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Australian Pork Limited (APL) is an industry organisation that describes itself as “the producer owned organisation supporting and promoting the Australian pork industry”.

Despite potential bias, the organisation is seemingly permitted to supply “educational” material to kindergartens and schools as part of its “Pigs in Schools” program. [1] [2] This article comments on its publication for Foundation – Year 2 levels (generally ages 4-7) and also refers to APL-provided feedback from a teacher on material prepared for older students. [3]

Promotional and other videos

In February 2016, APL published a video (Video 1 below) of teacher Kiara Edwards from Mt Compass Area School in South Australia, praising the APL material. Ms Edwards is clearly a committed and enthusiastic teacher, seemingly with a strong background in certain aspects of animal agriculture. However, in respect of pigs, she may have been over-reliant on material supplied by APL.

Despite admitting to having almost no knowledge of pigs before receiving the APL material, Ms Edwards seemed convinced, after watching an APL promotional video contained within the package (Video 2 below), that material produced by animal activist groups was inaccurate. Here’s some of what she said:

“One [resource] that stood out to me just allowed the kids to be able to see it from a different point of view, that not everything they see on TV and read in the newspaper is true and correct. There was a really good video that was in the package where I set it up with the kids. They had the video that was put up by an animal activist group. I played that video. I got the kids to go through that video and say right, what do we think about pig farming, and this was the start of my lesson, and they said, you know, they just listened to that video, and then in the resource pack, they actually had the farmer’s point of view.

[Cross to video of pig farmer, Ean Pollard, sitting amongst hay bales and piglets, talking about the night activists had filmed inside one of his sheds.]

And our eyes were just amazed to think that, you know, wow . . .  what you hear isn’t happening in the pork industry and they are so proactive in what they’re doing, so they’re really, really good resources. I’d recommend them to anybody.”

She was also clearly impressed with industry personnel (with my underline):

“They’re the only industry that have really got their resources spot on, like with resources and being able to contact people like Popey, like just on the call.” [“Popey” may have been Graeme Pope of Graeme Pope Consulting, founder of the South Australian Future Pork Network and a quality auditor for APL.] [Footnote 1]

It seems Ms Edwards is comfortable with the idea of the students using marking paint on live piglets to demonstrate the “main cuts”:

“So they [the kids] do art in terms of they go and we learn the parts of a pig and then when they get big enough we go out and we get some marking paint and they do the main cuts and all that.”

That activity helped to support her focus on a cross-curricular approach to studying pigs, including art.

She seems similarly comfortable with the practice of naming the piglets, then sending them to slaughter and selling and eating the end “product”:

“And what we do is we actually sell the meat.

[Cross to image of pig meat.]

We get it processed at an abattoir, then it goes to our local butcher, and then we sell the fresh pork to the staff, and there’s a waiting list so we can’t get enough of it and it’s delicious and it’s great because the kids set up – we do a cost analogy [sic] on how much, like, the input costs, they work out how much profit they would like to make, which sometimes is a lot because they think it buys them all sorts of good things but, and then we scale it down and work out that, hang on, this is actually going home to parents and all that, and yeah, they sell the pork. They actually go to the, um, when the pork is getting sold.

We bring it here. The customer or consumer comes direct here and we let them know about the pork, what the pigs were like, they name them and that sort of stuff, so it’s a bit of paddock to plate all the way through and the kids absolutely love it so it’s really good.”

Here’s the video featuring Kiara Edwards (duration 9:28).

APL Promotional Video 1 (discussing “Pigs in Schools” program)

I’d like to have seen some empathy for the piglets, who are in the school’s care for ten weeks at a time, but it was not apparent.

Here’s the promotional video (duration 2:44) referred to earlier, which is included in the kit supplied to schools. Ean Pollard concludes the video with these words: “If we can’t produce pork in God’s country, God knows where we’re gonna get it from.”

APL Promotional Video 2 (included in school kit)

The keeper of the “maternity ward” in Video 2 says, “And did you know over a million piglets Australia-wide are saved by having these farrowing crates”. That’s the annual figure according to the APL educational material and a separate “fact sheet“. [4] No verification has been supplied in either document. It may be an adventurous claim in the context of between 4.5 and 5 million pigs born in Australia each year. In nature, the problem is almost non-existent, as described by author Jeffrey Masson in his book “The Pig who sang to the Moon” [5]:

“In the wild, . . . sows getting ready to give birth will often construct protective nests as high as three feet. They line these farrowing nests with mouthfuls of grass and sometimes even manage to construct a roof made of sticks – a safe and comfortable home-like structure. On modern pig farms, where the mother is forced to give birth on concrete floors, her babies are often crushed when she rolls over. This never happens in the wild because the baby simply slips through the nest and finds her way back to her own teat.”

