Archives for category: animal cruelty

shutterstock_141409255

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.

xx

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 (APIQ). 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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

dsc01649-large

The Victorian State Government in Australia has created an opportunity to right past legislative and regulatory wrongs.

Examples of those wrongs are exemptions to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (POCTAA) in favour of the livestock sector.

If the legislature exempts certain practices from laws and regulations designed to prevent cruelty, then by definition, it is permitting cruelty.

That is despite political doublespeak to the contrary.

The livestock sector is currently permitted to perform extreme acts of cruelty on animals it is using as products. Those acts include (but are certainly not limited to): many forms of mutilation without anaesthetic; lifelong confinement indoors; sexual abuse of males and females, euphemistically referred to as “artificial insemination”.

Our elected representatives are expected to create conditions that ensure justice for all. A key anomaly at present is that “production” animals are excluded from that arrangement.

Why is such an approach considered acceptable when those animals experience physical and emotional pain in the same way as human members of society and companion animals?

The opportunity the government has created for itself is in the form of its five-year Draft Action Plan, with the title “Improving the Welfare of Animals in Victoria”.

Within the draft plan, the government has declared that we must protect animals, including those on farms, from cruelty.

In making that statement, it has created more than an opportunity; it has created an obligation.

The government should fulfill that obligation by removing exemptions to POCTAA, thereby preventing the livestock sector from continuing its barbaric practices.

Sale of products prepared by cruel means outside the state should also be prohibited.

A community education campaign could highlight the benefits in terms of justice, and inform consumers of the wide array of delicious, cruelty-free products that can easily satisfy their nutritional requirements.

Given entrenched practices, the process may be challenging, but those whom we elect should not expect an easy ride.

If the government does not have the courage to implement legislative changes that reflect its own statements, then it must inform the community through public relations and advertising of the horrors many are responsible for through their purchasing decisions. It must also mandate product labeling that reflects the current reality.

Each day in which honest and open discussion is delayed, more animals are born into lives of almost unimaginable cruelty.

Do we want to live in a civilised society or not? The choice is ours.

Author

Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Scribd, Slideshare, New Matilda, Rabble and Viva la Vegan)

Previous Publication

This article first appeared on the Melbourne Pig Save website on 12th February 2017

Image

Aussie Farms | aussiepigs.com | Reported to be from Yelmah Piggery, South Australia | 2016

Related Material

Submission in Response to Victorian State Government’s Draft Action Plan 2016-2021 “Improving the Welfare of Animals in Victoria”

26598176002_10e33f86d7_o

It may be easy to assume that an organisation with the word “youth” in the title is progressive. However, there have been exceptions in the past, and sadly, it seems there are today.

I have commented previously on Australian Youth Climate Coalition’s failure to adequately consider the impact of a major contributor to climate change, animal agriculture. [1]

This article focuses on Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM) and its collaborations with Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA).

What are YFM’s mission and objectives?

Something I find a little confusing is that YFM has two mission statements.

Mission Statement as described on YFM’s website:

“To build a healthy and secure food future for all Australians.” [2]

Mission Statement as described on YFM’s 2015 annual statement to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC):

“To grow a generation of young Australians empowered with the ability to make healthy and sustainable food choices.” [3]

The first is far broader than the second, with no hint as to which one actually applies. Neither seems to be adequately supported by the organisation’s actions, as referred to below.

YFM’s objectives (with my underlines):

Educate and empower Consumers to make informed decisions regarding food systems; including, health, environmental, biodiversity and equitable [sic] issues surrounding how food is bought, consumed and disposed of locally and in Australia.

Facilitate and organise networks and events for Producers and Consumers to strengthen individual activism and community projects and to raise awareness of food related issues as a platform for knowledge exchange and communication.

Publically [sic] advocate and make written submissions on issues of food sustainability and equality on behalf of Producers and Consumers to any Commonwealth, State of [sic] any other governmental authority or tribunal to further the advancement of food policy in Australia. [3]

That may be a mouthful, but YFM seems to be claiming it is concerned about:

  • human health;
  • the environment, including sustainability and biodiversity;
  • equity (assuming that’s what it means when referring to “equitable issues” and “equality”).

The objectives raise a key question:

As part of its objective to “educate” consumers, why does YFM largely ignore the negative impacts of animal agriculture on animals, the planet, human health and social justice?

The social justice issue partially arises from the fact that animal agriculture is a grossly and inherently inefficient way to obtain our nutritional requirements. A 2013 paper from the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota indicated [4]:

“The world’s croplands could feed 4 billion more people than they do now just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption.”

Animal feed crops represent 90% of that figure (in turn representing 3.6 billion people), and biofuels only 10%.

Although the authors were not advocating for another 4 billion people, the transition would enable us to feed the nearly 800 million people who are chronically under-nourished, provided we were willing to share the benefits fairly. [5]

YFM’s failure to adequately consider livestock’s negative impacts is particularly concerning when it states:

“We simply advocate for the importance of understanding your food.”

It claims that two of its values are authenticity and transparency, but are they evident?

Contrived PR?

YFM seems to try hard to match its language to that of its target market, but I find it tiresome and contrived. Here’s an example from its “Spoonled” anti-waste page:

“Gen-Y (18-30) we’re lookin’ at’choo.”

Is this really young people talking to young people, or could external PR consultants be involved, such as those used extensively by MLA? [Footnote 1]

Another example was this response when I asked on Twitter about YFM’s 2015 “beefjam” collaboration with MLA (as referred to below):

#beefjam is a project collaboration with @Target100AUS amazeballs crew.”

Amazeballs?

Really?

YFM’s Collaborations with Meat & Livestock Australia

YFM has collaborated with MLA in two exercises; a project known as “Beefjam” and a three-day visit to Bangor Farm in Tasmania. Both were organised in conjunction with MLA through its Target 100 initiative, which it claims involves “100 research, development and extension activities covering soil, water, energy, pests and weeds, biodiversity, emissions and animal welfare”.

I comment on both projects below, but firstly, it’s important to consider some aspects of MLA.

The organisation describes itself as:

“the marketing, research and development body for Australia’s red meat and livestock industry”. [6]

Is the marketing role compatible with legitimate research and development?

The question may be particularly relevant when, in the same description, MLA states (with my underlines):

“MLA’s core focus is to deliver value to its 50,000 levy paying members by:

growing demand for red meat; and

– improving profitability, sustainability and global competitiveness.”

I have challenged material from MLA in my articles “Meat, the environment and industry brainwashing“, “An industry shooting itself in the foot over “Cowspiracy” and “Emissions intensity of Australian beef“.

In the first of those (as an example), I commented on a so-called “curriculum guide” created by MLA for primary school students.

I argued that the guide:

  • inadequately allowed for livestock related water use, land clearing, land degradation (including erosion), loss of habitat and loss of biodiversity;
  • misstated the ability of livestock’s direct emissions to be absorbed by the biosphere;
  • ignored the very significant global warming impact of those emissions; and
  • misstated the extent of modern ruminant livestock numbers relative to historic figures.

I concluded with concern about the PR machine of an industry group such as MLA seeking to influence the thoughts and actions of children via publications represented as legitimate educational tools.

MLA has not limited its reach to the class room, and YFM may represent another means of extending its audience using sophisticated PR techniques.

Beefjam

The Beefjam project occurred in mid-2015. Here’s how YFM described it (with my underlines):

“BeefJam is a 3-day event that takes young producers and consumers on a crash course of the Australian beef supply chain and gives them 48hrs to reshape the way we grow, buy and eat our red meat.

Fifteen lucky applicants – 8 young consumers and 7 young producers – were given the chance to see, hear, smell and touch the whole Australian beef supply chain. That means all the different stages a piece of meat will travel through before it reaches your plate. From farm, to feedlot, to processor (you might know that as an abattoir) and then to retailer, ‘Jammers’ were able to experience the whole system, but also given the opportunity to ask big questions about how we feed ourselves, and the world, as we move into a food-challenged future.

BeefJam culminated with a 48 hour ‘jam’ where young producers and consumers collectively designed and prototyped solutions to challenges surrounding Australian beef.”

It may be insightful that a cow or lamb enjoying a warm day in an open field could be considered “a piece of meat”.

In its article about a visit to a slaughterhouse, we were presented with a photo of twenty-one mostly smiling faces, decked out in biosecurity gear, ready to check out the process. [7] YFM and MLA did not choose a “run of the mill” slaughterhouse for the visit. It was the Stanbroke Pastoral Company slaughterhouse, which the organisation’s website indicates is in the Lockyer Valley, Queensland. According to Stanbroke, it “sets world standards in equipment methods and technology”.

Regardless of what the attendees were shown, no animals at the facility or elsewhere choose to have a bolt gun fired into their skull, then hoisted by a rear leg for the purpose of having their throat cut.

Yet a Beefjam participant in a related video tells us repeatedly that slaughterhouse workers “respect” the animals.

That type of respect is something I could do without.

Some other points YFM and MLA did not raise with Beefjam attendees

Mark Pershin is the founder and CEO of climate change campaign group Less Meat Less Heat. He attended Beefjam, and I asked him about the information the attendees had been provided in their exploration of “the whole Australian beef supply chain”. Sadly, YFM and MLA said nothing about the following issues:

  • the extent of land cleared in Australia for beef production;
  • cattle’s impact on land degradation, biodiversity loss and introduction of invasive grass species;
  • legalised cruelty, such as castration; dehorning; disbudding; and hot iron branding (usually performed without anaesthetic).

slide5-1

MLA claims to be concerned about sustainability, which it suggests includes (in an unusual interpretation of the term) “good animal welfare”. [Footnote 2] Here’s what they’ve said (with my underline) [8]:

“Australian cattle and sheep farmers are committed to producing beef and lamb sustainably . . . For Australia’s cattle and sheep farmers, sustainability isn’t only about the environment, it’s also about good animal welfare, contributing to their local communities, and ensuring that cattle and sheep farming is economically viable for future generations.”

Do the practices described above represent good animal welfare? They may be legal, but that simply means that governments around Australia consider animal cruelty to be an acceptable outcome of producing various types of food we do not need.

In relation to beef production’s environmental impacts, Beefjam attendees were addressed by Steve Wiedemann, who at that time was a principal consultant with FSA Consulting. The firm provides services to the agriculture sector, describing itself as “Australia’s predominant environmental consultancy for intensive livestock industries, environmental and natural resource management and water supply and irrigation”.

Wiedemann was the corresponding author of the paper I commented on in my article “Emissions intensity of Australian beef“, as referred to earlier. [9] [10] I highlighted the following concerns about that paper and/or the related promotional efforts of MLA:

  • Out of date 100-year “global warming potential” (GWP) used for the purpose of assessing the warming impact of non-CO2 greenhouse gases.
  • 20-year GWP should be considered, in addition to the 100-year figure, in order to allow for the near-term impact of the various greenhouse gases. That is a critical factor when considering potential climate change tipping points and runaway climate change.
  • The figures were based on the live weight of the animals, rather than the more conventional carcass weight or retail weight.
  • Livestock-related land clearing is increasing despite MLA’s implication to the contrary.
  • Savanna burning was omitted.
  • Foregone sequestration was omitted.
  • Short-lived global warming agents such as tropospheric ozone and black carbon were omitted.
  • Soil carbon losses may have been understated.

There are many ways to present data and information, and the authors of the paper may legitimately argue that their findings, published in a peer-reviewed journal, were valid. However, there are valid alternative approaches that result in findings that are less favourable to the livestock sector.

