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A Year in Farming
Posted 13 August 2008
The Year of Food and Farming – an initiative launched by government and industry – is now over. Starting in September 2007 – on the very same day that another outbreak of Foot & Mouth was announced – and running through to July 2008, this initiative was intended to show farming at its greatest. In fact, as the diary below indicates, the past ten months have revealed a much sorrier and more sordid picture.
- As Foot & Mouth continued to spread, several other diseases affected farmed animals and those who consume them. During September, Q fever, Bluetongue and resistant E. coli were also found in Britain.
- A report published in the medical journal, The Lancet (8/9/07), stated that eating meat is threatening the environment and that the habit should be curbed. Gases from animals bred for food account for nearly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide – more than the entire transport sector. ‘That leaves reducing demand for meat as the only real option,’ said Dr John Powles of Cambridge University.
- In September, Animal Aid exposed in the national media a new trend in dairy farming – the permanently confined, zero grazed, ‘battery cow’.
- Also in September, Animal Aid exposed for the first time the slaughter of horses in an English abattoir. The carcasses are exported to the continent for meat. Thousands of people saw the inside of a slaughterhouse for the first time and connected the deaths of horses for meat with the deaths of other animals.
- Foot & Mouth continued to spread, with the eighth case being announced this month. The 11th case of Bluetongue was also announced.
- Animal Aid exposed in the national media the horrors of permanently confined zero grazed dairy goats. More than a thousand people immediately contacted Animal Aid to offer their support.
- Animal Aid’s Wendy the Windy Cow toured the country to explain the link between animal farming and climate change, kicking off in Winchester – the City named as having the largest ecological footprint per person. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
- Animal Aid exposed in the national media the conditions inside a typical intensive turkey shed and urged shoppers to instead opt for a compassionate Christmas.
- Wendy the Windy Cow joined the Climate Change rally in London to highlight the impact on the environment of eating animal products.
- Throughout the month, attention was focused on the plight of intensively farmed chickens as two celebrity chefs brought the horrors of factory farming to the public.
- At the World Economic Forum, the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, warned that water and food shortages would be the crises of 2008. A typical meat-eating, milk-drinking westerner consumes as much as 100 times their own weight in water every day. And if crops were simply fed directly to people, less would be needed and the use of precious resources dramatically reduced.
- This month, many farmed animals drowned as floodwaters rose around the country. Animal Aid called for one Staffordshire farmer to be prosecuted for not moving sheep to higher ground when he had the opportunity. More than 20 of his animals drowned.
- A cloned mother gave birth to a calf on a British farm. A report later issued by the European Food Safety Authority stated: ‘The health and welfare of a significant proportion of clones have been found to be adversely affected, often severely and with a fatal outcome.’
- The UN’s World Food Programme warned of global food shortages as more and more grain is fed to farmed animals.
- March is Animal Aid’s Veggie Month, which was supported by comedian Dave Spikey. Restaurants around the country donated free meals, Waterstones’ bookstores promoted veggie books and gave away our bookmarks and Wendy the Windy Cow took her environmental message to Wales and the south-west.
- The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) released a report warning that red meat – such as beef, pork and lamb – and processed meats are strongly linked to bowel cancer. Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the WCRF now warns, ‘the safest amount [of processed meat] to eat is none at all’.
- Animal Aid followed the lives of 30,00 chickens in one typical Somerset broiler shed. The birds were filmed three times throughout their 42-day life and – on the last visit – six sick and ailing birds were removed for veterinary treatment.
- Shocking scenes of a typical British pig farm were exposed in the national media after a visit by Animal Aid investigators under the headline ‘Sty of Death’.
- Compassion in World Farming revealed its ‘horrendous’ findings from filming at a battery egg farm in Devon. The story ran in the Independent on Sunday.
- Scientists announced that it was safe to lift the ban on feeding chickens to pigs and pigs to chickens. Bird flu experts warn that the virus can mutate into a deadly form as it passes through these two species.
- Animal Aid’s full investigation into the British pig farming industry hit the headlines. The Independent splashed our findings over pages 1 and 2. Ten farms across five counties were investigated – including two run by companies of which British Pig Executive bosses were directors. Ripples were felt throughout the industry. The aim of the investigation was to reveal the disparity between the reality of British pig farms and the marketing hype.
- A new Animal Aid website was launched to help people reduce their carbon footprint through changing their diet. Veganrecipes.org.uk gives enough tasty recipes to last three weeks, plus information and advice.
- Another Avian Influenza outbreak at an Oxfordshire poultry farm was announced.
- According to The Independent, three Britons were infected with a new variant of the superbug MRSA, which is found in factory farmed pigs. The fears are that, because none of those infected works with pigs, the ST398 strain has now entered the food chain.
- It was announced that eight calves had been born to a cloned mother in the UK. The animals had been sold and it was unknown where they were. Fears were voiced that their meat – or meat from the offspring of other cloned animals – could soon appear in shops, without being labeled.
- Animal Aid’s investigation into a Freedom Food chicken farm was the lead story on Channel Five News. The birds in this intensive shed never saw daylight, were denied perches and objects to peck at (as demanded by Freedom Food) and suffered a high incidence of crippling leg disorders. More than 600 birds had died in that shed alone. The farm was thrown off the Freedom Food scheme.
- The government announced that a cull of badgers would not go ahead in England, despite intensive lobbying by the farming industry. Farmers have long blamed badgers for spreading TB to dairy cows, despite evidence that killing badgers would not solve the problem but that tackling the filthy, intensive nature of modern dairy farming and preventing the movement of sick cows around the country could.
- The government’s Farm Animal Welfare Council condemned the castration and tail docking of lambs on British farms. Both procedures are commonplace.
- British farmers exported bovine TB to the Netherlands when they sent infected calves on the long-distance journey to be reared for veal.
- The winners of Animal Aid’s youth competition came to London to receive their awards from TV presenter, Wendy Turner Webster. More than 1500 entries were submitted on the theme of factory farming. The young artists and poets spoke out strongly against the mass cruelty to animals on farms.
Organisers of the Year of Food & Farming claim it was a ‘great success’ and that it has brought the public a greater awareness of farm and countryside issues. And we agree! The past year really has put British farming in the spotlight and shown what that industry is all about – shocking welfare standards, disease outbreaks and animal suffering.