by a French supplier.

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The Unkind, Unsustainable and Unhealthy Food Tax

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Taxes. No one likes paying them. They’re the stuff of nightmares. But I dream of The Unkind, Unsustainable and Unhealthy Food Tax. That’s The UUU Food Tax for short.

I’m no politician. I recognise that The UUU Food Tax doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue. It doesn’t leave a pleasant taste in the mouth either. It won’t get me elected. But it’s time we had a serious conversation about something like The UUU Food Tax. You see, time isn’t necessarily on our side. Besides, appeals to people to voluntarily change their behaviour appear to work for some but not all. Taxing the food industry, in just proportion to the damage it causes to animals, the environment and people, is legitimate public policy.

I’m inspired by how taxes and other public policy initiatives have significantly impacted the consumption of tobacco. According to the NHS, the percentage of people smoking in England has dropped from 39 in 1980 to 21 in 2009.  Given the serious impact tobacco has on human health, including the financial, human and other resources needed to pay for care and treatment, one in five people smoking today, is not only an individual tragedy for everyone concerned, but also an enormous demand on society.

If taxing tobacco can help change people’s behaviour for their own well being and for the good of society, why can’t we tax unkind, unsustainable and unhealthy foods, like cheap meat, eggs and dairy?
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Dirty Water

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

This year’s summer in Britain isn’t going to be memorable. But, in America, it’s an altogether different story. Drought and record temperatures are causing serious problems.

The New York Times reports the drought is ‘over more than half of the continental United States’ and is the ‘most widespread in more than half a century’. Plus, it’s the ‘hottest year ever recorded,’ since records began in 1895. Of course, this is making many people’s lives miserable. There’s also an increase in wildfires to contend with as well as the threat of rail tracks buckling in the heat.

It’s even worse for farmed animals in cages and crates. They can’t escape the heat and humidity. They’re lucky if they feel a warm breeze when the doors to the sheds housing them are opened.

The weather is making a difference to farming in other ways. The production of corn, soya and other crops grown for animal feed is severely affected. The lack of water directly impacts plant growth. Yields are down, forcing prices up, which, in turn, increases costs to the consumer to buy meat, eggs and dairy, and bread and other staples.

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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.