When applying only some of the factors referred to above, the emissions intensity of beef nearly triples from the figure estimated by Weidemann and his co-authors. When basing the results on figures for Oceania (dominated by Australia) from the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there is a 5.6-fold increase from Wiedemann’s figure. [Footnote 3]

Some footage YFM and MLA did not show Beefjam attendees

If you’d like to see some of the reality of Australian cattle and lamb slaughter (a key component of the industry serviced by MLA), you can check out undercover footage from the Aussie Farms website here and from Animal Liberation NSW here. [11] [12] Warning: Graphic footage.

As stated in the first video, every year, around 17-19 million lambs are killed in Australian slaughterhouses at around six months of age. Due to the high demand for meat and the resultant speed of the process, many are killed without being properly stunned. Many in the videos writhe on the kill table before and after having their throat cut.

What were the outcomes of Beefjam?

As stated earlier, YFM has reported that Beefjam participants collectively designed and prototyped solutions to challenges surrounding Australian beef.

But where are the details?

For such a commitment in terms of time and money, the output from the event seems incredibly scant.

Bangor Farm, Tasmania

While “Beefjam” involved YFM and Target 100 selecting the “lucky” participants, the role was left solely to Target 100 for the three-day visit to Bangor Farm in Tasmania.

And who should be among the three participants this time? None other than YFM co-founder, Joanna Baker. [13]

As with the slaughterhouse mentioned earlier, Target 100 did not select any old farm for the visit. A farm in northern Australian (where 70 per cent of our beef is produced), denuded of grass and losing top soil at a rapid rate, just wouldn’t do. They chose a farm in temperate Tasmania, with sweeping ocean views and much of the original forest cover in place.

Such an approach largely ignores the overall environmental impact of livestock production compared to the benefits that could be achieved with a general transition away from animal-based foods.

One of the highlights of a related Target 100 promotional video was weed control on the farm, which the grazing of sheep is said to enhance. There was no mention of comments from The Pew Charitable Trusts, who have reported on the destructive environmental impacts of livestock grazing, including the introduction of invasive pasture grasses, manipulation of fire regimes, tree clearing, and degradation of land and natural water sources. [14]

15 per cent of Bangor farm is said to have been cleared for pasture, with the balance being native grasslands and forest where light grazing occurs. [15] [16]

Regardless of how one may perceive Bangor, because we need to allow massive areas of cleared grazing lands to regenerate to something approaching their original state in order to overcome climate change, livestock farming at current levels cannot realistically be considered sustainable. [17] [18]

A report by the World Wildlife Fund has identified eastern Australia as one of eleven global “deforestation fronts” for the twenty years to 2030 due to livestock-related land clearing in Queensland and New South Wales. [19]

Here are some extracts from Target 100’s videos dealing with the visit, along with some of my thoughts:

Jo: “Hearing from Matt that we aren’t producing beyond our land’s capacity was a surprise for me.” [Terrastendo: But overall, we are Jo, and it’s primarily because of animal agriculture.]

Matt: “People talk about emissions, carbon emissions from sheep and cattle. Part of the way we address that is to try and grow them quickly.” [Terrastendo: Do we grow a cow or a sheep like a plant in a pot? Even raising the animals quickly leaves the emissions from animal agriculture on a different paradigm to those from plant-based agriculture.]

Jo: “So that there’s less inputs that go into actually growing that lamb, which in a way makes it a lot more sustainable for the farmer and the landscape.” [Terrastendo: But Jo, beef production is not sustainable at levels required to feed the masses. And do you also believe we can grow an animal like a pot plant?]

Even allowing for faster growth rates in Australia than many other countries, along with better feed digestibility and other factors, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN has estimated that the emissions intensity of beef production in Oceania (dominated by Australia) is around 35 kilograms of greenhouse gases per kilogram of product. That’s based on a 100-year time horizon for measuring the global warming potential (GWP) of different greenhouse gases. If we convert the figure to a 20-year estimate, it increases to around 72 kilograms. [Footnote 3]

The FAO’s global average figure for beef from grass-fed cattle is 102 tonnes of greenhouse gases per tonne of product based on a 100-year GWP. [20] That increases to 209 tonnes per tonne of product based on a twenty year figure, which is equivalent to around 774 tonnes of greenhouse gases per tonne of protein. [Footnote 3]

Compare those figures to the figure of 1 tonne of CO2 per tonne of product for cement production, as referred to by Professor Tim Flannery in his book, “Atmosphere of Hope”. [21] Flannery (who was previously contracted to MLA) expressed concern over the figure for cement, but seems unconcerned about the high level of emissions from beef production. [22]

Direct funding

The relationship between YFM and MLA includes direct funding.

As part of a crowd funding campaign in 2016, under the MLA logo and the heading “An extra big thank you”, YFM announced:

“High fives to Meat and Livestock Australia, who purchased our $5,500 perk!”

It is not known to what extent, if any, MLA contributed to YFM’s non-government income of $148,536 for the year ended 30th June 2015. The 2015/16 income statement is yet to be published by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

There are no “joining” or “subscription” fees for individuals who want to become involved with YFM.

In early 2016, YFM announced a three-year grant from Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation. [23]

Conclusion

To conclude, let’s consider some thoughts of Alexandra Iljadica, who co-founded YFM with Baker.

Asked about her “favourite food moment” in an interview on the YFM website, Iljadica nominated the annual family feast in Croatia with her in-laws.

“Uncle Mile is a shepherd so will slaughter a lamb for the occasion, which we’ll enjoy with home-made prsut (Croatian for prosciutto), hard cheese made from sheep and goat milk and a tomato and cucumber salad picked 30 seconds before serving.” [24]

It seems that any one of the beauties shown here could be considered fair game by Uncle Mile, with Alexandra savouring the end result.

around-the-farm-august-20

Don’t they deserve much better? Luckily for these happy individuals, they are living peacefully at Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary in Victoria.

Author

Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Scribd, Slideshare, New Matilda, Rabble and Viva la Vegan)

Acknowledgement

Thank you to Greg McFarlane for information on YFM’s funding, including the donation from MLA.

Footnotes

  1. MLA has won advertising industry awards such as Marketing Team of the Year and Advertiser of the Year. [25] PR and advertising firms it has utilised include: Republic of Everyone (“Bettertarian”); Totem (“#Goodmeat”); One Green Bean (one of two firms with “You’re better on beef”); BMF (one of two firms with “You’re better on beef”, plus “Generation Lamb”, “The beef oracle”, and “The Opponent”); and The Monkeys (Australia Day 2016 “Richie’s BBQ” and 2017 “Boat People”). Republic of Everyone has also created graphics proclaiming the supposed health benefits of eating red meat. I beg to differ, as outlined in my article “If you think it’s healthy to eat animals, perhaps you should think again” and elsewhere.
  2. Australia’s National Strategy for Ecologically Sustainable Development (1992) defined ecologically sustainable development as: “using, conserving and enhancing the community’s resources so that ecological processes, on which life depends, are maintained, and the total quality of life, now and in the future, can be increased” [26]
  3. The revised figures allow for the global average percentage split of the various factors contributing to the products’ emissions intensity, and are intended to be approximations only.

Related booklet

The low emissions diet: Eating for a safe climate

Updates

Additional comments and references added on 13th January 2017 in relation to the paper co-authored by Steve Wiedemann.

Footnote 1 extended on 26th January 2017.

Images

Youth Food Movement Australia | YFM logo badge only | Flickr | Creative Commons NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) | http://tinyurl.com/j4c8ad9 | https://www.flickr.com/photos/142322734@N08/

Lambs | Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary | https://www.edgarsmission.org.au/

References

[1] Mahony, P., “The real elephant in AYCC’s climate change room”, 5th September 2013, https://terrastendo.net/2013/09/05/the-real-elephant-in-ayccs-climate-change-room/

[2] Youth Food Movement Australia, “About”, http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/about-us/ (Accessed 9th January, 2016)

[3] Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Annual Information Statement 2015, Youth Food Movement Australia Ltd, https://www.acnc.gov.au/AIS2015?ID=8E78E032-C0CF-482B-9879-DF609B494B6E&noleft=1 (Accessed 14th Sep 2016)

[4] CassidyE.S., West, P.C., Gerber, J.S., Foley, J.A., “Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare”, Environ. Res. Lett. 8 (2013) 034015 (8pp), doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034015, cited in University of Minnesota News Release, 1 Aug 2013, “Existing Cropland Could Feed 4 Billion More”, http://www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2013/UR_CONTENT_451697.html

[5] World Hunger Education Service, Hunger Notes, “2016 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics”, http://www.worldhunger.org/2015-world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/ (Accessed 30th September 2016)

[6] Meat and Livestock Australia, “About MLA”, http://www.mla.com.au/about-mla/ (accessed 4th Sep 2016)

[7] Soutar, T., Youth Food Movement Australia, “Behind the scenes at an Australian abattoir”, 20th January 2016, http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/behind-the-scenes-at-an-australian-abattoir/

[8] Target 100, “About”, http://www.target100.com.au/About (accessed 4th Sep 2016)

[9] Mahony, P., “Emissions intensity of Australian beef”, Terrastendo, 30th June 2015, https://terrastendo.net/2015/06/30/emissions-intensity-of-australian-beef/

[10] Wiedemann, S.G, Henry, B.K., McGahan, E.J., Grant, T., Murphy, C.M., Niethe, G., “Resource use and greenhouse gas intensity of Australian beef production: 1981–2010″, Agricultural Systems, Volume 133, February 2015, Pages 109–118, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X14001565 and http://ac.els-cdn.com/S0308521X14001565/1-s2.0-S0308521X14001565-main.pdf?_tid=e4c5d55e-fc16-11e4-97e1-00000aacb362&acdnat=1431813778_b7516f07332614cd8592935ec43d16fd

[11] Aussie Farms, “Australian lambs slaughtered at Gathercole’s Abattoir, Wangaratta Vic”, Undated, https://vimeo.com/117656676?lite=1

[12] Animal Liberation New South Wales, “Cruelty exposed at Hawkesbury Valley Abattoir”, 9th February 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp-8PpA4upM

[13] Youth Food Movement Australia, “Can meat production and sustainability go hand in hand?”, 26th June 2014, http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/target-100/

[14] Woinarski, J., Traill, B., Booth, C., “The Modern Outback: Nature, people, and the future of remote Australia”, The Pew Charitable Trusts, October 2014, p. 167-171 http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/reports/2014/10/the-modern-outback

[15] True Aussie Beef and Lamb (Meat & Livestock Australia), What is Sustainable Farming | Where Does Our Meat Come From“, 4:07, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGD2EAzj4SY, http://www.australian-meat.com/

[16] Paul Howard Cinematographer, “Target 100 Bettertarian Documentary”, 7:04, https://vimeo.com/138485968

[17] Hansen, J; Sato, M; Kharecha, P; Beerling, D; Berner, R; Masson-Delmotte, V; Pagani, M; Raymo, M; Royer, D.L.; and Zachos, J.C. “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?”, 2008. http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

[18] Stehfest, E, Bouwman, L, van Vuuren, DP, den Elzen, MGJ, Eickhout, B and Kabat, P, “Climate benefits of changing diet” Climatic Change, Volume 95, Numbers 1-2 (2009), 83-102, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6 (Also http://www.springerlink.com/content/053gx71816jq2648/)

[19] World Wildlife Fund (Worldwide Fund for Nature), “WWF Living Forests Report”, Chapter 5 and Chapter 5 Executive Summary, http://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/lfr_chapter_5_executive_summary_final.pdf; http://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/living_forests_report_chapter_5_1.pdf

[20] 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, Table 5, p. 24, http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/resources/en/publications/tackling_climate_change/index.htm; http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3437e/i3437e.pdf

[21] Flannery, T., “Atmosphere of Hope: Searching for Solutions to the Climate Crisis”, Text Publishing (2015), p. 170

[22] Manning, P., “Wrestling with a climate conundrum”, 19th Feb 2011, http://www.smh.com.au/business/wrestling-with-a-climate-conundrum-20110218-1azhd.html#ixzz47IvGiZjp

[23] Youth Food Movement Australia, “Youth Food Movement Australia is getting bigger than ever”, 3rd February 2016, http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/youth-food-movement-australia-getting-bigger-ever/

[24] Youth Food Movement Australia, “Alexandra Iljadica: Tell us a bit about you?”,  http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/teams/alex-iljadica/ (Accessed 11th January 2016)

[25] Baker, R., “The Marketer: Meat & Livestock Australia, cleaving, the brave way”, AdNews, 16th November 2015, http://www.adnews.com.au/news/the-marketer-meat-and-livestock-australia-cleaving-the-brave-way

[26] Australian Government, Department of the Environment and Energy, “Ecologically sustainable development”, https://www.environment.gov.au/about-us/esd (Accessed 14th Sep 2016)

4152992081_2ae94081f4_o

This post contains the text of my open letter to the Sydney Peace Foundation concerning its decision to award the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize to author and activist, Naomi Klein.

