Archives for posts with tag: Factory farming

The Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) describes itself as “an active, powerful lobby group dedicated to the interests of farmers and making a difference to communities”.

On 5th January 2018, the organisation issued a statement in which it said it had “slammed” key aspects of the Victorian state government’s recently released animal welfare action plan.

In what he described as a “stern warning to government”, president David Jochinke condemned the proposal to introduce the concept of sentience to animal welfare legislation.

In its action plan, the government had described “sentience” as the notion that animals “experience feelings and emotions such as pleasure, comfort, discomfort, fear and pain”. Similarly, the Oxford dictionary defines the adjective “sentient” as “able to perceive or feel things“.

The government’s examples of pleasure and fear are psychological in nature, while comfort, discomfort and pain can be psychological and physical.

In condemning the government’s proposal, was Jochinke implying that animals do not experience physical and psychological pain?

Alternatively, was he implying that any pain they may experience does not matter?

Jochinke claimed the proposal would “introduce language into law that can be manipulated by animal extremists for their own purposes”.

It is easy to brand people as “extremists” when they act on the belief that animals have a right to live without being exploited by farmers and others.

Are those farmers not extreme when they harm animals? At the present time (as referred to in more detail below), they are permitted to perform acts that would be illegal if they involved a companion animal such as a dog or cat.

The “purposes” of so-called “animal extremists” generally involve protecting the interests of animals, unlike the profit motive, at animals’ expense, of most farmers.

Cartesian scientists and farmers

The term “Cartesian scientists” stems from the seventeenth century philosopher René Descartes, who argued that only humans have minds and therefore the ability to think. His followers took the argument to also mean that animals cannot feel.

In his book “Animals like us”, author Mark Rowlands wrote:

“If you were an animal in the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries, then one of the things you should have made a point of avoiding would be Cartesian scientists. If not, then, you could expect to find yourself nailed to a vivisection board, being slowly cut open. You would be conscious throughout. The Cartesian scientists did not take any steps to prevent your suffering or pain for one very simple reason: they did not believe you were capable of suffering or feeling pain.”

Like most of us, VFF and its members may be horrified by the actions of Cartesians, as described by Rowlands. However, routine actions of farmers at the current time, with the full support of the law, are also deplorable. Such actions are currently permitted by means of exemptions to the erroneously titled “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act”.

As I have stated elsewhere, the government continues to outrageously claim the exemptions do not permit cruelty to occur when, by their nature, they do.

Here are a few examples (generally performed without pain prevention or relief): hot-iron branding; tail docking; ear notching; teeth clipping; castration; dehorning; removal of toe segments; lifelong confinement indoors (often in cages); forced separation of mothers and babies; and forced breeding, often involving stimulation by humans, penetration with artificial devices, and ongoing confinement.

A key concern for farmers

In an article written for Stock and Land, VFF livestock president, Leonard Vallance, stated:

“The introduction of sentience into law will only provide a platform for the argument against the existence of farm animal production systems as has been exposed by extremists in Europe.”

If Vallance is seeking to indicate that horrific routine practices only occur overseas, then his claim is not valid. Such practices have been extensively exposed in Australia, with a prominent example being the Aussie Farms website.

Vallance’s concerns about a platform for arguments against farm animal production systems may be well founded. Legislation that acknowledged sentience and was claimed by its authors to promote care and respect of animals, while also allowing acts of cruelty, could be regarded as callous and contradictory.

There is no indication in the government’s action plan that it intends removing legislative exemptions. Indeed, the plan appears to strongly support the livestock sector.

Even where standards or codes of practice stipulate protective practices, they are often vague and therefore easy to overlook. For example, the Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Sheep specify that “sheep and lambs should be provided with adequate shelter”. They go on to say that, in the absence of natural protection, “consideration should be given” to the provision of shade, windbreaks or sheds.

Farmers may briefly consider such measures, without necessarily doing anything about them. It was estimated in 2012 that around 15 million lambs die each year in Australia within 48 hours of birth due to inadequate protection in bitterly cold conditions.

VFF vice president creates a new word

The VFF’s vice president, Brett Hosking, recently released a video on Twitter, expressing concern over the government’s action plan. In it, he appears to have created a new word, “sentenance”. He used it or “sentinent” four times, presumably intending to mean “sentience” and “sentient”.

Hosking only referred to the psychological aspects, failing to acknowledge the physical component. (He used words such as “emotions”, “thoughts”, “happy”, “sad”, “nervous”, “anxious”, “scared”, “afraid” and “excited”.)

As indicated by these comments, he is not convinced that any animals are “sentinent”:

“Whether animals are ‘sentinent’ or not, I’m not really sure. I like to think that when my dog runs up to see me in the morning that he’s running up because he wants to hang out with me because I’m a fun fellow, but it could be just instinct because he’s used to, you know, [he] knows that things are all right when I’m around.”

He also reiterated a point made by VFF in its statement, by arguing that using the word “sentinent” in legislation would mean, “what we’re kind of saying is that animal welfare depends on the animal, not on the person doing it.”

The VFF’s statement argued: “Animal welfare law is about addressing human behaviour towards animals, not addressing animals”.

Leonard Vallance made a similar point in his article.

In his video, Hosking went on to say:

It’s kind of like saying that if the animal doesn’t get sad or upset, then it’s all right to be cruel to them, and that doesn’t really rest easy with me. [It’s a] little bit like saying it’s okay to discriminate against someone as long as they don’t realise it’s happened.”

That is a fallacious argument, in that it fails to acknowledge the fact that all animals farmed by VFF members are sentient. Hosking and VFF seemingly fail to accept that the existence of animal sentience, and the need to prevent cruel practices, are inextricably linked.

Here’s the tweet:

Conclusion

With the Victorian government failing to indicate it will remove legislative exemptions in favour of the livestock sector, along with the VFF’s attitude toward sentience, what chance do “production” animals have of avoiding cruelty?

The most effective way to minimise cruelty in food consumption is to avoid animal-based products. We have a choice, and should use it for the benefit of those who have none.

