Posts Tagged ‘free range’

Super Chickens!

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

It’s important for me to keep up to date with news and latest developments in factory farming and its global impact. That is why I’m often hunched over my computer scanning through news reports and insightful papers earmarked by Compassion’s staff.

One media report stopped me in my tracks. It reminded me of one of those awful self-imposed problems brought about by the insanity of factory farming.

Thousands of chicks are bred daily to supply the constant need for more chickens to be raised to lay eggs. But nature only designed female hens to lay eggs. Male cock chicks are therefore surplus to requirements. Killed at just a day old. Wasted. Globally every year billions of male cock chicks are killed after hatching. They’re mostly gassed in the UK or macerated, which means being fed alive into large high-speed grinders.

What was it about the media report that prompted me to think about the plight of male cock chicks?

Free-range hens happier in cages? Just look at the hens

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Are you one of the British egg-lovers who have helped make free-range sales over 50% of  egg sales? Well done if you are, but you might be questioning your wisdom if you read yesterday’s reports suggesting it’s better to buy eggs from caged hens because they live in more humane conditions. Really?

Let’s have a quick look at the backstory to this. Last year, right across the European Union, the keeping of hens in barren battery cages was banned. These cages can hold five birds (and more in some countries), giving each less floor space than a sheet of A4 paper, so that they stand day in, day out, on a sloping wire mesh floor, unable even to flap or stretch their wings, never mind laying their eggs in a quiet and comfortable nest. (Research shows that this nesting behaviour is very important to hens.)

Since then, our hopes of a massive move to free range systems have not yet been realised. The industry has just put more hens in larger cages – so called enriched, or colony, cages.

Better food labelling now!

Monday, March 5th, 2012

BBC Countryfile last night raised the important issue of food labelling.  It’s an issue that really should have much greater prominence. 

For far too long, meat and milk from the factory farm has been allowed to hide behind labels such as ‘farm fresh’.  Yes, food produced to genuinely higher standards, such as free range, organic or Freedom Food will be labelled.  But it competes on the shelf with labels that all too often give a misleading impression of how the food is produced.  This makes compassionate consumerism all the more difficult.

That is why Compassion in World Farming has joined forces with our friends at the RSPCA, Soil Association and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) to launch a new campaign for better food labelling.  We want to see all meat and milk labelled according to how it was produced.  We have already won this for eggs; eggs from hens in cages have to labelled as just that; ‘eggs from caged hens’.  We want to see the same rule applied to intensively farmed chickens reared for meat, to pork and bacon from animals bred and reared indoors, and, well, the same principle applied to all products from animals. 

The recent furore over plans, now withdrawn, for a US-style mega-dairy in Lincolnshire has also brought the labelling of milk to the fore; have the cows been kept in large numbers, confined on concrete and sand or have they been kept in fields during the grazing season? 

I believe consumers have a right to know how their food is produced.  Our new campaign is aimed at achieving just that; clear labelling by law.  So that consumers can be absolutely sure how their food is produced.

Please support our campaign.  Over the coming months, we’ll be offering you plenty of ways you can get involved.  And remember; when shopping for food produced to genuinely higher standards of welfare, look for terms such as ‘free range’, ‘organic’ or ‘Freedom Food’.

Reflections on a cage ban

Thursday, November 10th, 2011
Philip and Huckle

Philip with Huckle, the latest addition to the family

I’m watching the latest addition to our family; a small, featherless hen fresh from her battery cage. Her entire life has been spent crammed with others into a cage where she could not even stretch her wings, let alone walk, flap, scratch at the ground. In short, she was denied being able to do the things that make life worth living for a hen. Just hours away from that wretched existence and her weakened body responds to the warmth of the sun. She walks the length and breadth of our garden. She scratches at the ground and pecks inquisitively at a world previously denied her.

I was recently asked how I feel about the European ban on barren battery cages, due to come into force on New Year’s Day. Put simply, it is perhaps the most monumental victory in the history of animal welfare. It is a huge success story won by the persistence of so many.

After all, it takes a lot to get something banned. Especially when that something dominates an entire industry. Churning out a staple product – eggs – for much of Europe. Yet, we did it. By waving banners, writing letters, buying better eggs. By coming together.

I remember the day the agreement was reached; in June 1999. Animal campaigners throughout Europe had gathered in Luxembourg. We eagerly awaited the outcome of EU negotiations on the future of cages. I will never forget the overwhelming sense of elation at hearing that barren cages would be banned! Standing on the steps of the European Council building, nervously hanging on to every word, as the UK Minister explained what had been agreed. An enduring feeling of privilege at being there on the day that history was made. An end in sight to the nightmare of the battery. The beginning of a better way.

It’s not a perfect law. Sadly, they rarely are. There was the painfully long “phase in” period of 12 long years for example. And then there was the clause that will allow so-called ‘enriched’ cages; bigger with a perch and stuff.

But so many more hens will be living lives of freedom. The rise of keeping hens free range, particularly in the UK, has been obvious.

And then there is the corporate trend. Some of the world’s biggest companies have recently decided to go cage-free on their eggs. McDonald’s in Europe, Sainsbury’s and Unilever to name but three. They have harnessed the food quality benefits of going cage-free; and responded to their customer’s aspirations for a better world on their plate. Millions of hens are living cage-free lives already as a result.

Back at home, our new hen nestles into a bed of straw. It’s the first time she has ever made a nest. She lays an egg. I can see the difference made to the life of this one sensitive creature. How wondrous then that, from 1st January next year, the tireless efforts of compassionate people everywhere will have touched the lives of so many millions more.

I cannot thank you enough; for being part of this campaign, for your support. Together, we are making a difference. There is still much more to do.

What is the cost of moving to higher welfare meat and dairy?

Sunday, October 16th, 2011

Today is Blog Action Day. I do hope that many of you have decided to get involved and have written a blog that is in some way related to food.

Of the many food-based topics that I wanted to write about, I eventually hit upon an area that I think many of you would like to talk about further. Here at Compassion in World Farming, we urge people to choose higher welfare meat, whether that be at the supermarket or when you eat out. But the big question on everyone’s minds (and lips), particularly in the current economic environment is: how much will this cost?

My esteemed colleague, Peter Stevenson, wrote a report recently entitled Reviewing the Costs: the economics of moving to higher welfare farming. This is primarily for the farming community, retailers and the government. It is a research paper of sorts, and one that I have found invaluable. Please do take this opportunity to read it, should you be interested in having some more in-depth knowledge on the subject. However, the point remains, what all of us, ‘the consumers’ want to know is: how much will it cost me when I am shopping and is it worth it?

Many of you, like me, will want to feed your family on humane, sustainable, higher welfare food. Is this financially viable?

Farmageddon on film

Read the whole story

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.