The publication of Farmageddon at the beginning of 2014 opened the door to a new international audience for our message to end the cage age for farmed animals. I travelled throughout the world to places like China and Argentina researching the global impact of industrial agriculture for Farmageddon. Now my travel is very much aimed at building an international movement against factory farming. Here I look back at some of my guest postings from around the world in 2014.
I was honoured to meet Professor David Bilchitz, director of the South African Institute for Advanced Constitutional Human Rights and International Law, who sees no place for factory farming in South Africa.
Factory farming is devastating for animal welfare. It treats animals ‘like units in an industrial process’, said the famous South African author J M Coetzee. It has no regard for their intrinsic value and does not respect their basic rights to bodily integrity and to live in an environment in which they can flourish. Arguably this runs counter to the essence of the new [South African] constitutional framework which requires a concern for those who are weakest and most vulnerable. And, finally, it is devastating for the environment through a range of effects it causes.
But the news in South Africa isn’t all bad. I also met Angus McIntosh a farming pioneer in alternative ways to raising animals.
Our 350 cattle are outside on pasture all year round, he told me. We are the only pure grass fed beef operation in the country. We move our cattle four times a day to new pasture. This is known as the high density grazing methodology proselytised by Allan Savory. It also sequesters carbon which conventional beef operations don’t do. Our 4,000 laying hens lay their eggs overnight in Eggmobiles. These are moved daily to new pasture.
Benjamin Cost witnessed the same problem of the development of intensive farming in China.
And as China’s upper class grows, so will its already ravenous appetite for meat, putting a strain on the world’s meat and grain supply. China’s grain consumption is growing by 17 million tons per year, and it now buys around two thirds of soybean exports in the world, a crucial ingredient in animal feed.
Thinking about how two-thirds of farm animals worldwide are currently factory farmed, I’m reminded of David Bilchitz when he concluded our interview:
We also know that the abuse of animals is strongly connected to the abuse of human beings, particularly women and children. A violent society like South Africa needs to recognise the power that stimulating a compassionate approach to animals can have in promoting a kinder and more caring ethos in the society. We must expand the circle of compassion to include nonhuman animals and in so doing we will advance the great ideals of the liberation struggle in South Africa and the constitution.
With the populations of developing countries increasing emulating the unhealthy, uneconomic and cruel diets of the developed world, it strengthens my resolve that we must work toward a system of agriculture that is reflected in the name of our organisation: Compassion in World Farming.
That’s why I’m pleased to share with you that — thanks to your generous support — our work for farmed animals and sustainable farms is reaching out to more countries than ever before.
In my interview with Reineke Hameleers, Director of Eurogroup for Animals, she remarks:
The plight of Europe’s animals is a cross-border topic. It can’t be improved only at the level of the Member States. Billions of animals are bred, reared, traded, sold, transported, and killed in many different countries.
I agree with Reineke’s remarks and their focus on the European Union. But her understanding of animal welfare as an international issue within the EU also speaks for me when I think about it as a global issue.
And brings me full circle back to where I began in the first of this two-part series with Emma Silverthorn, granddaughter of Compassion’s founders, Peter and Anna Roberts.
Nan and Peter were never only concerned about animals, as they always saw the interconnectedness of life. Their belief that factory farming not only entails a great deal of systemic cruelty to animals, but also its lack of sustainability, and cause of human suffering, is now well documented. In the early days, though, they and their ideas were regularly dismissed as cranks.
To me, 2014 was a year of hope and change. The movement to end factory farming is moving into the mainstream. The challenge we face as a society is to untangle the veil of secrecy that maintains the illusion of so-called ‘cheap’ meat, when the reality is a heavy price paid by our health, the environment, animal welfare and the planet we all depend upon. However, we can all make a difference in helping bring about that step change needed if we are to avert Farmageddon in favour of a truly humane and sustainable food system for all.