Posts Tagged ‘soya’

Argentina’s mosquito madness

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Philip Argentina (Mosquitoes)“…the natural habitat and the animals that control the mosquito larvae are destroyed.” 

As I travelled through Argentina for my research for Farmageddon, I got a taste of what it’s like to be eaten alive by mosquitoes!

In places, the mosquitoes seemed to be out of control. I learned how they appear to be spreading with the ever-expanding green deserts of GM soya. Vast monocultures doused with agrochemicals to keep pests at bay seem to also be disarming nature’s own defences leading to an upset in the ecological balance.

In this short film, I talk to people on the ground in Argentina to find out what’s going on with soya, much of it destined for export to feed industrially reared animals in Europe.

To get your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.

What’s on the Horizon?

Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Soya field at sunset

Soya monoculture in Argentina

I was thrilled to see the prestigious BBC programme Horizon addressing the issue of meat consumption and feeding the planet in a series of two programmes, ‘Should I Eat Meat? – The Big Health Dilemma’ on 18th August and ‘Should I Eat Meat? – How to Feed the Planet’ on 20th August.

I was interviewed in the second programme, where I emphasised that it’s madness to rear animals in factory farms where they are fed cereals and soya that could instead be feeding people directly.

I was concerned that some of the environmental issues were glossed over too rapidly. The programme presented a rather myopic view on greenhouse gases (GHG), suggesting that intensive animal farming is the most environmentally sound way forward. But whilst the GHG issue is vital, it cannot be seen in isolation.

We needed more coverage on the benefits of pasture-based free range and organic farming, where biodiversity is maintained, the soil is nourished with animal manure, the animals obtain most of their nourishment from their surrounding environment and they have the potential for a great quality of life.

With a hungry planet to feed, it is monstrous that we are currently feeding 4 billion people’s worth of cereals and soya to animals, whilst people go to bed hungry. The space to grow all this grain would cover the entire land surface of the European Union, although much of it is being grown in South America at the expense of the rainforest and savannah.

The visit to a broiler chicken farm was misleading as the chickens shown were only about three weeks old and, although they were obviously already walking in an ungainly way, with frequent rest stops, this was a week or so before the really dire lameness problems can set in over the last week or two of their short lives. That was not shown.

Thankfully the programme did finally conclude that the only long-term solution is for a large reduction in meat consumption. Eating less meat will ease pressure on the earth, is likely to bring health benefits to people and will enable widespread adoption of the very best pasture-based farming systems, which will produce enough meat to meet human demand, whilst enhancing animal wellbeing.

Farmageddon on Film: Argentina’s growing deserts of green

Thursday, August 14th, 2014
Argentina’s soya desert

Argentina’s soya desert

“Some of the poorest and most disempowered people in the world are being cast aside.”

One of the most touching experiences of the Farmageddon journey was hearing the plight of indigenous people thrown off their ancestral land after it was sold off for industrial farming.

They lived deep in the forests of northeastern Argentina, an area so remote and impenetrable that early Spanish settlers called it the Impenetrable Forest. Some still survive in the shrinking wilderness. Many, like those I met on the outskirts of Rosario, have been displaced into the suburbs.

My time with the once proud people of the Toba Qom tribe was deeply troubling. They were living in extremely basic housing in an area rife with crime. We met in the community centre where ten men sat round the table in a poorly-lit room. We drank maté together, a bitter herbal tea made from the yerba plant served in a communal cup with curved nickel straw.

Talking with people of the Qom

Talking with people of the Qom

It was a difficult few hours, complicated by the fact that the Qom have their own language. Through a translator, I learned how their people have been pushed into smaller and smaller territories.

The secretary of the group told me how a multinational company had bought the land they were living on; “The provincial government sold our land, with us included in the price, because we happened to be there. We had no value of course… they fenced off the land and installed armed guards.”

The land was ploughed up to grow GM soya for export as soya meal to feed industrially reared animals in Europe and China.

See my video blog from that experience here in the latest in the Farmageddon on Film series.

For your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.

Argentina: What price cheap feed for Europe’s factory farms?

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
Filmed in the soya fields; Philip in Argentina

Filmed in the soya fields; Philip in Argentina

“Soya is a business for the few and an epidemic for the masses.”

We drove 200 kilometres through a monotonous countryside covered with the low olive hue of ripening soya. Apart from the mountains and stunning areas like Patagonia I was told this was fairly typical of Argentina today. It was very different from how I had pictured it in my mind’s eye. Like many, I suspect, Argentina evokes images of lush green pastures, grazing cattle and rich forests.

I was travelling with a camera crew and journalist, Isabel Oakeshott, then political editor at the Sunday Times. It was part of a global journey of research for Farmageddon and a mission to expose the true cost of cheap meat.

During our time in Argentina, we heard harrowing tales of children near-fatally affected by blanket spraying pesticides over crops and communities. We saw thousands of cattle confined to dusty feedlots, not a blade of grass in sight. We spoke to people who felt their lives had been broken by living beside an industry geared toward producing feed for factory farmed animals an ocean away.

Argentina is the soya meal export capital of the world, accounting for nearly half of global exports; much of it is destined for Europe and China. Used to feed factory farmed animals, its affect on distant communities and the countryside, represent yet more hidden costs of cheap meat.

This next in the Farmageddon on Film series takes us to the epicentre of this vast industry and asks, could there be a better way?

View the full film here.

For your copy of ‘Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat’, click here.

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.

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.