Posts Tagged ‘farming’

Veganic Farming

When it comes to agriculture, arguably the biggest buzzword of the last decade has been ‘organic’.

With the huge expansion in organic farming, organically grown crops no longer need to be sought out at specialised farmers markets or stores, and it’s now commonplace to walk into your local supermarket and alongside every vegetable comes its organic counterpart.

However, the word ‘organic’ has, to some extent, become a victim of its own success. With the huge hype around organic, people often choose to buy organic food (and now clothing) with little understanding of what that actually means other than ‘it’s a better option’.

There is a distinct irony in this: the modern organic movement originated in, essentially, a desire to reconnect with food – food that, over the last century, had become pumped full of chemicals and sprayed with pesticides and fertilisers. When I head to aisle 6 of 54 in my local supermarket to buy a pack of organic tomatoes that have been flown over from Portugal, I could not feel more disconnected from the food that I am buying.

This sense of reconnecting with food on a more personal level is not unfamiliar to vegans. Vegans often talk of the bizarre nature of food shopping today. It’s something we have all experienced – that walk down the meat aisle in a supermarket and the realisation that every piece of cellophane-wrapped piece of flesh around you used to be a part of an animal is a bewildering experience.

Omnivores feel it too – for many that is the very start of their journey towards vegetarianism. It’s that point where you reconnect.

Vegan organic/veganic/stockfree organic farming is a sub-movement within the organic food movement. It aims to reestablish that connection with nature and food once again. Organic food is supposed to be clean – veganic farming therefore sticks to the principles of avoiding pesticide and chemical fertiliser usage.

However, it takes this a step further. Veganic farm disallows the use of any animal byproducts whatsoever. Typical organic fertilisers include animal waste (manure and urea), other animal byproducts such as eggshells, blood, bone, and even animal remains.

The use of such products is abhorrent to both vegans and supporters of a true organic food movement.

The former, for obvious reasons – animal byproducts are a no-go. Most larger scale organic farming operations will purchase the aforementioned animal fertilisers from slaughterhouses, which sell them as a byproduct.

As for the organic food movement, supporters of this should be concerned based on the sheer levels of hormones and steroids which are fed to these animals. These chemicals are rife within their byproducts, and thus are part of so-called ‘organic’ farms.

VeganOrganic.net is a UK-based charity supporting veganic farmers and their practices

Veganic farming utilises various other methods for its fertilisation.

‘Green manures’ are methods of developing the soil without animal waste. One such example is the growth of cloves and leguminous crops to positively affect the nitrogen content of the soil prior to other crops being grown in it.

The entire system of a veganic farm is finely tuned but effective. When the system is in place, crops thrive. There isn’t even a need for pesticides of any kind, as crops include flowers which provide a rich ecosystem to control pests.

This in turn also provides complete sustainability. Thus, the system is inherently linked to the green movement. The farmers are not having to rely on external requirements such as fertiliser from animals for crop growth (animals which are an integral part to a farming system which is hugely damaging to the environment). By keeping this finely tuned machine running, and using the land to maximum efficiency, crop yields from veganic farms are large and varied.

One Degree are one of the companies supporting the rise of veganic farming in the US. Citing the lack of transparency in the modern food chain, and the lack of guarantee that ‘organic’ necessarily means healthy food anymore, they ensure that every supplier that creates their foods uses veganic farming methods.

They get to know every farmer who works for them and the history of their farms. They ensure that their core values match the farmer’s, and that they know how every product has been grown and by whom. They trust every farmer who works for them.

And when it comes to the people who grow the food that you eat everyday, surely it makes sense to want to trust them too?

For a little more insight into one of those farms, check out Don Hlaydich in this video.

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FSA allows the selling of meat and dairy from cloned animals

Yesterday, the Food Standards Agency published its verdict on whether the sale of meat and dairy products from cloned animals should be allowed. The dispute over this issue broke out nearly a  year ago, when it was found that some butchers’ shops had been selling meat obtained from the offspring of a cloned cow and had been doing so without telling their customers.

It was uncovered that several farmers had been breeding cows with cloned parents in an effort to boost productivity of their cows and their size. Some have also hoped to create cows with better immune systems. The cows who were being bred from clones were not receiving any form of assessments either as to whether they were healthy or whether their products were fit for human consumption, despite requirements by the FSA.

An investigation into food products from cloned cattle and their offspring was launched last year, and discovered that there was “no substantial difference to conventionally produced meat and milk, and therefore is unlikely to present a food safety risk.”

Yesterday though, the FSA stated that there is no reason for products coming from cloned animals and their offspring to be an issue and that consumers should “definitely be able to eat these controversial products.” It said that licenses would still need to be acquired though. However, once again, there has been a failure to look at the wider picture. ‘So long as in the immediate future, humanity will be better off, then it’ll all be fine’ seems to be the view of the FSA.

