This last year has been an incredibly busy and productive one for Compassion, with the publication of my book, Farmageddon: The true cost of cheap meat, the release of ground-breaking videos like ‘Secrets of Food Marketing’ and ‘Chicken factory farmer speaks out’, and the launch of our ambitious campaign to End the Cage Age.
As well as news, comments and updates, I have been really excited to host a wonderful array of special guest articles in 2014, each one giving their own personal take on factory farming and the issues it raises. Here we look again at some highlights:
Emma Silverthorn, granddaughter of dairy farmer and Compassion founder, Peter Roberts, was one of our first guest blogs of the year. Reflecting on the publication of Farmageddon and its meaning for their family, she wrote:
In the early 1960s, as Philip describes in Farmageddon’s Preface, a man from the farming ministry knocked on my grandparent’s door and told them to ‘boost business’ by moving into ‘intensive chicken rearing’. Thus, the seed was planted that led to their outrage that became their lifelong campaign. Peter momentarily weighed up the pros and cons of such a system. Nan instinctively said no.
Writer and commentator, George Monbiot, looked back to when he was 18 and a holiday job on an intensive pig farm:
[A]nd the things I witnessed there will never be erased from my mind. I’m aware that Compassion and your book bridge the issues: connecting the farming of livestock with the great web of damage to the natural world this does, and that it’s time I created the mental space to start engaging with it.
Key public voices are increasingly speaking out against factory farming. For example veteran environmentalist Jonathon Porritt wrote:
With 70 billion animals, today’s meat and dairy industries already contribute anywhere between 15 and 20 per cent of total greenhouse gas emissions, depending on how you do the sums. I think you can probably do your own sums for what that means for emissions from 120 billion animals in 2050.
Our chief policy advisor, Peter Stevenson, took issue with the government for hiding behind the buzz phrase of ‘sustainable intensification’:
Sustainable intensification stems from the (erroneous) belief that to feed the anticipated world population of 9.6 billion we need a huge increase in food production; often we’re told we need to produce 70% more food. And on this false premise governments and agri-business insist that further intensification is essential.
Peter concluded that at its worst, ‘policy makers use sustainable intensification to advocate [for] even more industrial farming. “We must always challenge the government whenever it claims sustainable intensification will work.”
Patrick Holden is one dairy farmer who is proving we don’t need sustainable intensification. In his guest column, ‘Putting Sustainable and Ethical Principles into Practice,’ the Founding Director of the Sustainable Food Trust wrote,
I am a dairy farmer who has been doing my best to put sustainable and ethical principles into practice on my family dairy farm in West Wales for over 40 years. Right at the start we tried to do the right thing by the land and the cows. No chemical fertilisers, pesticides or routine use of antibiotics for our native breed of Ayrshires. Each cow has a name. Over the years, we’ve been moving gradually to self-sufficiency of animal feed, with the cows grazing on a paddock system, along the principles of holistic pasture management.
Clive Phillips, Professor of Animal Welfare in the School of Veterinary Science at Queensland University and Chair of Animal Welfare at the Centre for Animal Welfare and Ethics, asked ‘Why Weren’t We Told?’
Can the public be excused for not knowing about the circumstances of food animal production? We were first warned about the inhumanity of using animals as machines 50 years ago, but dietary habits change slowly.
Clive concluded with a profound statement that I believe speaks for many of us and shows a way forward while issuing a cautionary warning.
Ghandi said that the greatness of a country could be seen from the way it looks after its animals. This is also true for every one of us. We too can be great in what we do for animals simply by what we choose to eat. We might even rekindle that respect for animals that our ancestors had, reserving meat consumption just for special occasions. But as long as governments ignore the cruelty and the public are unaware of what the animals have had to endure to produce the food that they eat, history will not judge us to have been a great civilisation.
Look out for Part Two of our review of special guest posts from 2014.