Posts Tagged ‘soya’

Chickens in the desert

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

April started with a plane ride from Argentina to Peru. I was halfway through a tour of duty looking at factory farming’s insatiable desire for animal feed from far flung lands; soya, fishmeal and the like. Driving through the desert north of Lima was when I realised just how all-pervasive factory farming really is. It was as desert as I’d ever seen; just flat sand; not a cactus or other plant anywhere. Nothing. Punched up from the ground were ridges and mountains; some like wind-blown burial mounds; others jagged and scarred as if swiped by a giant tiger paw. But there in the distance, spread across the sand was what looked like the encampment of an army on the move. Long white tents lined up in the desert. It was an eerie site. This was an intensive chicken meat farm in the desert; seemingly on the edge of the Earth.

During my brief stay in Peru, I met with local people concerned at the impact that factory farming and in particular, the fishmeal industry is having on their community. Much of the fishmeal is exported to feed industrially reared animals in places like Asia and the UK. It was rocket fuel for the book that I’m writing with Sunday Times journalist, Isabel Oakeshott.

As April turned to May, I looked at alternatives to factory farming; like a pasture-based farm in Cheshire where cattle and sheep are kept in high welfare conditions in ways that benefit the environment. I visited a Dagenham recycling plant to look at the possibility of recycling food waste instead of dumping it. After all, we throw away about a quarter of our food, putting great pressure on our agricultural lands to produce more than is actually needed. It puts an awful lot of pressure on the world’s resources. I wanted to find out if there was a better way of using it than burying in landfill. It was a privilege to speak with Tristram Stuart, an expert in food waste and the environment.

I spent some time at Wageningen University in the Netherlands where they’re researching novel ways of producing food and fuel from seaweed and algae. I also visited a hugely inspiring mixed farm; White Oaks Pasture in Georgia, USA, where a mix of farm animals are kept in truly high welfare conditions on the land in a way that is not only environmentally friendly, but is commercial and scalable. It was a joy to see. And seeing 50,000 chickens being reared for meat in the most verdant surroundings provided the perfect contrast to the bizarre site of chicken factory farms in the Peruvian desert.

Back at our Godalming headquarters in the UK, there’s been lots going on. We launched our exposé into rabbit farming and ramped up our campaign in Europe for better labelling.

In the same period, we’ve launched our new RAW campaign; aimed at exposing the raw truth about factory farming. It’s a campaign that we believe will garner wide support and will be addressing the kinds of issues we’ve been exploring recently at home and little-known hotspots like Peru around the world.

Is this Argentina?

Friday, March 30th, 2012

Santa Fe, Argentina:  We’ve just driven 200 kilometres through a monotonous countryside covered with the low olive hue of ripening soya.  Our guide tells us it’s typical of Argentina, except perhaps the mountains and stunning areas like Patagonia.  It’s very different from the mental picture I had beforehand; of a lush patchwork of pampas, grazing cattle and bird-rich forests.

I’m travelling with a journalist and a camera crew.  I’m researching a book about how our food affects people, animals and the environment in both distant lands and close to home.  I’m also filming for a new campaign exposing the raw truth behind factory farming, be it confined animals or the chemical-soaked crops used to feed them.

We arrived in the town of San Jorge.  We pulled up beside the police station and adjacent tall municipal centre where local media had gathered.  I was taking part in a press conference held by leaders of the ‘Stop Spraying’ campaign.  Local councilor, Esteban Roglich was joined on the platform by Dr Damien Verzanasi, a leading doctor against indiscriminate pesticide spraying.  The Doctor works with the victims of the agri-toxins relentlessly sprayed for industrial soya-growing.

I listened to harrowing tales of children near-fatally affected by blanket spraying of crops and communities from airplanes.  A small community had won a landmark battle to stop the planes showering their homes with powerful toxic pesticides.  A Bill was now being introduced to extend this vital protection to the entire town.  I found myself welcomed into this, the heartland of the battle against the ill-effects of industrial farming.  My message was one of solidarity.  I promised to take their story back to Europe where so much of the soya around here could well end up.

You see, Argentina is the soya meal capital of the world.  It accounts for half the world’s production for export.  Most of it is destined for markets such as Europe and China.  Soya meal is used to feed factory farmed animals.  And there’s the connection.  That is why I’m here; to link with people on the frontline of the fight for a better food system.  To call for a common sense approach to feeding people that doesn’t harm distant communities, their landscapes or farm animals.

In the UK, few of us know that the cheap meat on our shelves is all too often linked to the plight of distant communities and their countryside.  In recent years, a sizeable proportion of the soya meal fed to Britain’s factory farmed animals has come from here, the vast monocultures of Argentina’s diminished landscape.  Thankfully, solutions are close at home.  By choosing food from humanely reared animals, we can really help make a difference to imperiled communities, environments and the welfare of the farm animals themselves.

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.