Dolly, the first cloned animal

By allowing cloning into farming there will undoubtedly be a host of problems that follow it. Whether or not meat and milk is safe for human consumption is one issue, but the FSA seem to have completely neglected all of the others. My main concern lies with animal welfare. Once again, animals are treated as products, not as living beings. This isn’t like genetically modifying a tomato. A tomato is not going to suffer throughout its life by growing beyond its natural size. Meanwhile, cloned animals often develop health problems. Contrary to the idea mentioned above that cloning will develop better immune systems in animals, cloned animals often have horrific mutations, physical problems, and terrible arthritis. It is inhumane to raise these aberrations in the name of better productivity. Also, some of these clones are pumped full of antibiotics – surely there’s a health risk there somewhere?

But a bigger issue also lies here. Everyday, farming seems to become further and further removed from the stereotypical vision one has in their head. Nowadays, people don’t even tend to make a connection between the animal on a farm and the meat that’s on the plate. The world needs to be moving towards a greater understanding of what the consequences of what they’re eating are, but by introducing cloning into the mainstream then we are destined to move further away from this.

If you don’t know how cloning works, then read a little into it (you can watch a short video on this page). It’s an interesting process, but it strikes me as utterly bizarre and unnatural at the same time. It made me think of that scene in Jurassic Park, where they’re all sitting around having dinner and first discussing the park. Dr Ian Malcolm, talking to the park’s creator John Hammond, states that “genetic power is the most awesome force that this planet has ever seen, yet you wield like a kid whose found his dad’s gun.” I feel Dr Malcolm’s words ring true here too. Is it truly rational to accept this process into mainstream farming, just for the sake of allowing a few farmers to hold onto their prize cows for longer?

For more information on cloning and animal foods, please check out http://www.endanimalcloning.org or go and have a chat with Dr Malcolm.

Mercy For Animals Investigation Into a Texan Calf Farm

The latest Mercy For Animals investigation has been into the E6 Cattle Company’s farm in Hart, Texas. The farm raises calves for use in dairy production, confining them to tiny spaces which, as shown in the video, do not even provide room for the animals to stand. These small spaces are thick with faeces build-up, so these calves are left to literally sit in their own waste. Any calves which become ill from these terrible conditions are just left to die. Others suffer horrific afflictions, including open wounds and severed hooves. As one of the farmers on the video says “we don’t treat those cows. We don’t put much attention on them. No medicine, no nothing.”

The video also briefly covers the process of dehorning, which is already notorious for its routine existence in the animal industry. The process is done for a variety of reasons, yet is rarely done with anesthetic. This investigation shows the company dehorning the cattle by burning their horns out of their skull.

The most shocking aspect of the investigation shows the cruel deaths of the unwanted calves. This is clearly the only aspect of fun in the workers’ lives. They’ll drag a calf out from its pen by its head, forcing it to fall to the floor. At this point they’ll begin kicking it, standing on it, and finally beating it to death (hopefully) with either a hammer or a pickaxe. I say hopefully because not all die from this. The bodies, including those that are still conscious, are piled onto a truck and driven away for disposal.

This may just be one dairy farm in Texas, but this kind of disgusting practice can be found all around the world, and I have no doubt that this isn’t by any means the worst.

*WARNING* – The scenes in this video are brutal and horrific, as you can see from the content described above.

If you drink milk, you owe it to yourself to watch this video. If you are vegan already then the next time someone says ‘I understand vegetarianism, but not veganism’ (or some similar statement) then direct them towards this video, and ask them if this is something that they want to support.

Go vegan.

As a side note, don’t forget that we could be seeing enlightening investigations and footage like this being banned in the US – read more here.

Chickens lay eggs anyway…

Veganism can be hard to comprehend if you don’t look into its ethical reasoning. Vegetarians clearly oppose the killing of animals, but when it comes to veganism it’s different. I mean, no animal is killed for its produce, at least directly. Such a practice would be counterintuitive, right?

Let’s, for a minute, just forget the complexities of arguments to do with the life span of produce animals, their livelihood, and free range vs. battery farming. Let’s forget about what happens to dairy cows, the issue of whether milking is natural, and what happens to their calves. Let’s forget about conditions for chickens and issues with genetic modification and human intervention into the egg-laying process. All these issues are important to vegans and ethical vegetarians, but understanding the implications of many of these things and the processes that go on behind closed doors can be difficult and require plenty of time to get your head around.

For now, let me put to you a single issue within the egg industry that highlights to me why veganism is the only diet which minimises death through eating practices, and why ethical vegetarianism falls short, and also explains why around 40 million chicks are killed each year in the UK alone during egg production. In fact this issue is so difficult to swallow (as I’m sure eggs may be after we’ve talked about it) that I can put to you the best case scenario for egg production, besides keeping your own chickens.

