• DAY 364: VIDEO: WHEN PIGS WAKE YOU AT 3AM

    Sep 28 2013

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  • DAY 354: PLEASE PASS THIS ON.

    Sep 18 2013

    Please pass this on.

    The more human eyes on this the less pigs bellies on tables.

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  • DAY 346: GOING UNDERCOVER INTO A SPANISH PIG FARM – PLEASE PASS THESE IMAGES ON.

    Sep 08 2013

     

    A sow in a gestation crate singing opera. Actually...being fairly miserable

    A sow in a gestation crate singing opera. Actually…it’s a fairly sad song I think

    Oh dear, I feel my blog has failed again. The photos are looking grim, very grim, and I fear I may lose you my dear readers.  Are you still there?

    Hello? (echo….echo).

    So far the trip to Spanish pig farms has been revealing, depressing and down right terrifying. The only time I normally go undercover is to pull the duvet over my eyes. This time I have a walky-talky, dark clothes, a satellite map and a  nervous tick in my heart.

    The photos you will see and the words you will read over the next few days will be an honest reflection of the conditions in many modern Spanish pig farms – and many places in the rest of Europe for that matter . This is because the farms I am visiting are entirely picked at random and I have no idea what is what.

    I would like to you to pass these pictures on to as many people as possible. This is the life of the vast majority of pigs in Europe – and much better than many pigs in the rest of the world. Awareness is our best ally.

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    Google Maps are a Spanish pig’s friend

    Manuel, my friend and assistant, has an astute plan to penetrate the intensive farms dotted around Catalonia.

    Some farms have been contacted by phone and we have asked if we can write an article about ham for an airline magazine  – the ones that agree are more likely to be the better farms – for others Manuel has scanned google maps and found thousands upon thousands which we can visit ourselves.

    In other words, make our own way in.

    It is truly astonishing just how many farms  are ‘secretly’ in the hillsides. One of the wondrous feats of modern farming is the sheer quantity of animals that we eat yet don’t see. Every year, billions upon billions of creatures slip silently to slaughter as we sleep.

    These are just a FEW of the pig farms we quickly located on google maps. Google maps are an invaluable way of locating farms from satellite imagery. The data can then be plugged into a GPS device.

    These are just a FEW of the pig farms we quickly located on google maps. Google maps are an invaluable way of locating farms from satellite imagery. The data can then be plugged into a GPS device.

    Manuel – who, on account of having bright blue hair and being only three inches tall (see last blog) – isn’t keen to come into the farms himself so has suggested that he keeps watch while I go in through the window or side door. If I am caught walking through the darkness on my own I have my defense ready : ‘hello, I’m a British fellow and I’m looking to buy some ham.’ But the other option might be better:  run fast – the fine for getting caught can be extremely serious and I’d like to stay living in the UK.

    Pig farms are fairly easy to spot from satellite:  a long shed (or sheds) housing the pigs, a round  grey object indicating the silo storage for feed, a winding dusty farm track connecting this to the road and an open pool of some kind where the shit is dumped out. Often this looks green. Just like my own .

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    Our first undercover visit

    However, our first farm is a fairly straight forward outing. It’s an arranged meeting with a fairly large farm comprising many thousands of pigs. I pose as a journalist, Manuel as my interpreter.

    The farmer meets us by a rusting gate and is fairly likeable and keen to tell us about his farm. He soon complains bitterly about the new ‘green’ EU laws that forbid him making too much profit. ‘How will we stop competition from China and India where they don’t have such strict rules? The EU regulations are killing us’ It’s good to hear this,  but nevertheless I nod sympathetically.

    It’s not long before we’ve earned his trust and we are shown inside.

    Don't step out of line...

    Don’t step out of line…

    Capture the eyes Martin...

    Capture the eyes Martin…

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    pigs are normally very clean creatures that like to go to the toilet away from where they sleep. This is not possible in the confined crates.

    pigs are normally very clean creatures that like to go to the toilet away from where they sleep. This is not possible in the confined crates.

    The long sheds are rich with the smell of pig shit and chemicals and so humid that sweat pours down inside my shirt. Rows upon rows of sows (I assume) are held in tight crates. Unable to move to go to the toilet they simply off load under their back legs. They stand, or try and lie down, on hard concrete floors with small slat that inefficiently drain urine and faeces.

    New legislation pushed forward by Compassion in World Farming has just come into effect and it is now illegal to hold a sow in a confined crate for more than 4 weeks but apparently all these pigs are here because they’ve been vaccinated. I wonder how long they will stay. Who checks the rules are not being broken?

    There are no immediate signs of acute pain or suffering – no screams, no blood, no wounds – only a muffled sense of meaningless, confined existence. These pigs are units or production. End of story.

    A sow in a farrowing crate. She has more space here than in the gestation crate (when she is preparing for pregnancy)

    A sow in a farrowing crate. She has more space here than in the gestation crate (when she is preparing for pregnancy)

    Don't forget that pigs are sociable, smart, exploratory creatures.

    Don’t forget that pigs are sociable, smart, exploratory creatures.

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    So much fun in here!

    We go into a smaller room where we are shown, with great pride, new born piglets .

     

    Fresh. Young. Clean. Open eyed and ready for their new life.

    There is less light here and the ceiling is lower and the heat higher as if we are descending into a moral cellar. Here there is new life but already they are on hard ground.

    This is one of the better farms. 

    In the next blog: I slip into my first farm unannounced….

     

     

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  • DAY 325: INTENSIVE FARMING IS THE GREATEST CAUSE OF SUFFERING ON EARTH – DISCUSS

    Aug 18 2013

    (Don’t worry, this video  DOES NOT CONTAIN SHOCKING MATERIAL , it is rather beautiful, but is still rather…shocking. A few of you asked me to look at this. Yes, I read all your messages.)

     

    Any reaction to this statement, strongly pro or strongly against, depends almost entirely on one thing: whether you value the life of farm animals. If you do – to any degree – it is hard to deny .

    The only fact more startling than the sheer volume of meat that is butchered each year is the fact that so many caring humans don’t see it as an issue. Factory farming is both the world’s greatest tragedy and the world’s greatest vanishing act. The pain disappears in front of people’s eyes.

    It is preposterous to try and quantify the value of an animal’s against a human life –   is one man worth 1000 pigs worth 1,000,000 worms?   It’s also fairly dangerous to rate suffering in terms of numbers of beings that die –  a fire that kills three children is as much a tragedy as a school bus accident that kills twenty.

    But…let’s for a second assume we can put some sort of quantity on suffering.

    Every year well over 60 billion farm animals are killed for meat. EVERY YEAR. That’s one of those numbers that, like the fattest man on earth, suffers from being just TOO big.  No one understands it except for astrophysicists and people that kill chickens. We need a crane to lift that fat number out of the house of confusion and into the hospital of understanding.

    In simple terms it is about ten times the number of people that live on earth currently, which is about 1000 times the number of people that live in Britain (or France) which is…. a shit load….

    KILLED EVERY YEAR.

    Estimates of the proportion of animals that are in intensive farms (or factory farms…or concrete hell sheds) vary but it is something like two thirds.  Or 40 billion. Or shit loads. And don’t forget, the other third still get slaughtered. Yippee

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    Nothing in the history of human tragedy comes close in terms of numbers. No wars, no disease, no genocide.

    Hold your horses….or pigs…I’m talking numbers, not value. At least for now.

    If you question the degree of suffering in factory farms you need to do some reasearch.  The list of welfare problems is as long as Pinocchio’s nose. If you think they don’t exist IT’S A LIE: early separation from mothers, confinement, early death, excessive inbreeding, inhumane live export, poor slaughter, sickness, lack of social interaction and so it goes on.

    Did you know that each year millions of rabbits are factory farmed in France and Italy. Welfare standards are shocking and regulation is poor - see more here http://www.ciwf.org.uk/what_we_do/rabbits/

    Did you know that each year millions of rabbits are factory farmed in France and Italy. Welfare standards are shocking and regulation is poor – see more here http://www.ciwf.org.uk/what_we_do/rabbits/

    For a look at factory farming watch the video above. IT DOES NOT CONTAIN ANYTHING SHOCKING, it’s actually rather hypnotic. Perhaps too beautiful. Note how similar the man’s belly at the end is to pig fat.

    So…when you look at the number of animals killed and the degree of welfare problems associated with so many of them, then to keep eating meat (from factory farms) you either have to

    A)    rate the screams and cries of all those animals as virtually meaningless, fantastically close to zero in fact, otherwise they quickly mount up to a stack of misery that trumps our own concerns.

    Or…

    B) Do what so many people do and enjoy the magic trick. The magic trick goes like this:

    Look very closely. Look at my left hand. You’ll see a pretty watch in my left hand – see how it twinkles in the light? Watch it tick, watch it tock, watch it tick – all the while my right hand kills 60 billion animals.

    Tick. Tock.

    my, what a big watch!

    my, what a big watch!

    There is of course the option to eat meat from better farms, to support organic suppliers, to demand that welfare standards are raised by our politicians etc. But I’m coming to the conclusion that this is simply side-stepping the issue. Eating meat still supports an industry that kills beings in the billions. Ouch. Double ouch times a billion. Times 30.

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    The other day I spoke to Joyce D’Silva. ambassador for Compassion in World Farming, one of the world’s best farm charities, about her views on our relation to animals

    If you were president of the world what would be the one thing you would do – aside from fixing all the farms?

    “I would want schools to teach compassion for all beings…. It’s called humane education. If you took 4 hens from a battery farm and placed them in a similar cage in a school the first thing kids would say was ‘let them out”

    “But doesn’t that mean that the kids know the value of compassion already?”

    “Yes, but something is lost in the process of growing up”

    We don’t need to teach compassion so much as to stop unlearning it. Eating factory farmed animals is the culmination of our unlearning.

    I have a curious problem here.

    I want to explore factory farming but if I am too graphic, too confrontational, I will fall foul of the same magic trick. You will all turn away.

    Do you agree?

    Am I talking pig shit?

    I still eat dairy sometimes, am I a two faced idiot?

    In the next blog I’m going to do the reveal. I’m going to tell you how I’m going to tackle factory farming, what difference I can make and which animal I’m going to be looking at…from birth, all the way to death.

    It ain’t chickens.

     

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