A video from Animal Liberation ACT, reported to be of Mr Pollard’s Lansdowne piggery, was prepared in response to APL Video 2. [6] The video focused on the farrowing crate area of the piggery (with plenty of steel and concrete but no hay). Images were also released, including the group housing area.

Selection of images from Animal Liberation ACT reportedly from Ean Pollard’s Lansdowne piggery

Go to bottom of page. WARNING: Graphic images.

Animal Liberation ACT Video

Here is Animal Liberation ACT’s video of the farrowing crate area (duration 7:17). WARNING: Graphic footage.

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Teachers as co-learners

The “Educational Unit” booklet contains the following rhetorical teacher’s question:

“I don’t know much about pork production myself – will I be able to teach it effectively?”

Answer:

“Yes! The unit is designed in such a way that you, as the teacher are a co-learner and you are provided with teacher notes, plus the resources are mainly web-based and are readily available. Most importantly, you will find that you learn with the students and make discoveries with them.”

So teachers may depend entirely on what an organisation, established for the purpose of supporting and promoting the pig meat industry, tells it.

Is that the sort of education we want in Australia?

Looking after pigs

The booklet refers glowingly to the euphemistically-titled Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals (Pigs). Epitomising the world of political doublespeak, the “welfare” code (reflected in exemptions to state-based “prevention of cruelty to animals” legislation) permits the following horrendously cruel practices, most of which apply routinely to the vast majority of pigs used for food:

  • life-long confinement indoors;
  • confinement in a sow stall, with insufficient room to turn around, for up to 16.5 weeks, day and night;
  • confinement in a farrowing crate, with insufficient room to turn around or interact with piglets, for up to 6 weeks, day and night;
  • tail docking without anaesthetic;
  • ear notching without anaesthetic;
  • teeth clipping without anaesthetic;
  • castration without anaesthetic.

APL’s so-called voluntary ban on sow stalls, scheduled to commence this year (and already implemented by many member establishments but possibly irrelevant to non-members), will still allow them to be used for up to eleven days per pregnancy, and will not be binding on individual producers. In any event, the ability to monitor compliance must be questionable.

The industry has not indicated any action in respect of farrowing crates, which are even more restrictive than sow stalls. In its educational material, APL states, “a farrowing stall allows a sow to stand up, lie down and stretch out . . .”. But they cannot turn around. They cannot interact with their piglets. They cannot behave naturally. It sounds like hell on earth.

In his video appearance referred to earlier, Ean Pollard said:

“You may have seen some footage that activists have taken of sows [in sow stalls] that have been woken up early in the morning, and expected to be fed. And then when they weren’t fed, they got upset. So how would you feel if someone came into your bedroom in the early hours of the morning and woke you up.”

My answer is that I would not be happy, but I’d be far less happy if I spent 24 hours per day for sixteen weeks locked in an indoor cage that was so small, I couldn’t even turn around. I would also not be happy living my entire life indoors. Being woken in the early hours would be the least of my worries.

Sustainability

The booklet and Video 1 also commented on sustainability aspects of pig meat production, with the issue said to be “the dominant cross curriculum perspective”. The booklet claims: “GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions produced by the pork industry are significantly lower than other agricultural sectors, such as beef cattle, dairy cattle and sheep.”

It’s amusing that they chose the highest-emitting agricultural sectors to compare themselves against. Here’s how the emissions intensity of pig meat compares to that of some plant-based options, noting that soybeans contain more high-quality protein per kilogram than pig meat. [7] [Footnotes 2 and 3] (The term “GWP” relates to the global warming potential of different greenhouse gases measured over 100-year or 20-year time horizons.)

Figure 1: Emissions intensity per kg protein (kg CO2-e/kg protein)

Video 1 (referred to earlier) included Edwina Beveridge of Blantyre Farms demonstrating some aspects of her establishment’s biogas facility, whereby methane from effluent ponds is used to produce electricity. Such facilities are not widespread. In any event, the methane they use (which is a potent greenhouse gas) would not exist if consumers utilised plant-based options rather than pig meat.

Also, nitrous oxide emitted from manure, along with any fugitive methane emissions from the biogas process, would almost certainly offset any reduction in carbon dioxide emissions achieved by the farm using self-generated electricity. The respective global warming impacts of nitrous oxide and methane are 268 and 86 times that of carbon dioxide when measured over a 20-year time horizon. The figures are 298 and 34 over a 100-year time horizon.

The grossly and inherently inefficient nature of animal-based nutrition is also a major concern. It takes 5.7 kilograms of plant-based protein to create 1 kilogram of pig meat protein, with the result that far more resources, including land, are used than would otherwise be required. [8] That has major implications for forested areas such as the Amazon and Cerrado regions of South America, where most of the soy bean production that contributes to land clearing is destined for pigs and other farm animals. The clearing increases the likelihood of tipping points being breached and runaway climate change being triggered, over which we will have virtually no control. The trade in soy beans is global, with demand in any one country contributing to the overall extent of land clearing, including the clearing in South America.