First it’s important to note that farming is a business, and like any other business it needs to make money. It is due to this fact that I have yet to come across a farm that is, by my standards (which I don’t think are unreasonable), ethical. But picture the closest thing you can to this in your head. Picture a local, truly free range farm, where chickens are given ample space and are respected.

Now, first you need to realise that these chickens are probably there for one of two purposes – either meat or eggs. Notice that I said either-or. For the last few decades, there has been specialisation and cross-breeding to ensure that the most efficient chickens are used for each job. There are certain types of chickens which lay eggs infrequently and irregularly, but grow fat quickly – these are broiler chickens (i.e. they will be used as meat). There are others which don’t grow so large but lay eggs nearly every day – these are layer chickens. Now, the farm in your head will realise this and will be breeding specialised chickens for each purpose. It wouldn’t make sense to just breed one type of chicken because they would not be maximising their possible output as a farm in terms of either egg production or meat, and as a farm is a profit-making business it must choose specialised breeds of chickens. This is logic, and there is nothing wrong with that.

So, keep that picture in your head of your farm, with the broiler and the laying chickens. The farm is going to need to ensure that it breeds these chickens to keep their levels up, otherwise when the chickens die out the farm will be left without any. To do this, some eggs are fertilised from both the broiler and laying chickens. The broiler chickens will hatch, they will be grown until their slaughter date, at which point they will be killed for meat. The laying chickens also hatch, but here’s where the difficulty lies.

Only female chickens lay eggs. But there is no way to ensure that only female chickens are born. So, as with all birds and most of the animal kingdom, half of the chickens born are going to be female (and therefore can be utilised in egg production) whilst the other half will be born as males. This is where things get a bit depressing I’m afraid. There is no use for these male chicks whatsoever. Remember, the farm is a business. Keeping these chicks when they can’t perform the duty they were bred for, egg-laying, would be wasteful and has a negative effect on profits. Even the most ethical farm, that one you’ve hopefully been picturing in your head, would have a very hard time justifying the keeping male chicks for the sake of their lives when they have nothing to offer. These chicks are thus killed at birth.

Methods for killing the chicks tend to be through the use of mass-scale death machines. Some are dropped straight onto large electric plates, frying the chicks (who are barely hours old) alive. Others are gassed with their carcasses being utilised as reptile and snake food. The “humane” way (as recommended by the RSPCA and Humane Slaughter Association) is to drop the live chicks into a macerator – essentially a machine which minces the chicks into a paste, quite literally (not too dissimilar to the machine that destroys Preston at the end of the Wallace and Gromit film, A Close Shave). For arguably the least fortunate, they are simply placed in giant bin bags on top of each other and left to die, like the rubbish that the industry thinks that they are.

There is no farm that has any use for male chickens from an egg-laying specialised breed. This to me is the single biggest argument for veganism in terms of animal ethics. Whilst this focuses purely on eggs, it highlights to me why vegetarianism is severely ethically lacking. The logic behind the argument is obvious and strong, so please think about this when it comes to questioning the importance of veganism as an ethical movement.

For more information on the fate of males in the egg industry, please watch this investigation by Viva! Just to warn you though, whilst the footage is not gory it is nevertheless very distressing.

Behind closed doors in Iowa

As some of you may be aware, Iowa state plan to vote on two bills that if passed will make undercover video of animal abuse on farms illegal and punishable by a $7000 fine and up to 5 years in prison. This is insane. This is not only a breach of animal welfare rights but also human rights; these bills are effectively silencing freedom of speech.  Fundamentally, these bills are more focused on protecting the farming and agriculture industry because they hold a huge economic impact. But what about our rights? 

Surely this whole façade clearly demonstrates that there is a problem with the farming industry abusing animals. Animal rights activists document animal ABUSE. If there was no abuse then no doubt there would be fewer damning videos. Some of these farmers that have had video evidence of their animal abuse released have said these undercover videos are ‘underhanded’. It’s almost as if they are suggesting that it is the video recording that is immoral. Not the abuse.

“They’re trying to intimidate whistleblowers and put a chill on legitimate anti-cruelty investigations. Clearly the industry feels it has something to hide or it wouldn’t be going to these extreme and absurd lengths.” (Bradley Miller, national director of Humane Farming Association)

“They are trying to criminalise someone for being an eyewitness to a crime” (PETA)

Instead of tackling the issue first hand and putting a stop to this inhumane abuse of animals the industry seem to want to take the easy way out and ban people discovering what goes on behind closed doors. I see it only fitting to quote Gretchen Wyler here:

“We must not refuse with our eyes what they endure with their bodies”

And so the Iowa government must not be allowed to ban our eyes from seeing what’s behind the door.

 

*UPDATE* Apparently Florida are also proposing a similar bill with much harsher penalties: £10,000 fine and up to 30 years prison time! Pure insanity. Especially when these people are witnesses to crimes! Sadly it seems this is a growing trend. Hopefully it can be nipped in the bud before it gets out of hand. What’s next?

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