Sunday, 5 May 2019

The Ethics of Animal Products: Does Peace Begin On Your Plate?

In April Jane Smith of Compassion in World Farming spoke to us.

Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) was founded in the 1960s by a dairy farmer, Peter Roberts, who was horrified by modern intensive factory farming. Peter Roberts wanted to end all factory farming but agro-business is global with lots of international trade eg half of all pigs in factory farms are in China. CIWF members include meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans.

What is a farm? How big? Do they just provide food or other products too? Many farmers think their job is not what it used to be. Compare a high welfare farm which considers the health of the herd, good aeration of plants and uses no antibiotics with, for example, an intensive rabbit farm with all the rabbits in cages. 

Actually there are no intensive rabbit farms in the UK. Planning permission for one in Staffordshire was refused on grounds of transport not on animal welfare considerations. In the UK it is illegal to farm for pelts and most rabbit meat is used for pet food rather than human consumption.

Sheep are usually kept outside except in the worst weather as they are difficult to factory farm. However, new breeds of sheep, without wool, are being developed which can be kept indoors all the year round.

Most free range hens do not run around the farm yard, but are kept crowded in large sheds with openings to the outside. There is no guarantee that all the hens will find the outside space. There is often a dual system with battery eggs being produce by the same company. Pullets from the UK are being sent to foreign lands.

Two thirds of all farm animals live on factory farms and factory farming is increasing at six times the rate of traditional farming. Forty percent of the worlds grain harvest is used for livestock feed.

Pulitzer Prize winning author and environmentalist Gary Snyder said that Each creature is a spirit with an intelligence as brilliant as our own.  Professor Christine Nicol of the Department of Clinical Veterinary Science at Bristol University says that Every animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual. It is harder to think of factory farmed animals as individuals. 

Jane and her colleagues engage in farm patrols in Cheshire helping animals which have got into difficulties and are not receiving help from their owners.

Can change happen? The answer is yes. Successes so far in this country include:
1990 Banning of veal crates.
1997 Animals legally recognised as sentient beings for the first time in history.
1999 Sow stalls banned in the UK.
2012 Barren battery cages banned in the EU (but replaced by enriched battery cages).
2017 Permission refused for what would have been UK’s first rabbit farm (already mentioned).

Problems to be addressed include:
Entire animal lives still spent in cages.
The problem of male calves and chickens.
The global nature of the agro –industry.
Devastating environmental effects of Factory farming worldwide.
Live exports (however these have been reduced).
Brexit – need to keep an eye on legislation and US trade.

CIWF has a big Day of Action each year. In 2018 this was in Manchester.

They provided a demonstrated at the European Parliament when live animal exports were being considered. Even though they used relatively mild footage, some MEPs couldn’t watch it so voted to end the practice. However live exports continue between countries with lower standards than the EU.