Relatively high water usage and massive amounts of effluent (whether or not used in biogas production) are other key issues for pig meat establishments.

Promoting Australian pork: “Get some pork on your fork”

The educational booklet points out (possibly with despair) that 65 per cent of processed pig meat sold in Australia “is made from frozen boneless pork imported from places like Denmark, Canada and the United States”.

It then tells the teachers and students how to identify the Australian product.

That could be a strong example of the possible promotional intent of APL’s education kits.

In line with its major “get some pork on your fork” advertising campaign, on one page of the educational booklet’s teacher notes, there are four references to getting product from farm to fork. The line between advertising, PR and “education” appears to be extremely thin.

Healthy eating?

The booklet identifies a key activity in the form of investigating concepts and ideas about how food produced by pigs can be prepared for healthy eating.

Contrary to that notion, World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF International) published its Second Expert Report in 2007, titled “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective”. The report was issued jointly with one of WCRF’s network members, the American Institute for Cancer Research. [9]

The report contained recommendations relating to red and processed meat (Recommendation 5, Chapter 12). For the purpose of the analysis, beef, pork, lamb, and goat were all considered to be forms of red meat. Processed meat consisted of meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or addition of chemical preservatives. Such meat includes ham and bacon.

WCRF International stated (p. 382):

“The evidence that red meat is a cause of colorectal cancer is convincing. The evidence that processed meat is a cause of colorectal cancer is also convincing.” (The “convincing” category is WCRF’s strongest.)

WCRF UK has stated:

“The Panel of Experts could find no amount of processed meat that can be confidently shown not to increase cancer risk. That is why WCRF UK recommends people avoid processed meat to reduce their bowel cancer risk.” [10]

As part of WCRF International’s Continuous Update Project, in 2010, a research team at Imperial College London produced an updated systematic literature review of the evidence from 263 new papers on food, nutrition and physical activity. [11] WCRF International’s Expert Panel considered the updated evidence and agreed that the findings confirmed or strengthened the convincing and probable conclusions of the Second Expert Report for colorectal cancer.

One of WCRF’s key recommendations is to eat mostly foods of plant origin.

Similar findings on red and processed meat were reported in 2015 by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), an agency of the World Health Organization (WHO). In reporting the findings, Harvard University stated [12]:

“Consumption of processed meat was classified as carcinogenic and red meat as probably carcinogenic after the IARC Working Group – comprised of 22 scientists from ten countries – evaluated over 800 studies. Conclusions were primarily based on the evidence for colorectal cancer. Data also showed positive associations between processed meat consumption and stomach cancer, and between red meat consumption and pancreatic and prostate cancer.”

Processed red meats, such as bacon, sausage, salami and deli meats, are also associated with much higher risk of heart disease. [13]

Quality assurance and Oliver’s Piggery

APL is the owner and managing agent of the Australian Pork Industry Quality Assurance Program (APIQè). The questionable validity of this industry self audit process was highlighted in the 2009 case of Olivers Piggery in Tasmania.

Just three months before visits by animal activists and police, the piggery was inspected by an APIQ√® auditor. According to presenter Liam Bartlett in Channel 9’s60 Minutes” episode “The Hidden Truth”, the auditor gave the piggery “the all-clear”. [14] He said it was only a clerical error by Mr Oliver that prevented the piggery from being accredited by APL. A court convicted Mr Oliver and the company that operated the piggery with animal cruelty.

At the time the activists recorded their video, Mr Oliver was appearing in brochures as one of Woolworths “fresh food people”. The business had been supplying Woolworths for ten years, and was supplying 20 per cent of the fresh pork sold in its Tasmanian supermarkets.

A shareholder and director of the company operating the piggery was a board member of APL.

APL Disclaimer

Perhaps wisely, APL has included this comment in a disclaimer within the educational booklet (with my underlines):

“. . . While APL has no reason to believe that the information contained in this publication is inaccurate, APL is unable to guarantee the accuracy of the information . . . The information contained in this publication should not be relied upon for any purpose . . .”

A similar disclaimer appeared in Video 1.

Conclusion

Parents and children place enormous trust in educational institutions. To subject children to biased promotional material in support of a profit-oriented industry group is an extremely questionable practice that each state’s education and agriculture departments need to address.