The organisation is a University of Sydney foundation that was created in 1998. It says it “promotes peace with justice and the practice of nonviolence by awarding the annual Sydney Peace Prize and encouraging public interest and discussion about issues of peace, social justice, human rights, and non-violent conflict resolution”.

It describes the prize as “Australia’s international prize of peace”.

My letter

The Sydney Peace Foundation
Mackie Building K01
University of Sydney
Sydney
New South Wales
Australia, 2006

Email: peace.foundation@sydney.edu.au

30th September 2016

Dear Sydney Peace Foundation,

Re: Sydney Peace Prize 2016

I understand you have awarded the 2016 Sydney Peace Prize to author and activist Naomi Klein, with the following citation:

For exposing the structural causes and responsibility for the climate crisis, for inspiring us to stand up locally, nationally and internationally to demand a new agenda for sharing the planet that respects human rights and equality, and for reminding us of the power of authentic democracy to achieve transformative change and justice.

Unfortunately, in her writing and campaigning, Ms Klein appears to have overlooked or ignored a major “structural cause” of the climate crisis, namely animal agriculture.

Leading climate scientist, Dr James Hansen (along with his fellow researchers), argues that we will not overcome the crisis without massive reforestation and significant cuts in emissions of non-CO2 climate forcers, such as methane, nitrous oxide, tropospheric ozone and black carbon. [1] Meaningful action in that regard cannot be achieved without a general move toward a plant-based diet.

Consistent with that view were the findings of a 2009 study by the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, indicating that a global transition to a completely animal-free diet would reduce climate change mitigation costs by around 80 per cent. A meat-free diet would reduce them by 70 per cent. A key factor would be the ability of lands cleared or degraded for livestock grazing and feed crop production to regenerate forests and other forms of vegetation. [2]

The assessment was based on a targeted atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450 ppm. The issue is even more critical when aiming for essential lower levels.

Similarly, a paper from researchers at the Institute for Social Ecology, Vienna, published in April 2016, reported on the potential to avoid further deforestation while feeding a growing global population. [3] They considered 500 food supply scenarios using forecasts for crop yields, agricultural area, livestock feed and human diet supplied by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The lead author, Karl-Heinz Erb, has stated: [4]

“The only diet found to work with all future possible scenarios of yield and cropland area, including 100% organic agriculture, was a plant-based one.”

In Australia, since European settlement, we have cleared nearly 1 million square kilometres of our 7.7 million square kilometre land mass. Of the cleared land, around 70 per cent has resulted from animal agriculture, including meat, dairy and wool. [5]

The World Wildlife Fund has identified Australia as one of eleven global “deforestation fronts” in the twenty years to 2030 due to livestock production. [6]

The grossly and inherently inefficient nature of animals as a source of nutrition causes us to use far more resources, including land, than would be required on a plant-based diet.

Peace with Justice

A general transition toward a plant-based diet is also consistent with the Sydney Peace Foundation’s promotion of peace with justice and the practice of non-violence.

The issue of social justice was highlighted in a 2013 paper from the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota, which stated: [7]

“The world’s croplands could feed 4 billion more people than they do now just by shifting from producing animal feed and biofuels to producing exclusively food for human consumption”.

Animal feed crops represent 90% of that figure (in turn representing 3.6 billion people), and biofuels only 10%.

The FAO estimates that around 795 million people were chronically under-nourished in the period 2014-2016. [8]

The lead author of the University of Minnesota paper, Emily Cassidy, has said:

“We essentially have uncovered an astoundingly abundant supply of food for a hungry world, hidden in plain sight in the farmlands we already cultivate. Depending on the extent to which farmers and consumers are willing to change current practices, existing croplands could feed millions or even billions more people.”

And let’s not forget the animals themselves. We currently breed and slaughter around 70 billion land animals annually, compared to a human population of around 7.4 billion. [9] The livestock reproduction rate is significantly above natural levels, and involves abuse and confinement on a massive scale, even for so-called “free range” systems.

In Australia and elsewhere, animal cruelty has been legalised by way of exemptions to so-called “prevention of cruelty to animals” legislation in favour of livestock and other industries.

Human health

I note that you support the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including the goal to “ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages”.

The detrimental health impacts of animal-based foods have been well documented by organisations such as the World Cancer Research Fund, the World Health Organization, and others.

A recent example was the April 2016 study by researchers from the Oxford Martin School (University of Oxford) reporting on the health and climate change benefits of changing diets, including reduced consumption of animal products. [10]

The researchers estimated that if the global population were to adopt a vegetarian diet, 7.3 million lives per year would be saved by 2050. If a vegan diet were adopted, the figure would be 8.1 million per year.

More than half the avoided deaths would be due to reduced red meat consumption. The results would primarily reflect reductions in the rate of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

Former winner calls for vegan diet

The 2002 winner of the Sydney Peace Prize, Mary Robinson, has recently called for those who care about climate change to stop eating animals and animal-based products. [11]

15334337522_4df9929220_o

Here is some of what she said:

“We have to change, we cannot go on with business as usual. We need each of us to think about our carbon footprint. Eat less meat, or no meat at all. Become vegetarian or vegan.”

Mrs Robinson was speaking at the “One Young World Summit” in Ottawa, Canada, earlier this month, attended by young leaders from 196 nations.

Conclusion

A positive gesture to highlight these critical issues would be to serve only vegan food at the Sydney Peace Prize Gala Dinner on 11th November.

You may also wish to consider broadening your approach on peace, social justice and non-violence to include animals.

I would be pleased to discuss the issues in more detail if you are interested in doing so.

Kind Regards,

Paul Mahony
Melbourne
Australia

Author

Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Facebook, Scribd, Slideshare, New Matilda, Rabble and Viva la Vegan)

References

[1] Hansen, J; Sato, M; Kharecha, P; Beerling, D; Berner, R; Masson-Delmotte, V; Pagani, M; Raymo, M; Royer, D.L.; and Zachos, J.C. “Target Atmospheric CO2: Where Should Humanity Aim?”, 2008. http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/2008/TargetCO2_20080407.pdf

[2] Stehfest, E, Bouwman, L, van Vuuren, DP, den Elzen, MGJ, Eickhout, B and Kabat, P, “Climate benefits of changing diet” Climatic Change, Volume 95, Numbers 1-2 (2009), 83-102, DOI: 10.1007/s10584-008-9534-6 (Also http://www.springerlink.com/content/053gx71816jq2648/)

[3] Erb, K-H, Lauk, C., Kastner, T., Mayer, A., Theurl, M.C., Haberl, H., “Exploring the biophysical option space for feeding the world without deforestation”, Nat. Commun. 7:11382 doi: 10.1038/ncomms11382 (2016), http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160419/ncomms11382/abs/ncomms11382.html and http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2016/160419/ncomms11382/pdf/ncomms11382.pdf

[4] Kehoe, L., “Can we feed the world and stop deforestation? Depends what’s for dinner”, The Conversation, 20 Apr 2016 (Updated 26 Apr 2016), https://theconversation.com/can-we-feed-the-world-and-stop-deforestation-depends-whats-for-dinner-58091

[5] Derived from Russell, G. “The global food system and climate change – Part 1”, 9 Oct 2008, (http://bravenewclimate.com/2008/10/09/the-global-food-system-and-climate-change-part-i/) and “Bulbs, bags, and Kelly’s bush: defining `green’ in Australia”, 19 Mar 2010 (p. 10) (http://hec-forum.anu.edu.au/archive/presentations_archive/2010/geoffrussell-hec-talk.pdf), which utilised: Dept. of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, State of the Environment Report 2006, Indicator: LD-01 The proportion and area of native vegetation and changes over time, March 2009; and ABS, 4613.0 “Australia’s Environment: Issues and Trends”, Jan 2010; and ABS 1301.0 Australian Year Book 2008, since updated for 2009-10, 16.13 Area of crops

[6] World Wildlife Fund (World Wide Fund for Nature), “WWF Living Forests Report”, Chapter 5 and Chapter 5 Executive Summary, http://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/lfr_chapter_5_executive_summary_final.pdf; http://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/living_forests_report_chapter_5_1.pdf

[7] Emily S Cassidy et al., 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 034015 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034015, cited in University of Minnesota News Release, 1 Aug 2013, “Existing Cropland Could Feed 4 Billion More”, http://www1.umn.edu/news/news-releases/2013/UR_CONTENT_451697.html

[8] World Hunger Education Service, Hunger Notes, “2016 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics”, http://www.worldhunger.org/2015-world-hunger-and-poverty-facts-and-statistics/ (Accessed 30th September 2016)

[9] FAOSTAT, Livestock Primary, Slaughter numbers 2013, http://faostat3.fao.org

[10] Springmann, M., Godfray, H.C.J., Rayner, M., Scarborough, P., “Analysis and valuation of the health and climate change cobenefits of dietary change”, PNAS 2016 113 (15) 4146-4151; published ahead of print March 21, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1523119113, (print edition 12 Apr 2016), http://www.pnas.org/content/113/15/4146.full and http://www.pnas.org/content/113/15/4146.full.pdf

[11] Virk, K., “‘Eat less meat, or no meat at all’ – Mary Robinson suggests going vegan to reduce carbon footprint”, The Independent, 29 Sep 2016, http://www.independent.ie/irish-news/climate-change-and-you/eat-less-meat-or-no-meat-at-all-mary-robinson-suggests-going-vegan-to-reduce-carbon-footprint-35088537.html

Images

Troy Page | truthout.org | “Naomi Klein” | Flickr | Creative Commons | NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Simon Ruf | United Nations Information Centre | “Climate Envoy Mary Robinson” | Flickr | Creative Commons | NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Edits

Second paragraph introducing the letter amended 2nd October 2016.

Comment on World Wildlife Fund added 2nd October 2016.

“If cattle were to form their own nation, they would rank third behind China and the United States among the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.”

World Resources Institute 2016 [1]

 

Ceres Agricultural Company Pty Ltd has applied to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to register a Free Range Pasture Finished certification trademark in respect of cattle raised for slaughter within the food production system. This is my submission (in conjunction with Vegan Australia) in response to the application.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 12.16.37 am

The submission highlights some of the many detrimental impacts of beef production.

Here’s the Executive Summary:

General

  • Whether produced in free range or more intensive systems, red meat is extremely detrimental to animals, human health and the environment.

Animal Health and Welfare

  • Many exemptions in favour of the livestock sector apply to Prevention of Cruelty to Animals legislation in Australia (and similar legislation elsewhere), thereby permitting cruelty.
  • There are no legislated free range standards, and the standards proposed by Ceres offer only limited protection to animals.
  • Free range animals are usually slaughtered at the same abattoirs as more intensively farmed animals. Regardless of the effectiveness or otherwise of different stunning methods, the sights, sounds and smells of an abattoir create a terrifying experience for animals awaiting their fate.