Author

Paul Mahony

References

Victorian Farmers Federation, “About us”, https://www.vff.org.au/vff/The_VFF/AboutUs/vff/About_Us/About_Us.aspx?hkey=d1685f71-c8b5-43ae-b571-a2594d327d9d (accessed 22 Jan 2018)

Victorian Farmers Federation, “Farmers condemn unnecessary animal welfare legislation”, 5 January 2018, https://www.vff.org.au/vff/Media_Centre/Media2018/Farmers_condemn_unnecessary_animal_welfare_regulation.aspx

Agriculture Victoria, Animal Welfare Action Plan, Jan 2018, http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-action-plan

Rowlands, M., “Animals like us”, Verso Books, London, 2002 (p. 3)

Agriculture Victoria, “Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Legislation”, http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-legislation/prevention-of-cruelty-to-animals-legislation (accessed 23 Jan 2018)

Victorian Farmers Federation, “Livestock Group”, https://www.vff.org.au/vff/Industries/Livestock/Industry_Structure/vff/Industry_Groups/Livestock/Industry_Structure.aspx?hkey=ffb4d11e-ed46-4217-8a21-426c01a08e2a (accessed 22 Jan 2018)

Vallance, L., “Farmers care about the welfare of animals”, Stock and Land, 11 Jan 2018, http://www.stockandland.com.au/story/5160138/farmers-care-about-the-welfare-of-animals/?cs=4587

The Aussie Farms Repository, http://www.aussiefarms.com.au/ (accessed 23 Jan 2018)

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines: Sheep, http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/sheep/

Neales, S., “End to the silence about 15 million dead lambs”, The Australian, 3 Sep 2012, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/end-to-the-silence-about-15-million-dead-lambs/news-story/dcfd08eddf63e33380a5f26004c596bf (This reference relates to the main image, as referred to below.)

Victorian Farmers Federation, “Board of Directors”https://www.vff.org.au/vff/The_VFF/Board_of_Directors/vff/About_Us/Profiles.aspx?hkey=ade72ab8-85f4-4c59-8572-e8cc5827c671 (accessed 22 Jan 2018)

Hosking, B., Twitter @HoskingBrett, 17 Jan 2018, https://twitter.com/HoskingBrett/status/953428962943819776

Image

Melbourne Sheep Save

Related articles

Victorian animal cruelty

This post highlights some material from this site’s memes and charts page, focusing on animal slaughter and meat production figures from 1961 to 2016.

Although there appears to have been significant progress in veganism (from a small base) in many countries, there is a long way to go on a global basis, with a strong overall increase in slaughter numbers over the full period and in recent years. For example, in the ten years from 2006 to 2016, the annual number of animals slaughtered globally increased by 19 billion, or 34 per cent, to 74.1 billion.

In 2016, we slaughtered a staggering 2,352 animals per second, on average.

The animals paying the highest price are chickens. In 2016, 65.8 billion of them were slaughtered for meat, representing 89 per cent of the total. The figure does not include male chicks gassed or macerated (using a conveyor belt and industrial grinder) on the first day of life in the egg industry. As they cannot lay eggs, they are considered waste.

There has been an increasing preference for the flesh of chickens over the flesh of other animals, such as cattle and sheep. As highlighted in my article, The global slaughter index, anyone adopting such an approach is massively increasing their cruelty footprint.

In the USA, 182 chickens are required to replace the meat from one cow. The figure varies by country, and depends on the average yield of meat from each species. In Australia, 138 chickens are required.

Whether they are a chicken or a cow, animals suffer in almost unimaginable ways. They are regarded by the livestock sector as products or commodities, bred simply for the purpose of being killed. The horror includes legalised and routine cruelty, including practices such as: mutilation without pain prevention or relief; lifelong confinement indoors; and forced breeding with human intervention.

By definition, any form of human intervention is unnatural, and livestock production represents an extreme example.

Here are the latest figures for the world, USA and Australia. The charts reflect absolute and “per person” figures.

Global

USA

Australia

Conclusion

We have been conditioned socially, culturally and commercially to ignore the horror that exists behind these charts. They represent hell on earth for animals, but animals are not the only ones paying a price.

Animal-based food production is a grossly and inherently inefficient method of satisfying our nutritional requirements. That is a key factor in it having a far greater impact on the natural environment and the existential threat of climate change than animal-free options. It causes us to use far more resources, including land, than would otherwise be required, and is not sustainable on a scale required to feed the masses.

The livestock sector, with the mass slaughter and environmental destruction it entails, may seem like a juggernaut, but the juggernaut can be stopped. Recognition of its massive scale and impact is an essential step on that path.

Author

Paul Mahony

Data Sources

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

World Bank

Image

© Tamara Kenneally Photography, tamarakenneallyphotography.com

Date

The article was published at 12.13 am on 10th January 2018 Australian eastern summer time, which was 9th January in most parts of the world, including North America.

The following email was sent to Youth Food Movement Australia on 1st December 2017:

Hello,

I refer to your Facebook comment of 21st November 2017, inviting me to contact you at this email address regarding my article “Some questions for Youth Food Movement Australia“.

You indicated in your comment that we had “chatted” about your approach previously. However, I received little more than the following comment:

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

You never responded to my Facebook question of 25th July 2015:

“What about misinformation promoted by Target 100 and published by Meat & Livestock Australia in the form of its primary level (age 5-12) ‘study guide’, ‘Cattle and the environment‘?“

You have also not responded to the straightforward questions contained in my latest article, as referred to above.

Nor have you commented on these extracts from that article:

  • The links between YFM and the livestock sector also include the fact that co-founder, Joanna Baker, spent nearly two years (while also holding senior positions with YFM) as manager for membership, communications and policy at Dairy Connect. That organisation describes itself as “an advocacy body, 100% focused on being the voice for all partners in the dairy industry”.
    xxx
  • The other YFM co-founder, Alexandra Iljadica, was a speaker at the two-day 2016 Australian Dairy Conference, sharing speaking duties with high-profile industry participants. She was given two speaking opportunities; a plenary speech and a workshop, with the title of the latter being, “How to herd consumers toward Australian dairy: A workshop in human behaviour change”.

As I said in my Facebook comments, the issues apply to much more than BeefJam, including the forced and permanent separation of cows and calves as a fundamental aspect of dairy production in all its forms (with the calves sent to slaughter or retained to become dairy cows themselves). Also the maceration (and other forms of killing) of male chicks as a fundamental aspect of supplying layer hens for all forms of egg production.

I would have thought the issues I have raised would be of interest to many of your subscribers, volunteers and others who follow you, including people who have attended your “meet the maker” events (including the event with dairy and egg producers) and those who generally rely on your “food education projects”.

I look forward to hearing from you in a display of your professed values of transparency and authenticity.

Regards,

Paul Mahony

 

Image

Unconsciously Cruel via Aussie Farms, Untitled showing sheep at Ballarat Saleyards, Alfredton, Victoria

I have written three articles dealing with Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM) and its relationships with the animal agriculture sector. Links to the articles can be found below this post, which outlines some questions for the organisation in the form of memes.

Some of the memes refer to “BeefJam”, which was a project in which YFM collaborated with “Target 100”, an initiative of: Meat & Livestock Australia; Australian Lot Feeders Association; Sheep Meat Council of Australia; Cattle Council of Australia; and Australian Meat Industry Council.

YFM has described BeefJam as “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.

I’ve seen some very slick videos released jointly by Target 100 and YFM about the event that look to me like promotions for the meat industry. However, I have seen no evidence of the fifteen “young consumers” and “young producers” who attended reshaping the industry.

The links between YFM and the livestock sector also include the fact that co-founder, Joanna Baker, spent nearly two years (while also holding senior positions with YFM) as manager for membership, communications and policy at Dairy Connect. That organisation describes itself as “an advocacy body, 100% focused on being the voice for all partners in the dairy industry”.

The other YFM co-founder, Alexandra Iljadica, was a speaker at the two-day 2016 Australian Dairy Conference, sharing speaking duties with high-profile industry participants. She was given two speaking opportunities; a plenary speech and a workshop, with the title of the latter being, “How to herd consumers toward Australian dairy: A workshop in human behaviour change”.

I believe it is important for YFM to keep in mind its professed values of transparency and authenticity and its stated role of  running “food education projects for young people”.

Here are the memes. I hope they cause those involved with YFM to consider issues involved in food consumption beyond those that the organisation appears to have addressed to date.

Conclusion

I believe any group that states its mission is to “grow a generation of young Australians empowered with the ability to make healthy and sustainable food choices” must highlight the issues raised in this post.

I look forward to seeing if YFM addresses the issues in future.

Author

Paul Mahony

References

Animals Australia, “What you never knew about dairy”, http://www.animalsaustralia.org/issues/dairy.php

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle, http://www.animalwelfarestandards.net.au/cattle/

Kroon, F., Turner, R., Smith, R., Warne, M., Hunter, H., Bartley, R., Wilkinson, S., Lewis, S., Waters, D., Caroll, C., 2013 “Scientific Consensus Statement: Sources of sediment, nutrients, pesticides and other pollutants in the Great Barrier Reef Catchment”, Ch. 4, p. 12, The State of Queensland, Reef Water Quality Protection Plan Secretariat, July, 2013, http://www.reefplan.qld.gov.au/about/scientific-consensus-statement/sources-of-pollutants.aspx

Brodie, J., “Great Barrier Reef dying beneath its crown of thorns”, The Conversation, 16th April, 2012, http://theconversation.com/great-barrier-reef-dying-beneath-its-crown-of-thorns-6383

Queensland Department of Science, Information Technology and Innovation, 2016. Land cover change in Queensland 2015–16: Statewide Landcover and Trees Study report. DSITI, Brisbane

World Wide Fund for Nature, “Accelerating bushland destruction in Queensland: Clearing under Self Assessable Codes takes major leap upward”, March 2017, http://www.wwf.org.au/ArticleDocuments/360/pub-accelerating-bushland-destruction-in-queensland-21mar17.pdf.aspx?Embed=Yx

Harper, L.A., Denmead, O.T., Freney, J.R., and Byers, F.M., Journal of Animal Science, June, 1999, “Direct measurements of methane emissions from grazing and feedlot cattle”, J ANIM SCI, 1999, 77:1392-1401, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10375217; http://www.journalofanimalscience.org/content/77/6/1392.full.pdf

Eshel, G., “Grass-fed beef packs a punch to environment”, Reuters Environment Forum, 8 Apr 2010, http://blogs.reuters.com/environment/2010/04/08/grass-fed-beef-packs-a-punch-to-environment/

Wedderburn-Bisshop, G., Longmire, A., Rickards, L., “Neglected Transformational Responses: Implications of Excluding Short Lived Emissions and Near Term Projections in Greenhouse Gas Accounting”, International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 7, Issue 3, September 2015, pp.11-27. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published Online: August 17, 2015, http://ijc.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.185/prod.269

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

Images

Bear Witness Australia and Aussie Farms | 5-day old bobby calves from the dairy industry | The Aussie Farms Repository | https://www.aussiefarms.org.au/photos/food/dairy

Branding a calf | anrodphoto | iStock

Brian Kinney | Wonderful and beautiful underwater world with corals and tropical fish | Shutterstock

The Wilderness Society | Land clearing: Olive Vale, Queensland, 2014 (Youtube video) | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uc06o7ayx-g

Sherjarca | Australian beef cattle charolais bred for meat | Shutterstock

Nyul | Medical team in operating room | Dreamstime.com

Youth Food Movement Australia | YFM logo badge only | Flickr | Creative Commons NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

 

https://www.aussiefarms.org.au/uploads/photos/2052-000015360-3e9e74f6f9e27dba8e69.jpg

I have written previously of my concerns regarding the practices of Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM). Those concerns relate primarily to YFM’s close relationship with the meat and dairy industries, while seemingly saying nothing meaningful (and possibly nothing at all) about the negative impacts of those industries in terms of animal cruelty, environmental damage (including climate change) and human health.

Is its failure to highlight such issues inconsistent with the group’s stated values of authenticity and transparency? Possibly, but I am not in a position to explain its reasons for ignoring such critical issues.

However, I am able to convey publicly available information about the group’s involvement with the industries.

I admit to finding it odd that co-founder Joanna Baker, while still in senior positions with YFM, spent nearly two years as manager for membership, communications and policy with Dairy Connect, an organisation advocating on behalf of the dairy industry.

I am uncomfortable with the industry relationships in the context of YFM describing its role “in a nutshell” as running “food education projects for young people”.

It also claims to “provide a place – be that in pubs, in living rooms, on laptop screens – for information and skills to be exchanged and for learning to happen”.

I recently discovered another industry relationship in the form of co-founder Alexandra Iljadica’s involvement in the two-day 2016 Australian Dairy Conference.

Iljadica was a presenter, sharing speaking duties with industry luminaries such as: Abhy Maharaj, Chief Financial Officer and Commercial Director of Fonterra Australia; Barry Irvin, Executive Chair of Bega Cheese Ltd; and Philip Tracey, the then Chair of Murray Goulburn (at the time Australia’s largest dairy company and co-operative).

She was given two speaking opportunities; a plenary speech and a workshop. I found the online workshop slide show of particular interest.

Remember that Iljadica at the time was a founding director, and soon to be CEO, of a group that has said its mission is to “grow a generation of young Australians empowered with the ability to make healthy and sustainable food choices”.

A group with stated values (as mentioned earlier) of authenticity and transparency.

But also a group whose co-founder and future CEO presented a workshop session at the 2016 national dairy industry conference with the title:

“HOW TO HERD CONSUMERS TOWARD AUSTRALIAN DAIRY: A WORKSHOP IN HUMAN BEHAVIOUR CHANGE”

Is that the aim, regardless of the consequences for the animals, the planet and the health of YFM supporters and others who follow them?

So what are Iljadica’s recommended methods for herding youthful consumers toward the dairy industry?

Her tips (citing the book “Changeology” by Les Robinson) included (among six necessary characteristics overall): “positive buzz”; “an enabling environment”; and “the right inviter”

Immediately after Iljadica’s slides listed the six characteristics, another asked how those characteristics might apply to dairy.

Immediately following that came the concluding “thank you” slide, showing a YFM registration desk and people wearing YFM gear at an outdoor event.

The message I took from the slide show (without attending the presentation itself): The “right inviter” for the dairy industry, and the group with the other necessary characteristics, is Youth Food Movement Australia.

I’m liking YFM less every day.

Author

Paul Mahony

Further information

Do you love dairy? Please check out this video of forced separation of mothers and calves on a Tasmanian dairy farm. This standard practice occurs for the purpose of ensuring the mothers’ milk finds its way to supermarket shelves rather than the calves’ stomachs. The calves are generally either slaughtered for meat or raised for a life of misery as producers of milk many times beyond what would occur naturally, enduring physical and psychological distress and many more forced separations.

Source: Aussie Farms Repository, aussiefarms.org.au/videos/food/dairy, supplied by DropDairy.com.au, a campaign by Animal Liberation (animal-lib.org.au) and Animal Liberation Tas (al-tas.org).

Image

Bear Witness Australia on The Aussie Farms Repository, aussiefarms.org.au/photos/food/dairy

Caption: “As I was around these dairy farms, there were just paddocks full of calves without their mothers. Calling for their mothers, just so alone. There was one paddock that had recently been occupied by bobby calves, and as I was walking along the fence next to the main road, I saw a dead calf lying on the ground. He was not more than a week dead, he just lay there in the paddock. I discovered another dead calf further along the fence, that had also died alone, without his mother. This was just next to the fence, on the main road, so I can’t imagine how many more would have died out of sight. Both dead calves that I found would have had mothers that loved them and cared for them, and that right was taken away from them just so someone can have a glass of her milk. I can’t imagine their pain. Witness #4″

Sources

Youth Food Movement Australia, “About”, http://www.youthfoodmovement.org.au/about-us/

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

Australian Dairy Conference, http://www.australiandairyconference.com.au/viewStory/Past+Conferences

Alexandra Iljadica, “How to herd consumers toward Australian dairy: A workshop in human behaviour change”, 2016 Australian Dairy Conference, http://www.australiandairyconference.com.au/inewsfiles/ADC_2016_Presentations/Alexandra_Iljadica_-_Human_Behaviour_Change_Workshop_18-02-16.pdf

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I have recently become aware of social media discussions supporting misleading interpretations of the 2016 study “Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios” by Peters, et al., which was published in the journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene.

As I reported in my article, “Livestock chief gets it wrong on the vegan diet“, the purpose of the study was to compare, firstly, per capita land requirements and secondly, potential carrying capacity as measured by the number of people fed.

The study found that the vegan diet (which excludes all animal products) was the most efficient of the ten diet scenarios studied, in that it required the least amount of land per person fed. It was also extremely effective in terms of the overall number fed.

The study’s key findings are summarised in this chart:

Figure 1: Carrying capacity of US agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios

An article from August 2016 on the Quartz website focused on the fact that four of the ten diet scenarios could feed more people than the vegan diet. But at what cost in terms of human health, planetary health, biodiversity loss and impacts on food production animals themselves?

The author of the Quartz article, Chase Purdy, lost his way when he used the finding regarding carrying capacity to question the sustainability of the vegan diet scenario.

In any event, why isn’t the reported ability of the vegan diet scenario to feed 2.4 times the 2010 US population considered adequate? How many more people do we want in the US? Even the best performing scenario on that score was only marginally ahead of the vegan diet, at 2.6 times the population.

To their credit, the authors of the original study raised the possibility of the US sharing excess food production with other nations, noting that future work would be required to determine the best way of doing so.

Their findings indicate that the three diets that excluded meat were between 7.5 and 8.3 times more efficient (in terms of land area per person fed), and between 1.8 and 2 times more effective (in terms of number of persons fed), than the contemporary US diet. They were at least 77% more efficient than the best-performing diet containing meat.

My “livestock chief gets it wrong” article referred to an article by the director general of the International Livestock Research Institute, Dr Jimmy Smith in The Guardian. Although the authors of the Elementa study reported that the vegan diet required the least amount of land (per person fed and in absolute terms) out of ten alternative dietary scenarios, Smith erroneously claimed that the researchers had found that the it fell behind certain other diets (including some containing meat) on that measure. It seems The Guardian needs to vet material from guest contributors more closely, as Smith’s effort was very poor.

Conclusion

The Elementa study once again highlighted the ability of the vegan diet scenario to efficiently supply our dietary needs. It is time for more people to review the available evidence objectively, as our ability to overcome climate change and other existential threats may depend on it.

Author

Paul Mahony

References

Smith, J., “Veganism is not the key to sustainable development – natural resources are vital”, The Guardian, 16th August 2016, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/aug/16/veganism-not-key-sustainable-development-natural-resources-jimmy-smith

Purdy, C., “Being vegan isn’t as good for humanity as you think”, Quartz, 4th August 2016, https://qz.com/749443/being-vegan-isnt-as-environmentally-friendly-as-you-think/

Peters, C.J., Picardy, J., Darrouzet-Nardi, A.F., Wilkins, J.L., Griffin, T.S., Fick, G.W., “Carrying capacity of U.S. agricultural land: Ten diet scenarios”, Elementa, July 2016, https://www.elementascience.org/articles/10.12952/journal.elementa.000116/

Image

Indigo Skies Photography | Panorama | Flickr | Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Updates

Minor additional comments added on 21st September 2017, and the third and fourth last paragraphs added on 22nd September 2017, along with a sentence concerning the overall number of people fed.

 

 

I recently created a two-page infographic containing charts and images I had used in various articles and papers. The infographic highlights the following issues:

  • Livestock-related land clearing in Australia
  • Livestock production’s impact on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Greenhouse gas emissions intensity of animal-based foods
  • Livestock production’s share of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions
  • The relative nutritional value of plant-based and animal-based foods

The infographic can be seen and downloaded here:

Related articles

Meat Eaters vs the Great Barrier Reef

Beef, the reef and rugby: We have a problem

Eating for a safe climate: Protein and other nutrients

Less Meat Less Heat: Falling short of what’s required

Author

Paul Mahony

Recent material from the federal and Victorian governments on the treatment of food production animals includes some disturbing examples of political doublespeak and propaganda.

We should not be surprised, as governments generally support the livestock sector at the expense of animals, arguing along the lines of the federal government’s current “jobs and growth” mantra. (The “left” and “right” divide is virtually non-existent in Australian politics.)

We are persuaded by psychoanalytical techniques

The difficulty arises when governments concurrently feign concern for animals, ignoring the fact that all animal-based food production is a form of exploitation driven by consumer demand, which in turn is largely generated by sophisticated advertising and PR (public relations) practices.

Indeed, it was “the father of PR”, Edward Bernays, who successfully applied principles of psychoanalysis that had been developed by his uncle, Sigmund Freud, to convince Americans in the 1920s that bacon and eggs should become a standard choice for breakfast. He had been commissioned by the Beech-Nut Packing Company, which specialised at that time in vacuum-packed pig meat products.

Here’s how his campaign has been described in the American Psychological Association’s Monitor on Psychology:

“But in creating the new Freudian-style campaign, Bernays asked himself, ‘Who influences what the public eats?’ His answer was to survey physicians and ask them whether they would recommend a light breakfast or a hearty breakfast. Physicians overwhelmingly recommended a hearty breakfast, paving the way for Bernays to convince Americans to swap their usual juice, toast and coffee for the now-ubiquitous, all-American ‘hearty’ breakfast of bacon and eggs.”

If interested, you can see a video here of Bernays discussing the pig meat campaign. Elsewhere, Bernays freely used the word “propaganda” (including as the title of a book), and regularly interchanged it with the term PR.

Bernays was also famous for developing the “torches of freedom” campaign that convinced women that it was acceptable to smoke in public. Decades later, he said he would not have accepted the American Tobacco Company’s assignment if he had known of smoking’s health dangers.

With subsequent warnings from the World Cancer Research Fund and the World Health Organization on the dangers of consuming pig meat, it may be reasonable to assume he would have felt the same about his assignment for Beech-Nut had he been aware of those dangers at the time. Indeed, he said in 1928 that a PR practitioner “must never accept a retainer or assume a position which puts his duty to the groups he represents above his duty to society”.

Some of the physicians surveyed by Bernays for the pork industry in the 1920s suggested bacon and eggs as a “hearty” breakfast. That may have been consistent with a tobacco industry survey of doctors in the 1940s, which portrayed cigarette smoking as a beneficial practice.

Here’s an extract concerning Edward Bernays from the BBC documentary “The Century of the Self”:

“Bernays was the first person to take Freud’s ideas about human beings and use them to manipulate the masses. He showed American corporations for the first time how they could make people want things they didn’t need by linking mass produced goods to their unconscious desires . . . It was the start of the all-consuming self which has come to dominate our world today.”

How much more beneficial for human and non-human animals would our world have been if such domination had not occurred.

Victorian Government’s Draft Action Plan

The Victorian government is currently considering responses to its Draft Action Plan 2016-2021 “Improving the Welfare of Animals in Victoria”, released in September 2016.

In the draft plan, the Minister’s Ambassador for Animal Welfare, Lizzie Blandthorn MP, states that we must protect animals, including those on farms, from cruelty. That’s a noble suggestion that most people would probably agree with, but it seems to be the type of comment that would fit neatly into a Bernays-style propaganda campaign.

The statement does not reflect our current reality, which may be unlikely to change in a meaningful way as a result of the government’s action plan process. If we fail to acknowledge an injustice, then we have little chance of removing it.

Many consumers may be blind to the fact that the livestock sector is largely exempt from complying with Victoria’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and similar legislation in other states and territories, which permit acts of cruelty specified in industry codes of practice.

As an example of the injustice involved, exempted practices in relation to poultry include: life-long confinement indoors; beak “trimming” (debeaking) without anaesthetic; removing the snood of turkeys (the skin drooping from the forehead) without anaesthetic; removing segments of toes without anaesthetic; forced breeding; killing of “surplus” chicks in the egg industry through gassing with CO2 or being sent into an industrial grinder while still alive.

Despite those and other permitted practices, Agriculture Victoria remarkably claims that the exemptions do not permit cruelty to occur.

That claim is outrageous!

Whose definition of cruelty is Agriculture Victoria using?

I anticipate cruel practices continuing after the Victorian Government completes its review. I have raised the issues with the Minister for Agriculture, Jaala Pulford. However, when responding, she effectively ignored my key points, including those made in this article.

Free Range Egg Labelling

At the federal level, the government recently released its new information standard for free range egg labelling. The standard allows eggs to be labelled as free range where there is an outdoor stocking density of up to 10,000 birds per hectare. Coles and Woolworths nationally, and Aldi in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, had already adopted the limit of 10,000 for their home brand free range products.

To provide some perspective, the limit applying under various voluntary free range standards in Australia ranges from 750 to 2,500, while European Union and UK free range standards range from 1,000 to 2,500.

Not only is our new outdoor stocking limit exceptionally high, the standard does not specify a minimum period of time to be spent outdoors or the density of indoor areas. To make matters worse, many of the practices of mutilation, stunning and killing described earlier are permitted in respect of free range establishments under the CSIRO’s code of practice for domestic poultry, which is a voluntary standard that includes free range guidelines.

A free range animal’s final day may also be far more horrific than most people realise. For example, birds raised on free range farms are generally slaughtered alongside those raised in conventional facilities.

After being packed tightly into crates and transported without food or water, the slaughter process generally begins with birds being hung upside down on a conveyor with their legs shackled. They are supposed to be stunned by having their head dipped in electrically charged water before their throat is cut, but there is no guarantee of that happening. There is also no guarantee they’ll be dead before reaching the scalding tank, which aids the removal of feathers.

In February 2017, animal rights group Dreamer’s Hen Rescue released this undercover video, reported to be from an Australian slaughterhouse. It shows the full slaughter process, and includes chickens entering the scalding tank while still alive. [WARNING: Graphic footage]

xxx

The massive scale of the industry reflects the effectiveness of industry PR and advertising campaigns, and is demonstrated by the fact that around 580 million chickens were slaughtered in Australia during the most recent reporting period, 2014. That’s equivalent to more than eighteen per second, day and night.

Such huge numbers mask the fact that every animal is an individual, with the ability to suffer physical and psychological pain. The fact that one species is smaller than another, or perceived as less animated or sociable, does not reduce the suffering. If we treated our companion animals the way we generally treat those we use as food, we could rightfully spend time in jail.

The unconscionable avoidance of honest communication

Governments must start to communicate honestly with the community about the plight of animals, cutting through the fairy tales that they and the livestock sector have created and propagated. To do anything less would represent unconscionable behaviour.

The Victorian Labor government simply needs to adhere to the words of former party leader and premier, Steve Bracks, who 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”.

He also said (with my underline): “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.”

The Bracks government subsequently performed poorly in relation to openness and accountability, but surely it is not too much to ask of the current government.

Author

Paul Mahony

References

Barth, J., “Beech-Nut to leave Canajoharie after 118 years”, 11 April 2009, http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2009/04/beechnut_to_leave_canajoharie.html

Held, L., “Psychoanalysis shapes consumer culture”, Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, Dec 2009, Vol 40, No. 11, Print version: page 32, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/12/consumer.aspx

The Museum of Public Relations, Edward Bernays, 1929 Torches of Freedom, http://prvisionaries.com/bernays/bernays_1929.html

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/

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

Bernays, E., “The Business of Propaganda”, The Independent, Vol. 121, No. 4083, 1 Sep 1928, via The Library of Congress, “Prosperity and Thrift: The Coolidge Era and the Consumer Economy, 1921-1929”, http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=amrlm&fileName=me18page.db&recNum=0&itemLink=r%3Fammem%2Fcoolbib%3A%40field%28NUMBER%2B%40band%28amrlm%2Bme18%29%29

Adam Curtis, “The Century of the Self – Part 1 – Happiness Machines”, broadcast on BBC TV in 2002, http://pialogue.info/books/Century-of-the-Self.php

Victoria’s Draft Action Plan for animal welfare, http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/victorias-draft-action-plan-for-animal-welfare

Agriculture Victoria, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Legislation, Summary of Legislation, http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/animal-health-and-welfare/animal-welfare/animal-welfare-legislation/prevention-of-cruelty-to-animals-legislation

Mahony, P., “Open letter to Jaala Pulford”, 31 Mar 2016, https://terrastendo.net/2016/03/31/open-letter-to-jaala-pulford/

FAOSTAT Production – Livestock Primary – 2014

Pearce, L., “This Is What The Government’s New ‘Free Range’ Egg Guidelines Look Like”, Huffington Post, 28 Apr 2017, http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/04/27/this-is-what-the-governments-new-free-range-egg-guidelines-lo_a_22059101/

Dowling, J., “Bracks’ Secret State”, The Age, 24 Sep 2006, http://www.theage.com.au/news/opinion/bracks-secret-state/2006/09/23/1158431942575.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2

Baker, R., “How Bracks is failing to honour his commitment to openness”, The Age, 16 July 2003, http://www.theage.com.au/articles/2003/07/15/1058035003170.html

Image

Palugada, “Happy farm animal cartoon collection”, Shutterstock
(The image has not been used in government or industry PR campaigns to my knowledge, but has been used here to symbolise the world of make-believe created by those campaigns.)

 

Have you ever felt ill with nausea, lethargy, aching joints, loss of appetite, abdominal pain or fever? The symptoms could have resulted from many different ailments. One is hepatitis E, a largely hidden and inadequately diagnosed disease caused by the hepatitis E virus (HEV). It is usually self-limiting, in that it will disappear without treatment (there is generally none available in acute cases) after several weeks. However, far more serious outcomes can also occur, particularly in people with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, some cancer patients, HIV patients, organ transplant patients and pregnant women.

There are four types of HEV, two of which can be transmitted between animals (primarily pigs but also others such as deer, rabbits and rats) and humans. Unlike its effect on many humans, HEV does not make the animals ill. [1] Although avian strains exist, they are not known to be transmitted to humans. [2]

Genotypes 1 and 2 are limited to humans and are generally found in countries with poor sanitation systems. Genotype 1 is common in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, while genotype 2 is more common in sub-Saharan Africa and Mexico. [3]

Genotypes 3 and 4 are the forms that can infect humans and animals. [3] Genotype 3 has been found in all developed countries where its presence has been investigated, while genotype 4 is mainly found in China, Southeast Asia, some pockets of Europe and Japan (although it does not appear to be the dominant form in that country). [4] [5]

Accordingly, genotype 3 is the key form of the virus responsible for infections within developed nations.

Like all forms of hepatitis, HEV involves swelling or inflammation of the liver. In addition to the symptoms mentioned earlier, jaundice is common, with yellowing of the skin and eyeballs, while other symptoms can include tingling, numbness and weakness in the arms and legs, general itching, darkened urine, and mild flu-like symptoms. [1] The virus can sometimes cause acute liver failure, which can lead to death. [6]

Serious outcomes that are not related to the liver can include: (a) neurological conditions such as Guillain–Barré syndrome, brachial neuritis, transverse myelitis, Bell’s palsy (with paralysis of facial nerves) and vestibular neuritis; (b) haematological conditions such as thrombocytopenia, lymphopenia and monoclonal immunoglobulin; and (c) other conditions such as acute pancreatitis, arthritis and autoimmune thyroiditis. [4]

HEV in Britain

In a paper published in the medical journal, The Lancet, researchers estimated there were likely to have been 80,000 – 100,000 acute HEV infections in England during 2013. The findings were based on retrospective screening of 225,000 individual blood donations. After allowing for the duration of a detectable virus in the blood, the results were extrapolated across the country’s population. [7]

In comparison, only 846 cases were reported in England and Wales combined that year, indicating the extent to which the disease is insufficiently recognised by healthcare professionals and patients. [8] One reason may be that there are sometimes no symptoms, particularly in children (although the carriers can still spread the virus to others). [6] [22] Nevertheless, the number of reported cases more than tripled from 2010 to 2015, from 368 to 1,213 (with a further increase to 1,244 in 2016). [8] [22]

The Sunday Times in London recently reported that more than 60,000 Britons per year are being infected with HEV by consuming pig meat imported from France, Holland, Germany and Denmark, often consumed in the form of bacon, saus­ages, pork pies and salami. [9]

British farms may also be a source, with a 2013 study of abattoirs finding that 92.8 per cent of pigs tested had antibodies for HEV, which indicates they had previously been exposed to the virus. 5.8 per cent were found to have HEV in their blood and were therefore likely to be infectious at the time of slaughter. [10][11] [Footnote]

However, a study led by Sylvia Grierson of the Department of Virology at the Animal and Plant Health Agency, published in 2015, indicated that imported products were likely to be the dominant source. [12]

Although the Sunday Times report indicated that 10 per cent of sausages in the UK were affected, the nation’s Food Standards Agency has said that that particular finding needs to be “interpreted with caution as the sample size was small and not representative of the UK market and the majority of the HEV positive sausages were from the same batch”. [11]

HEV in Australia

HEV was first detected in Australian pigs in 1999, with a study reporting positive findings in 17 per cent of tested wild-caught pigs and more than 90 per cent of tested commercial piglets aged up to 16 weeks (which is close to the age at which piglets are generally slaughtered).

Writing in the Medical Journal of Australia in April 2016, Yapa et al. noted that there appear to have been no subsequent studies investigating the virus within Australia’s pig population, possibly leading to (as in Britain) inadequate recognition of the problem among clinicians and laboratories, in turn possibly leading to under-diagnosis. [13]

The first outbreak of locally acquired HEV in Australia’s human population occurred in New South Wales in 2013, when a number of people were infected after eating Australian produced pork livers or products made from them, such as pork liver sausages or pork pâté. The outbreak lasted nine months, and according to Dr Joseph Doyle of St Vincent’s Hospital and Dr Alexander Thompson of the University of Melbourne, shows that transmission of the virus should be considered an ongoing risk in Australia. [14]

In mid-2016, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service commenced a study with the aim of understanding how common the virus is in Australia, thereby assisting in determining appropriate blood safety measures. [20] The results are awaited.

Blood serum tests have found a higher incidence of the virus among pig veterinarians, pig farmers and abattoir workers than in the general population, which is consistent with overseas findings. [5] [13]

Australian Pork Limited (APL), which describes itself as “the producer owned organisation supporting and promoting the Australian pork industry”, has reported that around two-thirds of Australia’s processed pork (ham, bacon and smallgoods) is imported. [27] Around 45 per cent of imported product comes from Denmark and the Netherlands (Holland), two of the countries allegedly responsible for HEV in Britain. [28]

However, Australia’s import regulations distinguish between cooked, uncooked and cured meat. [33] Only Spain and Italy are permitted to export cured meat to Australia (that is meat preserved by salting, drying or smoking), with the product range limited to Iberian ham, Iberian shoulder ham or Serrano ham from Spain and dry-cured Culatta and Parma ham from Italy. (Product from those countries may also be responsible for some cases of HEV in Britain.)

All uncooked pig meat entering Australia is required to undergo heat processing at a facility operating under a compliance agreement with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and managed by the entry management national coordination centre in Adelaide.

Other foods can be affected

In addition to pig meat and venison (deer), other products found to carry HEV are strawberries, green leafy vegetables and shellfish. [17] [18] [19] Contaminated irrigation water was a suspected cause in studies examining the first two products. Similarly, human sewage and runoff from a pig slaughterhouse were suspected in the case of shellfish. The fact that shellfish are generally eaten raw means there is no opportunity to inactivate the virus through cooking.

The relevant papers also noted that the products can be contaminated through various other means, including: raw manure; compost; wildlife intrusion; and handling during harvesting or post-harvest activities. Two of the papers noted the robust nature of HEV and other viruses in the environment.

Given the risk of contamination, the practice of spraying pig waste on fields, supposedly as fertiliser rather than sewage, must be brought into question. [32]

A key mitigation measure in relation to other foods such as those mentioned here would be to reduce our reliance on animal-based food products, thereby reducing the contamination risk.

Prevention and treatment

The virus is passed on through faeces and contaminated food or water, so personal hygiene is an important factor in prevention. The British Liver Trust (BLT) has reported that, unlike some other forms of hepatitis, there is no evidence of HEV being transmitted through sharing needles, bodily fluids or sexual contact. [1] (NSW Health does refer to sexual contact as a risk factor, but notes that direct person-to-person transmission is uncommon.) [6]

BLT recommends that the following actions be avoided when traveling to high risk areas: drinking tap water (drink bottled water where possible); having ice cubes in drinks; cleaning teeth with tap water; drinking unpasteurised milk; eating uncooked meat and shellfish; eating unpeeled fruit and uncooked vegetables, including salads, that you have not been prepared yourself. [1]

To reduce the risk of becoming infected in developed countries (relevant to genotypes 3 and 4 ), all meat, especially pork, should be thoroughly cooked before eating. (Please see further comments below.) Hands should also be washed after touching uncooked meat or meat products and after contact with any animals that may be infected.

People who suffer from a long-standing liver disease, are pregnant or have a suppressed immune system for other reasons, should be particularly careful with raw meats, shellfish and pork products. Dr Harry Dalton, a gastroenterologist at Exeter University and Royal Cornwall Hospital, was quoted in the Sunday Times article as recommending that pregnant women and transplant patients avoid pork products altogether (with that view likely to also apply to anyone with liver disease or a suppressed immune system).

In terms of genotypes 3 and 4, it seems the most effective prevention measure would be for others to also avoid pig meat. Such an approach would also reduce an individual’s risk in terms of cancer, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease (noting that medical researchers generally consider pig meat to be a form of red meat). [25] [26]

There is no specific treatment for acute (non-chronic) hepatitis E infection. Some patients with chronic liver problems have been treated successfully with anti-viral therapy using the drug ribavirin. [23]

A vaccine was approved in China in 2012 but is not available in other countries. Researchers from the University Hospital Hamburg say it is unclear whether or not the vaccine prevents infections with HEV genotype 3, thereby questioning its value in most industrialised nations. [23] However, Zhang, et al, while acknowledging that the vaccine’s efficacy against genotypes 1 – 3 is yet to be investigated, argue that all HEV genotypes are recognised as belonging to the same serotype and that one hepatitis E vaccine can protect against infection with any HEV genotype. [24]

Because of various uncertainties regarding the vaccine, the World Health Organization has recommended against its use in children aged under 16 years, pregnant women, people with chronic liver disease, people on organ transplant waiting lists, and travellers. [29]

To what extent should meat be cooked?

Although it appears the virus can be inactivated by cooking, there is some uncertainty about the extent required. In any event, much of the pig meat consumed is cured rather than cooked, potentially providing no opportunity to inactivate the virus if it is present.

For pig meat that is cooked, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has said the required extent would depend, in part, on the number of infectious virus particles present and the composition of the food. [15]

In one study, the researchers reported that it was necessary to heat infected pig liver to 71oC for twenty minutes. [16] The FSAI has also referred to other studies indicating that 71oC for 10 minutes or 70oC for 5 minutes would be sufficient.

On balance, its opinion is that it is sufficient to cook pork and products containing pork (e.g. sausages) to a minimum temperature of 75oC at the centre of the thickest segment. It has not specified the duration, but stated: “Normal grilling or frying of sausages until they are well browned and firm inside with no traces of pink meat, usually results in centre temperatures in excess of 85oC.”

It says that visual cues should not be relied upon in isolation, and recommends that a meat thermometer be used to check the temperature of cooked meat and meat products before consuming them.

In Australia, NSW Health recommends the same approach, but specifies a minimum 2 minute time period. [6]

The UK Food Standards Agency is more general, recommending all whole cuts of pork, pork products and offal be thoroughly cooked until steaming hot throughout, with the meat no longer pink, and the juices running clear. [11]

HEV during pregnancy

The immune response in pregnant women is lower than normal, causing them to be more vulnerable to infection, including from HEV. There has been a high rate of mortality among pregnant women in developing nations after infection with HEV genotype 1.

Researchers led by Dr Harry Dalton (referred to earlier) have stated: “In contrast to HEV genotype 1, excess mortality in pregnant women is not seen with genotype 3, and the few women who have been described in the literature have all survived.” [2] Nevertheless, as mentioned, Dr Dalton argues that pregnant women should not eat pork products.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, who also perceive genotype 1 as the key area for concern, have cautiously stated, “the potential of genotypes 2–4 to cause adverse outcomes in pregnant women, given exposure, remains uncertain”. [30]

An increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and death and disease in newborn children has also been reported. [21]

Curiously, the Victorian State Government’s “Better Health” page dealing with pregnancy and diet mentions listeria and salmonella, but says nothing about HEV. It also includes pork in its “healthy eating” recommendations, although it does recommend against eating ham, salami, pate and certain other products in relation to salmonella. [31]

Product labelling

How many people know the extent of risk involved in consuming pig meat products? Product labelling laws may currently be inadequate to warn people of those dangers, particularly for those in the most vulnerable categories. Consumers have a right to be adequately informed regarding products they consider purchasing, particularly in what can literally be life and death situations. It is essential that regulators respond to the extent that current labelling laws are failing.

Conclusion

There appears to have been a general lack of awareness of hepatitis E risk among health care professionals and the wider community. However, preventative guidelines are available from numerous authoritative sources for anyone who is concerned.

As with so many ailments facing our planet and its human and non-human populations, a simple, effective and potentially critical mitigation measure, which is not widely communicated, is to avoid certain products. In this case, food products derived from pigs are the primary concern, and can easily be replaced by nutritious plant-based alternatives. It is time for the community to embrace such choices.

Author

Paul Mahony

Footnote

There is a slight discrepancy between the two sources in the figures indicating the prevalence of HEV in British abattoirs. The Food Standards Agency reported figures of 93 per cent and 5.7 per cent, compared to figures of 92.8 per cent and 5.8 per cent used in the article, which it also contributed to.

References

[1] British Liver Trust, “Hepatitis E”, https://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/liver-information/liver-conditions/hepatitis-e/

[2] Shrestha, A. C., Faddy, H. M., Flower, R. L. P., Seed, C. R., & Keller, A. J. (2015). Hepatitis E virus: do locally acquired infections in Australia necessitate laboratory testing in acute hepatitis patients with no overseas travel history? Pathology, 47(2), 97–100. http://doi.org/10.1097/PAT.0000000000000229, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4341517/

[3] Chaudhry SA, Verma N, Koren G. “Hepatitis E infection during pregnancy”, Canadian Family Physician. 2015;61(7):607-608, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4501603 and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4501603/pdf/0610607.pdf

[4] Dalton HR, Saunders M, Woolson KL. “Hepatitis E virus in developed countries: one of the most successful zoonotic viral diseases in human history?”Journal of Virus Eradication. 2015;1(1):23-29, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4946667/

[5] Khuroo MS, Khuroo MS, Khuroo NS. Transmission of Hepatitis E Virus in Developing Countries. Izopet J, ed. Viruses. 2016;8(9):253. doi:10.3390/v8090253, 20 Sep 2016, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5035967/

[6] NSW Health, Hepatitis E Fact Sheet, 17 September 2014, http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Factsheets/hepatitis-e.pdf

[7] Patricia E Hewitt, FRCPath, Samreen Ijaz, PhD, Su R Brailsford, PhD, Rachel Brett, BSc, Steven Dicks, MSc, Becky Haywood, BSc, Iain T R Kennedy, MFPH, Alan Kitchen, PhD, Poorvi Patel, MSc, John Poh, PhD, Katherine Russell, MFPH, