I am looking forward to speaking to the Norfolk PDG tomorrow evening after they kindly invited me. The subject I am addressing is Pig Production and I...
Norfolk Pig Discussion Group Meeting October 16th
October 15, 2014
It is worth remembering that all traditions began with innovation and the relationship between these two is an essential part of the identity of each...
Tradition & Innovation
October 2, 2014
The June survey from Defra for 2014 reports that the UK pig population is shrinking. Although the BPEX Pig Market Weekly (PMW) reports this fact it in...
Defra June Survey 2014 (BPEX 'Assuming the survey figures are accurate')
October 31, 2014
British Pigs are not Factory Farmed
April 11, 2016
British Pigs are not Factory Farmed; Please Discuss.
The British Pig Industry must not be found lacking in the tenets of democracy. The promotion of ‘high’ welfare through farm assurance is casting irretrievable aspersions, baptizing the disconnected public into the beliefs of animal welfare extremists. This position of self-doubt is meat and drink to the animal welfare lobby. For hardworking farmers’ and the people that they serve, it could be catastrophic. The use of the word ‘high’ as a prefix to animal welfare standards is wrong because it is in the context of ‘greater than normal’ which presents normal as not good enough and by comparison as ‘low’ welfare. It is an easily assimilated concept for consumers to understand and many pigs that begin life indoors complete the greater part of their life in environments that qualify as extensive welfare. High welfare relates exclusively to the welfare of outdoor farmed pigs and it cannot be compared with welfare for indoor farmed pigs. High welfare as a standard is corrosive. The terminology that distinguishes indoor and outdoor production and their possible points of crossover should be reconsidered. If the critical mass of the industry is compromised by the restrictions of High welfare, then pig production, including successful entrepreneurs, will be sunk unless they all live near the surviving abattoir. This may seem exaggerated but once an industry is submerged beneath its critical mass it is subordinate to that which caused its demise. In the case of pig farming it is to the consciences of the few over the need of the many. That is not a democratic outcome.
The phrase ‘factory farming’ is a deeply emotive term to any intelligent, compassionate person, anywhere in the world today. The dictionary definition of the two-word phrase ‘factory farming’ is; a system of rearing livestock using industrial or intensive methods. Among other well-known two-word phrases that could follow-on from ‘factory farming’ in relation to the British pig industry are ‘define yourself’, ‘accept yourself’, ‘trust yourself’, ‘be fearless’,’ be honest’, ‘work hard’ and ‘serve others’. There is nothing wrong with responsible industrial processes that are environmentally responsible and globally sustainable. The term ‘intensive’ is not necessarily the appropriate descriptor for indoor pig production as it is a comparative use as far as pig farmers and farm assurance bodies are concerned.
The dictionary definition of intensive is; 1 thorough, vigorous, directed to a single point, area or subject. 2 of or relating to intensity as opposed to extent, producing intensity. 3 serving to increase production in relation to costs. 4 making much use of. The reality of intensive in relation to pig production needs to be properly understood. If it is to remain the descriptor for indoor pig production, then its use is only qualified by the rigorous adherence to arbitrated standards that define the animal welfare requirements for this system. This is the case for British pigs that live indoors. The British pig industry does not condone anyone who fails to uphold these standards as a rogue trader.
Animal welfare organisations use celebrity actors in some of the material that they publish. These people have been filmed watching extremist videos of pigs. And their expressions, facial and verbal, convey genuine compassion. Anyone with humanity, when exposed to the kind of footage they are obviously watching in their promotional video would be horrified and have the same response with at least as much credibility, including pig farmers; especially pig farmers. But what are they watching? Are they actually watching the normal everyday life of pigs and is there anything that is outside the lawfully accepted and carefully practiced husbandry of animals or are the actors, acting? If they are watching genuine footage that is current and depicting the practices of rogue traders, why does anybody need to have their own reaction informed by the heightened responses of actors and media savvy celebrities. Personally I enjoy great acting. Actors that can draw on their own fathomless emotion can put the watcher in touch with emotional depths within themselves that they have never before experienced. This is art at its very best, yet art can be perverted, in the service of political ambition.
The greatest threat to our world is from politically motivated extremism whatever its focus. In the case of the animal welfare lobby the ultimate political conclusion is that everyone become vegan. Of course this just isn’t going to happen, unless laws are passed to legislate this position. The very real prospect is that we all have to become vegetarians. I have no prejudice towards someone else’s life choices in terms of the food they eat. I do not have an opinion as to the physical, mental and spiritual value of not being a consumer of meat. I do believe that for myself, eating meat benefits me as a human being. I also believe that the farming of livestock for the purpose of producing meat is justified by the presence of certain species in the world and the need of the population for a balanced diet that includes fresh and processed or preserved meat. I know that in British pig production there are legislated measures enshrined in the current welfare codes that uphold ethical production. I also believe in democracy. And I believe that democracy requires knowledge of all the facts. The extremist message’s cogency comes from the endorsement of people widely regarded as responsible. The dictionary definition of the word responsible is; 1 liable to be called to account. 2 morally accountable for one’s actions, capable of rational conduct. 3 of good credit, position, or repute, respectable, evidently trustworthy. Defra’s recent announcement that it is stepping away from the original plan announced three years ago to pass the responsibility for the welfare codes to the Pig Welfare and Health Council, is welcome. Such plans could possibly have opened the border controls of livestock farming to the stealth of extremism.