Safety of Meat

  • The evidence of red and processed meat’s adverse health impacts is overwhelming, whether or not produced in a free range system.
  • Oxford University researchers have estimated that that if the global population were to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet, more than 7 million lives would be saved per year by 2050 due to reductions in the rate of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. More than half the avoided deaths would be due to reduced red meat consumption.

Environment

  • Beef production is a key contributor to global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, introduction of invasive pasture grasses, loss of biodiversity, and destruction of the Great Barrier Reef.
  • In addition to dealing with coal-fired power, we will not achieve a critical threshold level of 350 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere without massive reforestation. The only way to meaningfully reforest in the context of the climate emergency is to reduce the extent of animal agriculture.
  • Beef from grass-fed cattle is far more emissions intensive than beef from mixed feed systems, involving grain and grass.

What is the Answer?

  • Ceres’ proposed CTM certification may cause consumers to wrongly believe that critical problems involved in red meat production do not exist in relation to the relevant products.
  • As such, we believe the proposed certification should be considered unacceptable in terms of the spirit, and potentially the letter, of consumer protection regulations.
  • A general transition from animal-based to plant-based diets is essential if we wish to maximise our effectiveness in protecting the environment, avoiding catastrophic climate change, preventing animal cruelty, and achieving optimum human health.

Author

Paul Mahony

Reference

[1] Ranganathan, J. and Waite, R., “Sustainable Diets: What you need to know in 12 charts”, World Resources Institute, 20th April, 2016, http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/sustainable-diets-what-you-need-know-12-charts

Image

skeeze | Pixabay.com | CC0 Public Domain

1383556_571159776266593_1626058394_n

I recently posted an article containing the text of a letter I had sent to Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford.

My key point was that the website of Agriculture Victoria claims that exemptions to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act do not permit cruelty to occur.

That claim seems to ignore the fact that the relevant exemptions, relating to practices permitted under “other legislation, codes of practice . . . and the Livestock Management Act Standards”, allow practices that cause certain animals to experience extreme pain and suffering.

How can it not be considered cruel to deliberately inflict pain and suffering on another being?

Yet that is what our state government is claiming.

Their comments remind me of Don Watson’s book Death Sentence: the decay of public language“, which has been summarised by the publishers (in part) this way:

“Today’s corporations, government departments, news media, and, perhaps most dangerously, politicians, speak to each other and to us in cliched, impenetrable, lifeless sludge.”

Much of the so-called communication emanating from governments, corporations and increasingly the broader community, to the extent it can be comprehended at all, does not reflect reality.

Anyway, I’m pleased to report that Ms Pulford has responded to my letter, for which I’m grateful.

On the other hand, I’m disappointed, but not surprised, that her letter suffers from the same “decay of public language” highlighted by Watson, along with certain omissions.

Firstly, she did not respond to my suggestions:

  • Agriculture Victoria amend its website by noting that cruelty is permitted when it involves animals bred for food and other purposes.
  • Alternatively, simply remove the exemptions.

Secondly, she stated that the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act “applies equally to all species and use of animal”, when the exemptions dictate otherwise.

Thirdly, she told me what I had already stated in my letter, which is that standards for the treatment of animals are specified in codes of practice for the “welfare” of animals.

Something that’s a little frightening, which highlights some of the horror the poor animals experience, is the fact that she notes (with my underlines) the codes of practice have been developed “to ensure that the appropriate levels of animal welfare are detailed in each code for the particular species or use”.

So for some animals, it seems it is “appropriate” that we inflict pain and suffering.

Imagine you are an animal for whom such an approach has been decreed by those in power. Those with the ability and desire to abuse you are fully within their rights to do so.

She mentioned that the livestock codes of practice are being reviewed at the national level, and are being replaced with Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines. I had referred to an example of those arrangements in my letter, noting that they allow (in respect of cattle at certain ages or under particular circumstances) castration, dehorning, disbudding (prior to horns growing) and hot iron branding, all without anaesthetic.

iStock_000023137213_Large

Unsurprisingly, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) was mentioned. Ms Pulford said they should only be contacted in relation to matters involving non-commercial or domestic animals, and that the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (what a mouthful) should be contacted in relation to livestock issues.

So the government department that is responsible for “economic development and job creation across Victoria” is also responsible for the well being of animals who are regarded as products to be slaughtered and exploited in other ways. What hope do the animals have when there is no one officially responsible for protecting their true interests?

In any event, the RSPCA earns royalties from the livestock sector in exchange for its “paw of approval” product endorsements. Is it just me, or does that also seem an “inappropriate” arrangement to you?

Perhaps the most extraordinary claim in the letter was that “animal welfare is a high priority for the Andrews Labor Government”.

Why do I consider that claim extraordinary?

Well, the Andrews Labor government is one of two in Australia that permit jumps racing for horses.

Untitled design

Also, the Andrews Labor government is one of three in Australia that permit duck shooting on public lands.

IMG_4022

Conclusion

As governments, elected representatives, and the public sector in general have established a legal framework that permits and condones the mental and physical abuse of animals, they must acknowledge that such standards exist, and stop pretending that we live in a civilised society.

We are quick to condemn other nations and cultures for what we consider to be heinous acts of cruelty, when we need look no further than our own backyard to see equally reprehensible acts that are enshrined in the laws that govern our way of life.

It’s time to either wake up and change, or stop pretending.

I feel that the march toward the former is gaining momentum, and am hopeful it will soon become the norm.

Author

Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Scribd, Slideshare, New Matilda, Rabble and Viva la Vegan)

Update

10th July, 2016: Additional comments on the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.

Sources

Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources, http://economicdevelopment.vic.gov.au/about-us

Reports on RSPCA commissions:

“RSPCA stamp ‘dupes buyers'”, Alexandra Smith, Sydney Morning Herald, 9th January 2012, smh.com.au/business/rspca-stamp-dupes-buyers-20120108-1pq6z.html

“Consumers duped by RSPCA, farmers claim” Alexandra Smith, Sydney Morning Herald, 9th January 2012, smh.com.au/environment/animals/consumers-duped-by-rspca-farmers-claim-20120108-1pq77.html

Images

“Aubrey”, Pete Crosbie, Willowite Animal Sanctuary

Branding a calf | © anrodphoto | iStock

Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

Coalition Against Duck Shooting

 

Around-The-Farm-August-61

Here is my letter of 31st March 2016 to Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford. I have informed Ms Pulford that I would be posting the content of the letter online. Some of the material was included in my article “When does ‘cruel’ not mean ‘cruel’?” of 31st August 2014.

The Hon. Jaala Pulford MLC
Level 16
8 Nicholson Street
East Melbourne
Victoria, 3002

jaala.pulford@parliament.vic.gov.au

31st March 2016

Dear Ms Pulford,

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

I note that the Agriculture Victoria website states as follows regarding exemptions under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act:

“There are a number of exemptions built into the POCTA Act for activities undertaken in accordance with other legislation, codes of practice made under this Act, and the Livestock Management Act Standards. However this does not permit cruelty to occur.”

I also note the following definition of the word “cruel” from the Oxford Dictionary:

Wilfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it.”

When one considers the practices that are permitted under the codes of practice, standards and related legislation, I wonder how they could not be considered cruel.

Here are some examples from a small sample of codes and guidelines:

Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Pigs (3rd Edition)

The code permits the following 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.

The Australian industry’s so-called voluntary ban on sow stalls, scheduled to commence in 2017, will 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.

Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Domestic Poultry (4th Edition)

The code permits:

  • life-long confinement indoors, including cages;
  • beak trimming of chickens without anaesthetic;
  • removing the snood of turkeys (the skin drooping from the forehead) without anaesthetic;
  • removing terminal segment of males’ inward pointing toes without anaesthetic;
  • killing of “surplus” chicks (mainly male) in the egg industry through gassing with CO2 or by “quick maceration”. (The Oxford defines “macerate” as “soften or become softened by soaking in a liquid”. In the case of chicks, there is no soaking in liquid. They are sent along a conveyor belt to an industrial grinder while still alive.)

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle

The standards permit:

  • castration without anaesthetic if under six months old or, under certain circumstances, at an older age;
  • dehorning without anaesthetic if under six months old or, under certain circumstances, at an older age;
  • disbudding (prior to horns growing) without anaesthetic. Caustic chemicals may be used for that process under certain circumstances, including an age of less than fourteen days;
  • hot iron branding without anaesthetic.

Please also see comments regarding the dairy industry below.

National Animal Welfare Standards for Livestock Processing Establishments

  • The standards allow stunning prior to slaughter by: pneumatic captive bolt guns; controlled atmosphere (CO2) stunning; and electrical stunning
  • They state that CO2 concentration should be greater or equal to 90% by volume, and no less than 80% when gaseous mixtures are used. (Variations are allowed following a monitoring and verification procedure that demonstrates effective stunning.)

Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals: Livestock at Slaughtering Establishments

  • Like the standard referred to above, in respect of pigs, the code allows stunning prior to slaughter by: pneumatic captive bolt guns; controlled atmosphere (CO2) stunning; and electrical stunning.
  • It notes that the CO2 concentration recommended in Europe is 70% by volume, and that the recommendation may need to be modified for Australian conditions as experience with local conditions increases.

Evidence of a standard procedure in action: CO2 stunning of pigs

The great majority of pigs in Australia are stunned using the CO2 method.

Many people may wrongly believe that the process is free of pain and stress for animals.

Donald Broom, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge University, made the following points after viewing a video recording of the process from an Australian abattoir:

  • The use of CO2 stunning represented a major welfare problem, as the gas is very aversive to pigs.
  • The extreme reactions were typical for pigs lowered into a high concentration of CO2.
  • The best gas to use in the stunning chamber is argon, or a mixture of argon and up to 20 per cent CO2. Pigs do not detect argon, so are stunned without being aware of the gas.
  • For financial reasons, efforts are generally made to reduce the time taken to unconsciousness, so CO2 is often used. It is somewhat cheaper than argon.

From Professor Broom’s comments, it would appear that there are options available that would cause less stress to pigs than high concentrations of CO2, and that many in the industry may be avoiding those methods for financial reasons.

Additional comments on the dairy industry

Cows are continually impregnated in order to produce milk. However, the milk is intended for humans, so the cow and calf are separated almost immediately after birth, with the calves either going back into the dairy industry, to veal production or almost immediate slaughter. This process is an inherent component of dairy production and seems almost unimaginably cruel to the cow and calf.

Although not legislated, relevant industries have established a national standard whereby they can avoid feeding calves aged 5 to 30 days, who are being transported without their mothers, for up to 30 hours at a time.

The RSPCA and potential mandatory reporting

The RSPCA has called for mandatory reporting of animal cruelty. The organisation’s Chief Executive, Heather Neil, has said:

“But there are some people who, by the nature of their role, are expected to know what animal cruelty is and when action should be taken. These people should have a legal obligation to report cruelty when they see it.”

Although the RSPCA may not have identified the issue itself, its proposal highlights the strange dichotomy that exists between legal and non-legal cruelty. The organisation’s proposal is presumably aimed at non-legal cruelty, without seeming to acknowledge the extent of the legal variety.

Conclusion

Agriculture Victoria’s claim that exemptions to the POCTA Act do not allow cruelty to occur could be construed as an attempt to hide the truth.

I am reminded of the following statement from former Labor Premier, Steve Bracks:

“When you’re proud of what you’re doing, you don’t want it hidden; you want people to know about it. You only keep secret the things that you’re ashamed of.”

He also said a feature that would differentiate his government from that of his predecessor was:

“leadership that believes in openness and accountability, that isn’t afraid of scrutiny, that credits the people of this state with the intelligence to make their own judgements”

In the spirit of the comments from Steve Bracks, I feel that Agriculture Victoria should amend the relevant page by noting that cruelty is permitted when it involves animals bred for food and other purposes. That would assist consumers to “make their own judgements” based on a clearer understanding of the truth.

Another option would be to remove the exemptions. Surely it is unjust to have one law for certain animals, and a different law for others.

Regardless of the outcome, better-informed consumers may choose to avoid animal products altogether on the basis that any use of animals for food and other purposes is a form of exploitation, and arguably unethical.

I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter with you if you would like to do so.

Yours faithfully

 

Paul Mahony
Co-founder Melbourne Pig Save
melbournepigsave.org

END OF LETTER

Image: Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary

Footnote: This article also appears on the Melbourne Pig Save website.

Link: Agriculture Victoria’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals page

 IMG_2892

Animal rights campaigner, Dori Kiss, spoke at the Melbourne Pig Save rally outside the GPO building in the heart of the city’s shopping precinct in late October, 2015.

In her speech, Dori spoke of police raiding her home and laying charges against her after she had reported horrendous treatment of animals at a New South Wales piggery. One of those animals is shown in this post’s main image, which is said to be from Springview Piggery in the town of Gooloogong.

Here’s what the Aussiepigs website says about the image and Springview:

“In late October 2013, a sow was discovered in a terrible condition, unable to move, with large bloody wounds on both of her front legs. She could not reach food or water. Activists were able to find a dish and fill it with water to give to her, and after some initial hesitance, she began frantically drinking litre after litre.

Many other sows were found with large untreated injuries, most of them in the sow stalls. Activists called police the following morning, but nobody was sent until three days later. The police were advised by the owners that the sow had suffered severe prolapses after giving birth to a litter of stillborns, damaging the nerves in her back legs and leaving her partially paralysed.

The owners had called in a vet sometime on Thursday 24th or Friday 25th October, who suggested they leave her over the weekend to see if her condition improved, and if not, to ‘destroy’ her. So she was left without food, water, treatment or attention of any sort, until Monday the 28th, when they killed her.

Despite this serious case of neglect, and the apparently undersized sow stalls, the owners of Springview Piggery have not been charged with any animal cruelty offences.”

The Aussiepigs website and Aussie Farms (referred to below) are run by Chris Delforce, who is also facing charges.

Here is a five-minute video and transcript of Dori’s speech (with video introduction by Melbourne Pig Save co-founder, Karina Leung).

xx

“As a woman, the worst thing that I could imagine is to be tortured, to be raped, to have a stick thrust into my vagina, full of stranger’s sperm, then stuffed into a cage growing full of pregnancy. In the dead of night, inside my cage, I give birth to these children, some of them already dead as they slip out of my body. I can’t reach them, I can’t comfort them; all I can do is grieve. Grieve for myself, grieve for my own mother that suffered the same as me, grieve for my children, my children that will grow up to be only a few months old before being shipped off, never to see freedom, to have their blood drained from a gaping hole in their throats, to be cut up and served as bacon, next to chicken’s period.

My name is Dori Kiss, and I have been charged with five counts of break and enter, to cause an indictable offence. And that indictable offence is to record the suffering of these animals.

One of these charges is based on a report that I gave to police about a sow, trapped in a farrowing crate, paralysed, gaping wounds on her front legs, unable to even reach water.

I walked into the police station, and demanded that they help my fellow woman. She needed help, and they did absolutely nothing for her. When I walked out of that shed that night, and closed the door on her, my heart could have burst. What could I do to help her? I didn’t have the ability to lift her out of her cage of torture. What could I do, who could I ask to help? I needed someone to help.

The RSPCA? No. After what they did, or better said, didn’t do, for all the pigs at Wally’s Piggery, where pigs were being tortured and killed after first being stunned with a sledgehammer, and the RSPCA walked away and did nothing.

I would go to the police. They must help. But they didn’t. Instead, they have tried to build a case against me, tried to make me into a criminal, for helping to expose the torture that goes on every single day inside animal farms. They did nothing for the animals.

I may face jail time for what I have done, but the fact is that nothing that society can inflict on me is anything compared to the suffering of animals on animal farms. Nothing could be as bad as what happens to the poor animals. And for them, I will fight till my dying breath.

To my fellow human beings that still eat animals, that still farm animals, I beg of you, stop, please stop! Please stop partaking in their suffering. For God’s sake, you can now buy vegan bacon, vegan eggs. You have no excuse.

Stop turning a blind eye. Stop eating the flesh of suffering animals.

To all my fellow activists, I beg of you, do not be afraid! Do not be afraid to stand up and fight for the animals. Do not let society push you into silence. Do not let the animal exploitation industries silence you!”

Some of what Dori witnessed can be seen in this video:

xx

Next door to where Dori spoke, thousands of people visit the famous Myer Christmas windows each year as part of a PR-driven pilgrimage that has continued for generations. On Christmas day, most would tuck gleefully into dead pigs, turkeys and chickens as they celebrate the supposed season of goodwill and peace to all.

Most of those animals would have been raised in facilities similar to the one that Dori spoke about. Many are included in the 38 establishments documented on the Aussiepigs website, along with other Aussie Farms exposés involving chickens, turkeys and ducks.

As just one example of the horrors we allow to be inflicted on animals, it is difficult to imagine that a water bird like a duck can be raised indoors, never seeing or feeling water, except the small amount they are given to drink.

A Contrasting Case: Oliver’s Piggery, Tasmania

The attitude of the police in Dori’s case appears to contrast starkly with that of the 2009 case of Oliver’s Piggery in Tasmania.

Activists Emma Haswell and Diana Simpson had recorded undercover footage from Oliver’s, showing horrific treatment of animals.

Here is some of what journalist, Paul Carter, said about the matter in the Tasmanian Times:

“The three animals over which he was prosecuted were destroyed by a vet soon after police arrived at the property to question Mr Oliver, with Ms Haswell in tow in an official advisory role. The sows were extremely emaciated, unwilling or unable to stand. Two had festering ulcers up to 12cm in diameter, and one of that pair was unable to move because its snout was stuck under the bar of a mesh divider. It could not get to food or water and its wounds were flyblown with adult and juvenile maggots.”

So, like the sow at Springview, a sow at Oliver’s Piggery could not reach food or water, and suffered horrifically in other ways.

After approaching the RSPCA and being told they would take no action, Emma informed police, who were shocked by what they saw and heard. The police visited the premises and laid charges.

Owner and industry veteran, Gary Oliver, pleaded guilty to animal cruelty. He was fined $2,500 and his company $10,000. A director of the company at the time was also on the board of producer-owned peak industry organisation, Australian Pork Limited (APL).

As a sad reflection of slick industry PR, at the time of the investigation, Mr Oliver had been appearing in brochures as one of Woolworths “fresh food people”. The business had been supplying the Woolworths retailing chain for ten years, and at the time of the video was supplying 20 per cent of the fresh pork sold in their Tasmanian supermarkets.

Just three months before their visit, the piggery was inspected by a quality auditor. According to presenter Liam Bartlett in Channel 9’s 60 Minutes” episode The Hidden Truth“, the auditor gave the piggery “the all-clear”. He says it was only a clerical error by Mr Oliver that prevented the piggery from being accredited by APL at the time of the evening raid.

A Woolworths spokesman has said the company relied on standards, administered by APL, that are supposed to certify producers and maintain quality.

In the article referred to earlier, the Tasmanian Times reported that Magistrate John Myers, after viewing the images of the piggery supplied by the activists, had little sympathy for the farmer’s protests about the activists’ undercover visit. Mr Myers said the activists’ efforts “might well have turned out to be in the public interest”.

Emma Haswell has been rightfully lauded by the media for exposing some of the horrors of routine animal exploitation (exemplified by the words “emma-haswell-hero” on the internet address of the Tasmanian Times article referred to earlier), but Dori Kiss is yet to receive such support.

What About Proposed “Ag-Gag” Legislation?

In Australia and elsewhere, “ag-gag” laws have been introduced or are being proposed in many jurisdictions. The animal advocacy group, Voiceless, describes ag-gag as “variety of laws which seek to hinder or ‘gag’ animal protection advocates by preventing them from recording the operations of commercial agricultural facilities.”

One of the common requirements of ag-gag laws is that any footage obtained must be turned over to enforcement agencies immediately, rather than being given to animal protection groups or the media.

Dori’s reward for informing enforcement agencies in this instance appears to have been to instigate an investigation (including a raid on her home) and have charges laid against her.

In contrast, there have been no convictions against producers in respect of the dozens of establishments exposed by Aussie Farms.

Where do we stand as a society and as individuals?

To the extent that we reward abusers, ignore victims and punish those who expose the truth, how can we claim to live in a civilised society?

As individuals, we can help prevent cruelty in many ways, including informing others of hidden realities, joining animal advocacy campaigns, and refusing to consume animal products.

Author

Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Facebook, Scribd, Slideshare, New Matilda, Rabble and Viva la Vegan)

Note

This article first appeared on the website of Melbourne Pig Save on 24th December, 2015 (incorrectly appearing as 4/1/2016).

Further reading and viewing

Aussie Farms, “Thousand Eyes: Australian Animal Agriculture” (4 minute video with graphic images)

ABC Lateline, “Animal Rights Battle“, 5th Nov 2013

Animal Liberation Victoria, “Free Range Fraud

Brightside Farm Sanctuary (founded and run by Emma Haswell)

Melbourne Pig Save, “When does ‘cruel’ not mean ‘cruel’?

Image

Australian pig farming at Springview Piggery, Gooloogong, NSW, 2013 | aussiepigs.com

dreamstime_xs_21570293

Here’s a selection of my letters published in newspapers since early 2008, listed under the headings:

  • animal rights;
  • climate change in general;
  • environmental (incl. climate change) impacts of animal agriculture; and
  • politics.

I hope they provide a reasonable perspective of some of the key issues we face.

Animal Rights

460-Sammy-Green-Pastures-Sanctuary-Waroona-WA-306

“Mulesing”, The Age, 10th March, 2008

The wool industry’s cruel practice of cutting skin from the backsides of sheep without pain relief (8/3) has come back to bite it in the bum.

“Only skin deep”, The Sunday Age, 16th March, 2008

The green marketing push by the Fur Council of Canada and other (“Industry Pushes ‘Green’ Fur Coats”, 9/3) is just another example of mankind’s appalling lack of ethics when it comes to the treatment of animals.  It seems that if the trade can make a dollar, allegedly without damaging the environment, then no amount of physical or psychological pain experienced by our animal friends matters.

Even if you were to accept the council’s dubious claims of humane practices, then you should also consider where else your fur might come from.  You’d owe it to yourself to see what happens (for example) on Chinese fur farms. The information’s not hard to find through reputable sources on the internet, but be warned: an animal being skinned alive is not a pretty sight.

“Nothing humane about pig farming”, The Age, 10th August, 2008

It’s great to see that the campaign by Animals Australia in favour of pigs is having an impact.

Consider how these intelligent and caring animals are treated.  Most pigs are kept indoors for their entire life, often in horrifically confined spaces.  Whilst still piglets, they are routinely castrated, have their teeth and ears clipped and their tails docked, all without pain relief.

And don’t assume that there’s anything humane about the slaughter process for the young pigs that are sent to the abattoir.

Most production animals have little or no protection under Australia’s “prevention of cruelty” legislation, due to exemptions contained in the various state and territory acts.  It’s important that people know of our production animals’ plight, so that they can make informed purchasing decisions.