Author

Paul Mahony

Related article

Meat, the environment and industry brainwashing (relating to a similar exercise by Meat & Livestock Australia in support of cattle meat, sheep meat and goat meat producers)

Footnotes

  1. Graeme Pope’s industry bio states (with my underline) that he “has a strong interest in working with rural media and agricultural students to improve the public image of commercial pork production”.
  2. The protein-based emissions intensity figures for pig meat shown here (from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) are higher than estimates I have conservatively reported elsewhere, where I chose not to adjust for yield.
  3. Pulses comprise chickpeas, lentils, dried beans and dried peas. Along with soybeans, peanuts, fresh beans and fresh peas, they are members of the “legume” food group.

Resources

Vegetarian Starter Kit (Animals Australia)

Vegan Easy (Animal Liberation Victoria)

Vegan Australia

Update

Comments on land clearing added on 13th March 2017

References

[1] Australian Pork Limited, Library and Resources, Units, http://australianpork.com.au/library-resources/education-toolkit/units/

[2] Australian Pork Limited, Media Release, “APL Serves up new teaching resource”, 9th January 2017, http://australianpork.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Media_Release_APL-Serves-up-new-teaching-resource-_9-January-2017.pdf

[3] Australian Pork Limited, “An Educational Unit for Foundation – Year 2: Investigating pigs and what they produce”, http://australianpork.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/APL-Foundation-Year-2-Unit_13_lr.pdf

[4] Australian Pork Limited, “Get the facts on your pork industry”, undated, http://australianpork.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/1113329_AustralianPork_Final-Cover_1-2_AustralianPork_Inner_1-2_Page-PDF-LoRes.pdf

[5] Masson, J.M., “The pig who sang to the moon: The emotional world of farm animals”, Ballantine, 2005

[6] Aussie Pigs, Lansdowne Piggery, http://www.aussiepigs.com/piggeries/lansdowne

[7] Derived from: (a) MacLeod, M., Gerber, P., Mottet, A., Tempio, G., Falcucci, A., Opio, C., Vellinga, T., Henderson, B. and Steinfeld, H. 2013. Greenhouse gas emissions from pig and chicken supply chains – A global life cycle assessment. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Table 32, p. 68 [Pig meat]; (b) Gerber, P.J., Steinfeld, H., Henderson, B., Mottet, A., Opio, C., Dijkman, J., Falcucci, A. & Tempio, G. 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome, Figure 18, p. 35 [Pig meat]; (c) Scarborough, P., Appleby, P.N., Mizdrak, A., Briggs, A.D.M., Travis, R.C., Bradbury, K.E., & Key, T.J., “Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians and vegans in the UK”, Climatic Change, DOI 10.1007/s10584-014-1169-1 [Pulses and soybeans] (d) Myhre, G., D. Shindell, F.-M. Bréon, W. Collins, J. Fuglestvedt, J. Huang, D. Koch, J.-F. Lamarque, D. Lee, B. Mendoza, T. Nakajima, A. Robock, G. Stephens, T. Takemura and H. Zhang, 2013: “Anthropogenic and Natural Radiative Forcing. In: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group 1 to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” , Table 8.7, p. 714 [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/ [GWP]

[8] Tilman, D., Clark, M., “Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health”, Nature515, 518–522 (27 November 2014) doi:10.1038/nature13959, Extended Data Table 7 “Protein conversion ratios of livestock production systems”, http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v515/n7528/full/nature13959.html#t7

[9] World Cancer Research Fund / American Institute for Cancer Research, “Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective”, Washington DC: AICR, 2007, http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/expert_report/report_contents/index.php and http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/cancer_resource_center/downloads/Second_Expert_Report_full.pdf, Chapter 12

[10] World Cancer Research Fund UK, “Informed – Issue 36, Winter 2009”, http://www.wcrf-uk.org/cancer_prevention/health_professionals/informed_articles/processed_meat.php

[11] World Cancer Research Fund International, Colorectal Cancer, Latest Evidence, http://www.dietandcancerreport.org/cup/current_progress/colorectal_cancer.php

[12] Harvard University, T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “WHO report says eating processed meat is carcinogenic: Understanding the findings”, undated, https://www.hsph.harvard.ed/nutritionsource/2015/11/03/report-says-eating-processed-meat-is-carcinogenic-understanding-the-findings/

[13] Pendick, D., “New study links L-carnitine in red meat to heart disease”, Harvard Health Publications – Harvard Medical School, 17th April, 2013, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-study-links-l-carnitine-in-red-meat-to-heart-disease-201304176083

[14] 60 Minutes, Nine Network, “The Hidden Truth”, 20th November, 2009

Images

School children in classroom at lesson © Oksana Kuzmina | Shutterstock

Aussie Pigs, Lansdowne Piggery, http://www.aussiepigs.com/piggeries/lansdowne/photos

Selection of images from Animal Liberation ACT reportedly from Ean Pollard’s Lansdowne piggery

WARNING: Graphic images.

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