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….


    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


    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.


    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.


    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.


    Post divide

    May 02 2013
    A chained monkey looks on as we enter the small community

    A chained monkey looks on as we enter the small community

    I’m in a strange situation.

    I’m walking into a small village accompanied by thirty policemen, many with guns.  We are looking for a single illegal bear cub. Our intelligence is rock solid, I’m told that Kartick has not failed on a mission like this for ten years but I fear we are about as conspicious as a burning meteor.

    What is the point of my cunning disguise? Will anyone appreciate my mascara?

    The police and Wildlife SOS team park the cars 100 metres from the entrance to the Muslim community.

    ‘Too dangerous to go closer’ says the officer with three stars on his shoulder. The informer seems mighty nervous.

    We all flow down the street and turn into an ever-narrowing alleyway, pushing onward ike a stream forcing new channels. Children poke heads out of doorways and then retreat to let us past.

    searching for the bear cub

    Police going into homes searching for the bear cub



    I see monkey’s chained to walls, one seems blind and truly terrified.

    ‘Can we rescue these?’ I asked my guide/rescuer keenly while taking some photo. I am told to keep quiet and move on. The monkeys need help but first we must get the bear.

    An old, semi-blind, chained and very confused monkey.

    An old, semi-blind, chained and very confused monkey.




    Do not lose your man, Martin.

    We enter the main area of the community where families come out to see the commotion. It its a sunny day, no one in the community has guns, kids are around, I’m surrounded by police. Suddenly it all feels safe. What was I worried about?

    But my UK antennae are not tuned to Indian life. In London I can read undercurrents of aggression from a hundred metres. I learnt it at school when Louis Peterson threatened to beat me up for accidentally hitting him on the head when I threw a basketball and missed the hoop by about ten metres. He prowled the school and I watched his every twitch. But here it seems to me that all is calm. When a man brushes past me, knocking my camera I presume it is an accident. When it happens again I forgive him too easily. Thankfully in a few minutes I’ll be forced to get out of here before I find that on the third strike I might be out.

    Entering the main square. Things seem perfectly under control...

    Entering the main square. Things seem perfectly under control…

    Police start tapping on doors. No bear here. More doors are knocked. Then one is smashed down. People come to crowd around.

    Still no bear.

    I see two more monkeys tied by chains but this time their necks are held together by a few links. I go to take photos. The camera is a dangerous thing. When pushed to your eye its offers a safe and dark enclosure.

    I get lost photographing these two monkeys tied together by a tiny chain

    I get lost photographing these two monkeys tied together by a tiny chain


    My mind climbs into the camera and looks out of its neat window. Snap, snap, snap. When I put the camera down I see that my guide has gone. Do not lose your man, Kartick told me

    I call my man quicky. ‘Come, come!’ he says frantically. But I don’t know where he is. The police are dispersing in three different directions so I follow the ones with the biggest guns – as you do.

    ‘I’ll meet you by the monkey’ I say, which is about as useful as telling a farmer you’ll meet him by the sheep.

    ‘Come now, come NOW!’ he says more urgently.

    Has he found the bear?

    We go faster now. When I turn the corner I see my guide in the distance waving to me. I run over and he pushes me into the car and we race off down small streets which become ever wider as we reach safety.

    ‘Do we have the bear?’ I ask as I look back at the receding plume of dust behind the car.

    ‘No. We have to go. It was getting very dangerous.’

    ‘It was? ‘


    more monkeys tied by chains

    more monkeys tied by chains


    Undercurrents at work

    So we never saw the bear.


    Only later did I find out the whole story.

    It is common knowledge in India that in order to survive most people in local communities set up relatonships with the lower ranking police officer – this is called a HAFDA which is a regular protection fee to make sure they don’t get in trouble. This was the first time in almost a decade that no bear was seized by Kartick’s team. There’s a distinct possibility that some undercurrents were at work here that allowed the community to be forewarned but we can’t be sure. Things certainly don’t stack up.

    Saving animals in India is not just physical and emotional. It is deeply political and divisive.

    The community we visited has a reputation for disorder and violence. Someone had found out that Kartick was involved and apparently people had threatened to kill him. He wasn’t present but things were escalating fast. I saw none of this in my ignorant haze but the police quickly recognized a tipping point on the near-horizon. We had to leave

    So we just left the bear there?

    Kartick later assured me that the bear would be saved soon and that the monkeys would as well. That just wasn’t our moment.

    To be honest, I am surprised sometimes that Kartick is still with us. I’ll let you know of any updates. But for now I am glad to be back and safe.

    Post divide