“If you dare”, The Sunday Age, 8th February, 2009

The “bacon explosion” is a grotesque indulgence at the expense of animals.  However, the  animals might have the last laugh, as consumers face another significant health risk in addition to heart failure.

The World Cancer Research Fund has recommended against consuming processed meat  (including bacon and sausage meat) because of the cancer risk.  Indulge if you dare.

“Get meat off the menu”, The Sunday Age, 15th March, 2009

How sad to see pigs and other animals continuing to be treated as commodities (“Offal on again as diners rediscover blood & guts”, 8/3), with a chef gleefully hoeing into a pig’s ear whilst a pig’s head sits on the plate in front of him.

We’ve been conditioned over the years to believe that we need to eat meat, when a simple ethical approach demands otherwise.

Despite what we’re told by commercial interests (the full-page ad for red meat in the same paper was a good example), it’s easy to follow an incredibly varied, delicious and healthy diet without consuming animal products.  It’s also much better for the planet.

In the words of Henning Steinfeld from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation, “Livestock are one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems. Urgent action is required to remedy the situation.”

“Double standards”, The Sunday Age, 23rd August, 2009

I was interested to read that ”pig arks” have become big business in Great Britain; they’re like a backyard kennel for pigs, before they’re sent to the abattoir for slaughter (”Have a butcher’s at the latest trend”, 16/8.)

This trend should help highlight the double standards that exist in our society’s treatment of animals. While dogs are often pampered, many in the West regularly eat other intelligent, sensitive and sociable beings.

In physical and psychological terms, the treatment of pigs in factory ”farms” is horrendous. In certain countries, the breeding and slaughter of dogs for human consumption is big business.

Do Australians who eat pigs and other animals have any right to complain?

“Such a cruel ‘sport’”, The Age, 5th November, 2009

Something to consider amid the hype surrounding the spring racing carnival is that a large percentage of horses bred for racing never make it to the track due to injury or lack of ability. They end up at the slaughterhouse for foreign meat markets or the knackery for pet food.

The life of many that race is miserable, with excessive periods of confinement and health problems. These include stomach ulcers due to the artificial feeding cycle and bleeding in the lungs due to excessive vigorous exercise. It is a profit-making industry and the horses are considered to be an expendable commodity. Everyone loves a winner, but for how long and at what cost to the horse?

“A woolly way”, The Age, 16th December, 2009

Sarah Long (Letters, 14/12) has hit the nail on the head in pointing out that breeding sheep to have more wrinkles and skin folds than normal, to increase the yield of wool (and profits), makes them prone to flystrike.

The problem could be avoided if farmers stopped breeding sheep that way, rather than barbarically cutting large pieces of skin from their backsides without pain relief.

Adelaide University research suggests that bare-breech sheep cut more wool and produce more lambs than other types, which may help to offset the higher initial cost.

“Cruelty out of sight”, The Age, 4th June, 2010

The outcry over jumps racing indicates that many people find animal cruelty abhorrent when it’s brought to their attention. While that form of cruelty is visible, let’s not forget institutionalised cruelty that is out of sight in our industrial farming system.

An example is the lifelong confinement of breeding sows, whose first glimpse of sunshine occurs on the day they’re sent for slaughter. Many are driven insane by horrific conditions.

Until we can show universal compassion for other sentient beings, we should stop pretending we live in a civilised society.

“Not so glamorous”, The Sunday Age, 3rd November, 2010

We were told that So You Think carried the hopes of a nation into the Melbourne Cup (The Age, 2/11). Isn’t that a little over the top?

It’s just another example of an industry being perpetuated, with gambling, alcohol, expensive clothes and media coverage being just some of the associated products that people are being brainwashed into buying. This nation has far more important things to think about than that.

And let’s not forget the plight of the horses. Many that are bred for racing end up on foreign dinner tables or in pet food. Most racehorses experience miserable lives, with excessive periods of confinement and health problems such as stomach ulcers due to the artificial feeding cycle and bleeding in the lungs due to excessive vigorous exercise.

It doesn’t sound very glamorous to me.

“Endangered species”, The Age, 26th September, 2011

It is wonderful that a key shark fishery has been closed in order to protect dolphins and sea lions (The Saturday Age, 24/9). However, another valid reason for closing it would have been the protection of the sharks themselves. Those magnificent creatures evolved around 400 million years ago, but many species are now facing extinction. For shark fin soup alone, 38 million sharks are killed each year in horrific circumstances. Let us do our best to preserve this natural wonder before it’s too late.

“Reduce dairy farming”, The Age, 30th November, 2011

It is pleasing that the dairy industry’s massive levels of water consumption are recognised (”Bid to end fighting over rivers”, The Age, 28/11). At various times, it has been responsible for 34 per cent of Victoria’s water consumption and 35 per cent of the Murray-Darling basin’s, primarily due to the flood irrigation of pasture for cattle.

The most effective way to reduce the industry’s environmental impacts is to consume fewer of its products, which would benefit cows and human health. Casein, the main protein in cows’ milk, is so durable and sticky it is used in some glues. Casein and other dairy milk proteins are responsible for many human health problems.

Further, dairy cows are continually impregnated to produce milk, and are usually separated from calves a day after birth, at huge distress to both. The calves are generally slaughtered (many within a few days of birth) or retained to live the same miserable lives as their mothers.

“Monsters on the line”, The Age Travel section, 3rd March, 2012

The “monster” fish that Jeremy Wade describes (Traveller, February 18-19) are magnificent creatures that have evolved to survive and thrive in their natural environment. That’s in contrast to human monsters who invade others’ territories to pursue “an eccentric pastime”, willingly drawn by “their sport’s appeal”.

“Pigs more than food”, The Sunday Age, 3rd June, 2012

The image of the piglet in the restaurant kitchen (”Pork back in flavour as chefs put a twist in little piggy tale”, 27/5) reminded me of similar images I have seen from overseas of dogs being cooked. The comparison runs deeper than the culinary delights provided by both animals; pigs are as intelligent, sociable and fun-loving as any dog.

That the pigs mentioned in the article were allegedly free range doesn’t help much. Patty Mark, founder of Animal Liberation Victoria, has seen free-range pigs in the slaughterhouse. She has been quoted as saying: ”One pig was absolutely terrified, screaming and frothing at the mouth. She could see pigs bleeding out before her.”

It’s time we learnt to respect pigs and other animals as the fascinating creatures they are, rather than raising them as food.

“Legalised cruelty”, The Sunday Age, 21st October, 2012

Bacon baklava and other ”super tasty treats” disguise the sinister side of the pig meat industry (”And for just desserts, can we tempt you with some bacon baklava?”, 14/10).

Legalised cruelty comes in many forms. How about the widespread mutilation of piglets a few days after birth without anaesthetic, including castration, tail docking, ear notching and teeth clipping?

Then there’s the confinement of sows day and night for months on end in sow stalls and farrowing crates so small that sows can’t even turn around. And the fact that most pigs never see daylight until the day they are sent to the slaughterhouse?

When will society decide that enough is enough?

“Culinary treats”, The Age, 21st January, 2013

The people of Britain and Australia should get over their hang-up about eating horse meat (The Saturday Age, 19/1). If we can eat cows, then we can eat horses. If we can eat pigs and lambs, we can eat dogs and cats. If farm animals exist for our culinary benefit, then other animals should also “step up to the plate”. With our rapidly growing population, they should accept that they will be required to help out sooner, rather than later. They are very popular components of the diet in many other countries.

Note: Just in case you’re wondering, yes, there was a lot of sarcasm in that one.

“Break the meat habit”, The Age, 30th December, 2013

The article on superbugs says: ”Australians love their antibiotics” (”A plague upon us”, Insight, 28/12). The problem is that they and others also love ”their” meat. The conditions in most animal-based food production facilities are so bad that antibiotics are routinely used in huge quantities to prevent infection, thereby creating most of the superbugs that we’re now contending with. If it’s not already too late, we urgently need to break our meat habit.

“Need a reason?”, The Sunday Age, 19th January, 2014

So most meat pies contain less than one third meat (”Tests reveal supermarket pies not even one-third meat”, theage.com.au, 12/1). The government standard says they must contain at least 25 per cent ”fat-free flesh”, which may, in fact, contain fat, along with animal rind, connective nerves, blood, blood vessels and, in the case of poultry, skin. It sounds like one more good reason to look after yourself, the animals and the planet by giving up meat and ”meat” products.

“Unethical addiction”, The Sunday Age, 4th May, 2014

Sam de Brito highlights that we are allowing an animal holocaust to proceed in our midst (”We are all Nazis when it comes to animal rights”, 27/4). Consistent with that notion, Georgie Mattingley says many of us have become complacent and close our eyes to what’s happening (”A vegetarian in the slaughterhouse”). However, Mattingley is wrong; the nation does not need meat. She proves as much by her consumption choices. The American Dietetic Association has stated meat is unnecessary for a healthy life. In terms of the economy, we can adapt to producing alternatives, with significant environmental benefits. What price must animals pay for society’s blind addiction to a product whose consumption breaches all notions of an ethical life?

“Cruelty part of the deal”, The Age, 3rd June, 2015 [Note 1]

Curtis Stone highlights the introduction of “sow stall-free” pork by Coles (“Chef of substance”, Epicure, 2/6). However, he does not mention that Coles and other retailers still sell meat from animals that have suffered horrendously due to exemptions contained in anti-cruelty legislation. In respect of pigs, those exemptions allow lifelong confinement indoors; 24/7 confinement in tiny farrowing crates for up to six weeks; and mutilation of piglets without anaesthetic, including castration, tail docking, ear notching and teeth clipping.

Coles chief executive, John Durkan, has said his company’s customers want to know that their products are cruelty-free. With that in mind, hopefully he and Curtis Stone will tell us all the facts.

Climate change in general

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

“Rudd the dud” published in The Australian, 17th December, 2008 (with edited versions in The Herald Sun, The Daily Telegraph and The West Australian)

Kevin Rudd, you’re a dud. The climate change crisis requires leadership, not middle-ground marketing strategies aimed at matching the views of the majority. The problem is that the majority of people are yet to grasp the scale of the crisis we’re facing. A true leader would ensure they understood so that they’d support the drastic measures required to deal with the problem

Background: The letter was prompted by Rudd’s decision to have an emissions reduction target of only 5% (or 15% if other nations agreed). It was over a year before he scrapped plans for an emissions trading scheme. When he announced the target, he said that some say it’s too much, others say it’s not enough, so it must be about right (a little like Goldilocks). Science didn’t come into it. The only question was how would it look in the electorate. He was a massive let-down on climate change, after saying during the election campaign that it was the greatest moral challenge of our time. We had so much hope after suffering though 11 years of right-wing denialist John Howard as prime minister.

“Threat is real”, The Sunday Age, 28th December, 2008 [Note 2]

I can sympathise with farmers who are not convinced that climate change is real.

However, the fact is (for example) that the Greenland ice sheet is 2 kilometres thick (not 2 metres), 2,400 km long and up to 1,100 km wide. If it melts completely, sea levels will rise by 7 metres.

In their book “Climate Code Red”, David Spratt and Philip Sutton have explained how global warming is causing water on the melting surface to run across the ice, forming streams that widen into a torrent of water which pours through cracks that have formed and eventually the water finds its way to the base, lubricating the movement of the ice sheet over the rocky bottom.

This process feeds on itself, and is leading to a much faster deterioration than first anticipated. Then there’s the Antarctic ice sheet to think about.

Many feedback loops involved in climate change lead to accelerating global warming, e.g. loss of white ice exposes dark land, vegetation or water, which causes solar radiation to be absorbed rather than reflected, leading to further warming, more melting and so on.

