FarmyardAccording to the ‘Farming Industry’ and Agribusiness, the way in which creation has evolved is hideously wrong. You cannot cook and eat a chicken unless you pluck the feathers off which is a waste of time and money. So the farming industry has developed chickens without feathers. Instead of allowing cows to ruminate freely in fields of grass, it has decided it is much better to keep cows in narrow pens, feed them grain that has been processed and saturated in pesticides and to genetically modify the cow so that it can be milked more frequently in order to increase milk yields. The farming industry says animals are much more efficient food producers if they are kept in tightly confined cages and pens and fed a very intensive high protein diet.

The folly of this way of thinking and the disastrous consequences of the industry’s interference in nature is meticulously documented in a highly distressing and disturbing book by the CEO of ‘Compassion in World Farming’. It is a grim story of devastating dimensions. We are busy creating our own new version of a hell of tortured and abused farm animals, polluted and poisoned land, rivers and seas and a range of new diseases in both animals and humans alike derived from the phosphates, nitrates and other highly toxic chemicals used in pesticides and fertilisers and animal feed. There is, according to ‘Farmageddon’, clear evidence that these poisons and toxins are gradually finding their way into the human food chain.

The appalling ignorance among many of our MPs, MEPs and ‘Lords’ of these issues and what is happening on factory farms and to the countryside is exemplified by their willingness to pass legislation based on ideology rather than facts and evidence, and by their all too easy acceptance of the influence of powerful lobby groups working on behalf of agribusiness.

As a recent correspondent to The Independent newspaper said
‘Abuse is endemic in the conveyer-belt system (of abattoirs) that allows animal killing on this massive scale. In the UK we breed, fatten and slaughter one billion animals a year. When animals are seen as a “crop” to be “harvested” and a “product” to be sold as meat, compassion and empathy are in short supply”. (The Independent, 15th February 2015, Letters, from Sara Starkey, Tonbridge, Kent).

The author of ‘Farmageddon’ has travelled widely to gather facts and figures regarding the cost and effects of factory farming. Each of his chapters begins with a personal story of how small farmers, village communities, animal and fish populations have been affected by the mass production of food by intensive farming methods. It is certainly not only the animals that suffer. People in North and South America who have found themselves living close to vast pig farms develop respiratory problems and health issues. In Derbyshire, the Green Party has put a lot of work into campaigning against the application to build a mega pig farm at Foston. Although the plans have not been passed at the moment, it is likely that after the election, Midland Pig Producers will appeal against any decisions that don’t go their way.

In spite of the bland assurances of the ‘industry’ manure tanks do overflow, genetically modified plants and fish do escape into the eco-system, and minute particles in pesticides and fertilisers do leach into the water table and the atmosphere with measurable negative health effects on populations.

In fish farms, certain species of fish which cease to ‘fatten up’ once they have reached puberty, are artificially modified into a kind of ‘third sex’ so that they continue to put on weight. Wherever animals that were intended to roam free are cooped up in totally artificial conditions they show distress, boredom and injury. We truly have created a hell on earth, yet its residents are not simply the long suffering animals but the humans who designed and built it; we are ultimately the victims of the way in which we permit the farming industry to turn animals into ‘products’.

The writing must surely be on the wall when we read that the Parisian chef Alain Ducasse, with 18 Michelin stars has ‘removed all meat from the menu at his eponymous restaurant in Paris’s most storied hotel, the Plaza Athénée’ (The Independent, Friday 13th March 2015, p47). Why has he done this? Because, according to Ducasse,
‘There is an absolute necessity to go towards a better way of eating, in harmony with nature; healthier and more environmentally friendly’.

If we are to avoid an environmental catastrophe in the next 40 years we need to reduce our consumption of meat by 50%, according to a report in the journal Environmental Research Letters.

Country fieldThe Green Party believes that we need to expose the ‘big lie’ of factory farming that their existence is necessary in order to feed the world’s burgeoning population. This simply is not true. There is no real problem about feeding the world if we all reduce the amount of meat that we consume and reduce the huge amount of food waste that we tolerate.

This article has been adapted from a review, written by Donald Macdonald for Derby Cathedral Outlook, of the book Farmageddon by Philip Lymbery (Bloomsbury, 2014)

To find out more, you can watch a short film on the Compassion in World Farming website www.ciwf.org.uk/farm-animals/

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