It’s the old cliché, a myth peddled to children before they can even walk or talk, with colourful picture books showing happy animals grazing by duck ponds and hens clucking around the yard.
In these story books the farmer and his wife are a plump picture of health – their bonny children and a mischievous-looking collie at their sides. But in reality this idyll is no more reflective of the average working farm than a schmaltzy Hollywood romance is of the average relationship.
Each year, 50 billion farm animals are processed in factory farms. But it’s not a well-known fact. So my organisation, Compassion in World Farming has created YOUR FARM – The Honest Farm Toy to show what life is really like down on the farm.
It’s about time we packed away the fake farm toys and saw that animals raised on farms worthy of a Disney film are in the minority. Instead, two in every three farm animals across the world, live in misery – imprisoned in factories where they are routinely deprived of the freedoms that are so central to their welfare.
When I read George Monbiot’s recent article in the Guardian I wholeheartedly agreed with his observations of the farming industry, and see the vast majority turning a blind eye to the exploitation of the world’s farm animals and inhaling the spun fairy-tale at every opportunity.
In England today, only eight per cent of farms are ‘mixed’ – rearing more than one type of animal and also growing crops. They face a desperate struggle to survive. They have all too often been replaced by farms that specialise in one area: whether it is producing cereals, eggs, chicken, milk, pork or beef. These places would make a dismal day out for anyone, and would shock most schoolchildren. The Old Macdonald fallacy won’t stay credible much longer.
I think that if we are to truly reconnect with our food, we need to know where it comes from and this is where YOUR FARM comes in.
Not for kids!
It’s a boundary-pushing new toy that turns the iconic farm playset firmly on its head. Coupling quirky design with searing satire, this toy tells the story behind our food in a refreshingly honest and unique way.
Amongst the rows of tightly packed chickens, pigs and cows comes the paraphernalia of factory farming – from cages and antibiotics to fertilisers and soy-based feed. This lunch box-sized toy reveals the nightmarish reality that exists behind closed barn doors. It may be a world away from the picturesque farm toys we all played with as kids, but sadly it’s far closer to reality for most of the world’s livestock.
These farms are not only cruel to the animals trapped inside; they also contribute to a catalogue of social and environmental ills, from pollution and deforestation to poverty, hunger and disease. Although for now YOUR FARM is just a prototype, the truth really is our greatest weapon in the fight against factory farming.
If it’s broke, fix it.
Despite the realism, there’s a lighter side to the YOUR FARM experience. You can choose to “fix the farm”, freeing your cows, pigs and chickens from their tightly packed formations and unfolding the playset to reveal lush pasture and ample space for your animals to be as nature intended.
There’s an interactive website designed to showcase the farm’s features while highlighting the key problems associated with industrial farming.
You can go to www.yourfarmtoy.com to explore the real story behind the food on your plate. And we’ll be engaging with policy makers by sending them an animal from our farm, with the story behind the toy.
Thankfully, Britain still has a fair proportion of farms where animals are still allowed to do what nature intended; roam or graze on grass. But if the policy of intensification continues unchallenged the only farms rearing animals on pasture will be tourist attractions.
Without a change of tack, factory farming will soon be the norm.
Join the growing army of #FarmFixers at www.yourfarmtoy.com and help spread the word far and wide.