Just because farmers can’t see such processes doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

The problem is that we’re at or near a point where those processes will accelerate no matter what we do. But let’s face the enormous challenge and mobilise our resources to grab whatever chance we have to save this magnificent planet.

“Pathetic”, The Australian, 12th March, 2009

How pathetic. The day after the Government introduces legislation that completely fails to recognise the extent to which we need to tackle climate change, The Australian’s headline is about a tiff over industrial relations between two Liberal MP’s who are behaving like recalcitrant schoolboys.

When will a politician stand up and accept that we’re facing a climate emergency?

“Australia must lead”, The Age, 28th April, 2009 [Note 3]

Even the conservative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there’s a 90 per cent probability that the problem has been caused by human activities. Yet all Kevin Rudd and Penny Wong can offer is an emissions reduction target of 5-15 per cent by 2020, and the establishment of the grandly titled Global Carbon Capture and Storage Institute. I’d suggest that the Ponds Institute has more credibility.

The [Australian Conservation Foundation] and the ACTU estimate that a million new Australian jobs could be created by 2030 in tackling the crisis. Our overall emissions are higher than those of many European countries, and only 20 per cent less than those of Britain. A commitment by Australia would influence other countries such as China and India, which face extreme food shortages as the Himalayan glaciers and Asian monsoonal rains disappear.

“Real leaders needed”, The Age, 17th June, 2009

Leslie Cannold has indicated that apocalyptic headlines and catastrophic images of climate change provoke feelings of powerlessness among the public rather than a desire to act.

If only we again had political leaders like Roosevelt, Churchill and Curtin. In a time of war, they showed the way and channelled their nations’ efforts in overcoming the enormous challenges. In 1943, the percentage of gross domestic product attributable to the war effort in those three leaders’ countries ranged from 40 per cent to 55 per cent.

In modern-day Australia, our weak-kneed and short-sighted leaders are afraid to stand up to the fossil fuel lobby and transform our economy using green technologies and practices.

Such a transformation would lead us out of the global financial crisis and make us world leaders in energy supply.

We do face catastrophe if we fail to act, and much sooner than many people care to think.

“In thrall to lobbyists”, The Age, 9th November, 2009

Kevin Rudd is good at grandstanding and sounding earnest about climate change. Tragically, he is no better than John Howard or Malcolm Turnbull because, like them, he has been mesmerised by the fossil fuel lobby. Carbon dioxide takes hundreds of years to break down. Continuing to pump it out as we do is like blowing up a balloon.

If we keep going, something will have to give. Because of that the future is looking ugly.

“Too much hot air”, The Australian, 11th February, 2010

The climate change policies of both major parties are pathetic attempts to appear to be doing something meaningful, when in reality they are just continuing to pander to the fossil fuel lobby. In fact, with so much hot air to be produced by both sides prior to the election, they may significantly add to the problem

“Send smelters to cleaner countries”, The Age, 3rd March, 2010

So the extension of electricity contracts for Alcoa will secure 2500 jobs, utilising the world’s most greenhouse intensive energy source, brown coal (The Age, 2/3). However, in terms of jobs and the environment, we would be better off letting the aluminium industry go elsewhere. As they rely so heavily on coal (including brown coal), Australia’s smelters generate 2.5 times the world average of greenhouse gases per tonne of aluminium produced. Relocating them to other countries that utilise cleaner energy sources would significantly reduce global emissions.

In terms of employment, the ACTU and the Australian Conservation Foundation have estimated that Australia could create around 850,000 new jobs over the next 20 years by investing in green technologies, including renewable energy. That is more than enough to absorb the jobs that would have been lost at Alcoa and Loy Yang Power if the existing supply contracts had not been renewed.

“Gillard is no better”, The Age, 18th August, 2010

Maybe it’s the lack of media coverage about tipping points and runaway climate change that enables politicians to be so blase on the issue.

Although Abbott’s views are frightening and hard to believe from an aspiring PM, Julia Gillard’s policies are so insipid that she is no better.

We’re now told their campaigns are focusing on the economy. If we allow climate change to get out of hand (it may already be too late), then we can forget about a stable economy. The basic science is straightforward and we’re seeing more evidence every day. If we continue with business as usual, it will just be a question of how soon the signs become so bad that even deniers can’t ignore them, even if they continue to claim that the earth is flat and that gravity does not exist.

“A grubby association”, The Age, 17th February, 2012

Whether or not the payments to Professor Bob Carter were inappropriate, many credible sources have documented the grubby history of the denialist movement. An infamous tobacco industry memo, discovered through US legal proceedings, stated, ”Doubt is our product, since it is the best means of competing with the body of fact that exists in the minds of the general public.” That is the strategy that has been adopted by many groups denying the reality of man-made climate change.

We need to cut through the smokescreen created by those with vested interests in thwarting meaningful action. If we do not act urgently, we may lose the opportunity to prevent civilisation-threatening outcomes.

“Climate cringe sank Rudd”, The Sunday Age, 4th March, 2012

I thank Maxine McKew for her insights into the tactics of Julia Gillard (”Divided they stand”, 26/2). However, it wasn’t just the scrapping of the emissions trading scheme in 2010 that turned many people against Kevin Rudd. It was his decision in December 2008 to target a measly 5 to 15 per cent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2000 levels, along with massive compensation to big polluters.

That was a pathetic, politically expedient response to what he had previously described as ”the great moral, economic and environmental challenge of our generation”.

Now, as then, the climate change crisis requires inspirational leadership, not middle-ground marketing strategies aimed at matching the views of the majority or placating big business. A true leader would ensure that the majority of people understood the scale of the crisis, so that they would support the emergency measures required to deal with it. Neither Gillard nor Rudd are willing to do what is required.

A bonus would be that many of the measures would stimulate the economy well beyond the booming mining sector.

“Rising dangers”, The Age, 7th June, 2012

The Victorian government is being grossly irresponsible in relaxing planning laws dealing with sea-level rise (”State eases sea level regulations”, The Age, 6/6). The assumption of a 40 centimetre rise by 2040 is incredibly optimistic, as are the projections of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which estimate a rise of 19-59 centimetres by 2100. Climate commissioner Tim Flannery argues that the IPCC is ”painfully conservative” because it ”works by consensus and includes government representatives from the US, China and Saudi Arabia, all of whom must assent to every word of every finding”. The IPCC’s projections do not allow for many factors, including the ice-sheet dynamics of Greenland and Antarctica. Dr James Hansen of NASA says that if ice-sheet disintegration continues to double every decade, we will be faced with sea-level rise of several metres this century. Good luck to anybody relying on Victoria’s new planning regulations.

“Policy will be futile”, The Sunday Age, 8th December, 2013

If Tony Abbott allows the fossil fuel sector to fulfil its massive expansion plans, then he’d better scrap his ”stop the boats” policy. Any efforts to turn back millions of climate refugees will be futile.

“Emergency action on grand scale is required”, The Age, 10th January, 2015

Adam Morton reports that only a modest deal, to be “built on over time”, is anticipated at the Paris climate summit. Unfortunately, the planet cannot wait. Part of the problem is the fact that negotiations are based on projections developed by the IPCC, an organisation described by Professor Tim Flannery as “painfully conservative”. Dire as they are, those projections do not allow for many critical climate feedback mechanisms that create a very real risk of runaway climate change. The climate crisis requires emergency action. During World War II, the governments of the US, UK, Germany, Japan and Australia were committing around 40-70 per cent of GDP to the war effort. Trillions of dollars were utilised in dealing with the global financial crisis. Where is the required monetary commitment to the greatest threat ever faced by the inhabitants of our magnificent planet? Feigned concern, platitudes and paper-thin treaties will achieve nothing.

“Coal”, The Age, 17th October, 2015

The Carmichael coal mine: A disaster for the climate and the barrier reef. Greg Hunt: A disaster as Environment Minister.

Environmental (incl. Climate Change) impacts of Animal Agriculture

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

“Feeling scared? Eat less meat”, The Age, 22nd February, 2008

Professor Garnaut’s ominous predictions on climate change (The Age, 21/2) must be taken seriously by us all. If we were under threat by another country, we’d do whatever it took to protect our homeland. Kevin Rudd needs to treat the current threat in the same way that Winston Churchill and the citizens of Britain treated the threat to their country and Western Europe in World War II.

An easy step, which no one in Australian politics seems to mention, is to eat less meat. Could it be that they’re afraid of a backlash from the livestock sector? Just look at the findings of UN bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in regard to the disastrous effects of the livestock sector on climate change, land degradation, water use and loss of biodiversity. For example, the FAO has said that the livestock sector is “responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions measured in carbon dioxide equivalent. This is a higher share than transport.”

The livestock sector converts vegetable protein to animal protein in an incredibly inefficient manner. It typically takes around 20 kilograms of vegetable protein fed to cattle, to produce one kilogram of animal protein. We’d use an awful lot less land, and produce far less greenhouse gas, if that vegetable protein came straight to us.

“Cause and effect”, The Sunday Age, 8th June, 2008

It’s pleasing to see a scientific approach being developed to measure Australia’s environmental impact on other nations and future generations (“Many unhappy returns, from a ravenous nation”, 1/6).

However, the article suggests the prospect of a tax on beef and dairy farmers in recognition of the livestock sector’s high greenhouse emissions.

Instead of a new tax, why not simply try to educate consumers? A tax on the producer would cause everyone to grumble but no-one could validly complain if well-informed consumers decided to purchase fewer beef and dairy products for environmental reasons.

Do most consumers know that the UN’s Food & Agriculture Organisation has said that livestock production is one of the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems? It has reported that the livestock sector is responsible for a higher share of greenhouse gas emissions than the entire global transport system.

While governments are willing to spend money on advertisements that encourage us to turn off electrical appliances, they seem to say very little about our food choices. We simply don’t have time to muck around; they must help to convey the message.

“Food for thought”, 11th January, 2009, The Sunday Age

There was a very interesting juxtaposition of articles in The Sunday Age (4/1). Firstly, an article commenting on the State Government’s campaign encouraging Melburnians to reduce their average direct water consumption to 155 litres per day (“Water savers’ flush of pride”). Second, an alarming article on Australia’s disgraceful performance in regard to our most endangered wetlands (“Australia fails to act on wetland obligations”).

The first article mentioned that the government is spending $5.4 million on advertising as part of the Target 155 campaign. However, the government is not telling us that around 90 per cent of our water is consumed indirectly in the food we eat, and that animal-based food products are the worst offenders.

Direct household consumption only accounts for 8 per cent of this state’s water use, whilst the animal agriculture sector as a whole accounts for 51 per cent and the dairy industry 34 per cent. UNESCO says that a kilogram of beef requires five times more water to produce than a kilogram of rice and it takes 1,000 litres of water to produce 1 litre of milk. Plant-based agriculture is many times more water-efficient than the animal-based alternative.

If you want to save our great rivers and their associated wetlands, by far the most effective thing you can do is reduce your consumption of dairy and other animal-based food products in favour of plant-based alternatives.

“The methane factor”, The Age, 13th January, 2009

Coal-fired power has rightly been identified as a significant contributor to Australia’s (and particularly Victoria’s) shameful level of greenhouse emissions (“Victoria, the dirty state, shamed by emissions scorecard”, 12/1). However, the true impact of a more significant contributor is overlooked. It is the livestock sector.

Each year, Australia’s livestock produce around 3 million tonnes of methane. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, methane’s greenhouse impact is 72 times stronger over a 20 year time horizon than carbon dioxide’s. Those methane emissions equate to around 216 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is around 20% more than the emissions from all of Australia’s coal-fired power stations.

If people really want to help save the planet, they should consider their consumption of livestock products, particularly beef, dairy, lamb and wool.