If the celebrities used by campaign groups are to qualify as responsible, in their endorsement of extremist views, then surely they will have had to have questioned the making of videos depicting animal cruelty, until they are satisfied that the evidence is current and that the filming, and not reporting to the appropriate authorities, is not itself an act of cruelty, perpetrated by people supported by such organisations. Further to this, the ratio of what is, to the whole British pig industry as unacceptable as it is to anyone else, needs to be part of the information given to these celebrities. Unless the context of political argument is democratic it lacks credibility. Effective investigative reporting has not lead to the disbanding of failing hospitals, a corrupted parliament or police force. It has led to improvement, a process that is a constant in British farming practice, greater transparency and the restoration of trust. And most importantly food safety.
Food safety is a primary concern of government and its departments responsible for managing this. The communication of animal welfare campaigners includes pictures of celebrities cuddling young pigs. These pigs represent domesticated ‘miniature’ breeds that are owned as pets and are potentially a high risk population that should be under the same controls as farmed pigs or rare breed pigs. Their owners may not be aware of this but these ‘pets’ are subject to the same regulations as farmed pigs with the addition of walking licenses. The political doctrine and activities of animal welfare extremism puts the public at a far greater risk. The controlled licensing of British Pig Farming does not. The industrialized processes of indoor pig farming enable greater controls of its pig population. These controls ensure continued, steady improvement of the production of food from livestock, that encompasses, at all times, the welfare of the animals, the people who look after them and the people that enjoy the fruits of the labour of livestock farming.
In the United Kingdom factory farming is the concept not of real farmers but of proxy farmers such as some retail giants who continue to make large profits for their shareholders and yet oversee immoral levels of food wastage that is the result of cheap, accessible food. Real farmers are losing money and going out of business and the politicians should be worried. However, they are not. Some of them are among the celebrities representing the misleading and incomplete propaganda released by animal welfare campaigning organisations. One of these celebrities, a leading actor, is quoted as saying that, on seeing the extremist filming, ‘cruelty taints my humanity’, cruelty taints us all. What taints my humanity is the recently exposed financially driven activities of the likes of Tesco in their dealing with suppliers of food that forces them into contracted arrangements to produce cheaper and cheaper food until the financial consequences of such arrangements force a business to close. The increase in the number and extent of food banks serving people living in poverty in this country, that taints my humanity. Some of the celebrities supporting the campaigns of animal welfare organisations also support the consumption of pig meat. However, the pig meat production they support ultimately prices those in poverty, out of eating pig meat. Animal and human welfare are intrinsic in global survival. This is a fact that future generations will become painfully aware of. Just read the expectations of the UN for a hungry world in 2050. That’s my children and my grandchildren. It is also worth noting that for the children and grandchildren of those with whom I share in humanity throughout the world there are agencies working with or alongside the WHO on projects that are effectively increasing the safety of that intrinsic relationship between animals and humans, critically in zoonosis, focusing on health programmes for marginalized communities in poor resource settings, developing diagnostics and implementing vaccination programmes. This work is a reality in today’s world. When it is reported from struggling populations in deprived parts of the world it is arouses our compassion. When it is necessary work within our own community and country because of the very nature of Nature itself, the continuing evolution of pathogens, it is hijacked by the news media and campaign groups to pursue political ideology.
There will always be rogues, from royalty to the religious, members of the police and parliament, doctors to Dockers, young and old. So it is in farming but, as it is in life, the share of the population that they represent is such that we know as a collective humanity we can deal with them. If animal welfare is the real and genuine concern of the animal welfare organisations and if these organisations are truly not extremist but compliant within the democracy that serves us all, then they are responsible for working with the whole of the livestock farming industry to ensure that our humanity is not tainted by rogue traders. They are responsible for hearing and telling the whole story, not just the parts that suit their own ideologies.
The food we eat anywhere in the world comes from farming or horticulture. The pathway to the supermarket shelf is a part of everyone’s heritage. As people explore their family histories today they do not travel very far back before they discover this to be a deep truth. We have lost touch with what are inherent skills within all of us, to feed ourselves. We rely totally on the specialists today. The pathway to the supermarket shelf is being erased from the map of life. Every decent human being wants their food to be produced to highest standards in food safety, quality and ethics. Food is something to be shared not wasted. If animal welfare organisations want to make a constructive contribution to the production of food throughout the world, in every population then help the real farmers don’t hinder them by driving them into the clutches of the proxy farmers.
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!