“Up in smoke”, The Age, 28th September, 2009

I see that John Vogels suggests that the CSIRO should apologise to livestock and dairy farmers for daring to suggest that their products are harmful to the environment (”Hot air over CSIRO’s new enviro diet”, the nationaltimes.com.au, 25/9).

Does that mean (for example) that the Federal Government should apologise to tobacco farmers for requiring cigarette manufacturers to place health warnings on their products?

If we’re to have any chance of saving the planet, we must stop pandering to powerful interest groups and politicians who depend on such groups for electoral success.

“Cut the bull”, The Age, 1st January, 2010

Whether it’s Angus or another form of beef (“Bull and burgers: mincing their words”, The Age, 30/12), a massive rip-off is occurring, but it’s not the hamburger consumers who are suffering, it’s the rest of us. Beef consumption involves massive environmental externalities – the consequences of the production and delivery process experienced by parties not directly involved in the transaction.

According to the CSIRO, it takes between 50,000 and 100,000 litres of water to produce one kilogram of beef, compared with: 2200 litres for one kilogram of soy beans, 2000 litres for rice, and 750 litres for wheat. That kilogram of soy beans contains about 50 per cent more high-quality protein than the beef.

Also, because of methane emissions, land clearing, refrigeration and high fossil fuel usage in production, beef’s contribution to Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions is massive.

If we are serious about tackling our critical environmental problems, then the true cost of beef production and other forms of animal agriculture must be accounted for in the Federal Government’s proposed emissions trading scheme and in water pricing mechanisms.

“More than we can chew”, The Sunday Age, 21st February, 2010

It’s ironic that Guy Pearse uses hamburgers to compare the climate policies of the major parties. The emissions intensity of carcass beef is more than twice that of aluminium smelting. (Emissions intensity represents kilograms of greenhouse gas generated per kilogram of product.) To put that in perspective, aluminium smelting consumes 16 per cent of Australia’s (mainly coal-fired) electricity while our annual tonnage of beef production is around 10 per cent higher than that of aluminium. Policymakers need to start focusing on the horrendous impact of our diet on climate change.

“Too high a price for dairy”, The Sunday Age, 4th April, 2010

Something that seems to be missing from the discussion on the food bowl modernisation project (”Brumby’s water plan savaged”, 28/3) is the type of food that is being produced. For example, ABS figures show that dairy farming represents around 34 per cent of the state’s overall water consumption, which is largely due to the practice of flood irrigating pasture for cattle.

If domestic and export customers were required to pay prices that reflected the true environmental cost, then demand would fall and the dairy industry’s horrendous impact on our rivers would be greatly reduced.

“Better use of water”, The Age, 11th October, 2010

The debate on water allocations is being portrayed as a battle between the needs of irrigators and the environment. What they are not considering is the different types of irrigation.

The most recent ABS figures for Victoria (from 2004-05) show that animal agriculture represents 51 per cent of the state’s total water consumption; dairy farming alone represents 34 per cent, which is largely due to the practice of flood irrigating pasture for cattle.

Researchers at Cornell University in the US have reported that producing one kilogram of animal protein requires about 100 times more water than producing one kilogram of grain protein. CSIRO results for Australia are similar. Animal agriculture is inherently inefficient in satisfying nutritional requirements.

Governments may be under pressure from industry livestock groups to avoid mentioning such figures, but if they’re serious about saving our great rivers, it’s time they faced reality.

“Keep BBQ beef-free”, The Age, 21st March, 2011

It’s ironic that farmers in flooded areas of Victoria are welcoming Prince William with a barbecue (”Barbie fit for a prince eases flood pain”, The Saturday Age, 19/3).

More intense weather events are the direct result of climate change, with animal agriculture a major contributor. The beef they’re likely to eat is 2½ times as greenhouse gas-emission intensive as aluminium smelting, which consumes 16 per cent of Australia’s (mainly coal-fired) electricity.

Due primarily to related deforestation and methane emissions, Australia’s beef cattle are responsible for 1.3 times the emissions of electricity generation in Victoria. If they want a stable climate, the farmers would be better off cooking delicious and nutritious plant-based alternatives at the barbie.

“The Climate Agenda: Question 2”, The Sunday Age, 4th September, 2011

When are we going to hear more about the great elephant in the room – animal agriculture? The CSIRO and the University of Sydney have jointly reported that it is responsible for over 30 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s conservative, as it is based on a 100-year time horizon for methane’s warming impact. According to the IPCC, methane is far more potent when measured over a 20-year time horizon.

Livestock’s impact is largely attributable to the inherently inefficient nature of animals as a food source for humans, with onerous demands on resources at every step of the supply chain. A key factor in livestock’s emissions is the massive amount of deforestation attributable to grazing and feed crop production, which the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency now ignores in its National Greenhouse Gas Inventory. Animal agriculture is by far the greatest cause of deforestation globally and in Australia. The world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, James Hansen, says we will not overcome climate change without massive reforestation and significant cuts in emissions of non-CO2 climate forcers, such as methane, nitrous oxide, tropospheric ozone and black carbon. Meaningful action in that regard cannot be achieved without a general move towards a plant-based diet.

The livestock sector is becoming more active in alleging its products are benign. The industry’s arguments remind me of contributions by Ian Plimer and Bob Carter to the general climate change debate. A key problem is that social and cultural conditioning encourages key decision makers and most climate change activists to overlook the problem. They will happily absorb any propaganda that tells them it is all okay. The Greens say virtually nothing, possibly with one eye on the ballot box and potential scare campaigns by the livestock sector. One argument of the livestock sector is that production animals eat plants and crop residues that we wouldn’t. That practice is a key contributor to desertification in Africa, West Asia, the Americas and Australia.

If we are to have any chance of avoiding climate change tipping points and keep our planet habitable for humans and wildlife, we must not ignore the livestock issue.

Background: This was the “question” I posed in response to The Sunday Age’s “Climate Agenda” initiative. Here’s what The Sunday Age said when publishing my the questions (with mine finishing second in voting):

“Democracy, the OurSay website declares, is not a spectator sport. And there were few spectators when The Sunday Age asked readers to set the paper’s agenda on climate change. There were 567 questions posted and almost 20,000 votes cast. Then there was the debate – 4094 comments discussed the rights and wrongs of the questions. The Sunday Age partnered with the oursay.org website to create The Climate Agenda, an idea which aimed to open up reporting to broader ideas. Today, The Sunday Age answers the question which received the most votes – 5564 – and will report on the rest in coming weeks. The top 10 questions are listed below.”

I subsequently wrote about the “climate agenda” in my article “Does the standard of climate change reporting need beefing up?“.

“Halt the deforestation”, The Sunday Age, 11th December, 2011

Ross Garnaut is right to highlight the poor media reporting of climate change issues (“The science is good, the media bad, the situation worse: Garnaut”, The Age, 11/3). However, he has always overlooked the elephant in the room – animal agriculture.

The CSIRO and the University of Sydney have jointly reported that it is responsible for about 30 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

This is partly due to the inherently inefficient nature of animals as a food source for humans, with onerous demands on resources at every step of the supply chain.

A key factor in livestock’s emissions is the massive amount of deforestation attributable to grazing and feed crop production. The world’s pre-eminent climate scientist, James Hansen, says we will not overcome climate change without massive reforestation and significant cuts in methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Meaningful action in this regard cannot be achieved without a general move towards a plant-based diet.

“A beef with emissions”, The Sunday Age, 31st May, 2015

It’s pleasing that the methane emissions of Australia’s northern cattle herd are lower than thought (“CSIRO technologies transform cattle production and meat”, theage.com.au, 24/5). However, the finding still leaves beef’s greenhouse gas emissions over a 20-year time frame (which is critical for climate change tipping points) on a different paradigm from those of plant-based alternatives and other types of meat. The reduction in  emissions is hardly an innovation; rather the research simply obtained a clearer picture.

“Costly pursuit”, The Age, 15th June, 2015

I can not sympathise with those who complain about high beef prices (“High beef prices cutting margins to the bone”, 13/6). The problem remains that the price does not allow for the huge environmental costs, which affect us all. Those costs should be fully incorporated within the price paid by the end user. In that way, demand would reduce dramatically, and we would be dealing realistically with a key contributor to climate change and other environmental problems.

Politics (incl. environmental issues)

h

“Politics”, The Age, 4th February, 2008

Where have the Greens been during the dredging debate? Seaweed’s green, just like forests. Is it a case of out of sight, out of mind?

“Transparent as silt”, The Age, 9th February, 2008

Port of Melbourne Corporation CEO Stephen Bradford says the approval process for the channel deepening project has been transparent (Letters, 8/2). So why did the terms of reference for the Supplementary Environment Effects Statement inquiry prevent expert witnesses from being cross-examined? The words of former premier Steve Bracks from 1999, ring loud: “When you’re proud of what you’re doing, you don’t want it hidden; you want people to know about it. You only keep secret the things that you’re ashamed of.”

“Gross distortions of truth”, The Age, 14th December, 2009

So Brumby’s Labor Government has again withheld critical information (”True cost of desal plant concealed”, The Age, 12/12). Yet again, the grand words of then Labor leader Steve Bracks from 1999 are shown to be hollow. He said a Labor government would differ from its predecessor through “leadership that believes in openness and accountability, that isn’t afraid of scrutiny, that credits the people of this state with the intelligence to make their own judgements”.

Thank you to The Age for highlighting such abuses of power. It’s time the broader media, and the population in general, scrutinised our governments more closely. They get away with murder because too many media outlets feed the public a diet of orchestrated 10-second sound grabs that either say nothing or grossly distort the truth.

“Too one-sided”, The Age, 20th December, 2009

So the Victorian Government has failed to deliver five of its promised ”significant policy statements” for 2009, including its ”respect” statement (”Excuses, yes, but report card stern on Brumby”, 13/12). I’m willing to forgive it for that one, as I already know what it’s going to say: ”All citizens are required to respect the Government, no matter how much it insults their intelligence or abuses their rights.”

“Mutiny”, The Age, 25th June, 2010

The mutiny by Labor MPs confirms what we all knew. Politicians’ main aim in life is to protect jobs: their own.

“Oblivious to crisis”, Sydney Morning Herald, 14th August, 2010

Not only is Tony Abbott a non- tech-head but he was oblivious to the concept of peak oil until asked a question on it at the 2008 Sydney Writers Festival. He tried to bluff his way through, but then had to admit he had not heard of it. Peak oil is when oil demand exceeds supply, with resulting shortfalls and a rapid escalation in prices.

So the man whose party claims to be the only responsible economic manager was, until two years ago, oblivious to an issue that will have profound impacts on the global economy and society generally, and requires us to pursue renewal energy solutions without delay.

Author

Paul Mahony (also on Twitter, Scribd, Slideshare and Viva la Vegan)

Main Image

Newspaper Photo © Imagestore | Dreamstime.com

Other Images

Sammy Frost (now at Green Pastures Sanctuary Waroona, Western Australia)

Lightning, night storm © Petr Mašek | Dreamstime.com

Cattle at sunset © Anthony Brown | Dreamstime.com

Parliament House in Canberra, Australia © Dan Breckwoldt | Dreamstime.com

Notes

1. The Age’s letters editor replaced my “who” with “that”.

2. Reference to “Arctic ice sheet” deleted due to duplication (as Greenland mentioned).

3. Australian Conservation Foundation referred to in lieu of CSIRO. The figure of 1 million jobs was based on the Age article “Rudd ignores better options after pressure from industry” of 20th April, 2009, by James Norman, which referred to “nearly 1 million new green jobs”. The relevant report, “Green Gold Rush”, actually used a figure of 850,000.

%d bloggers like this: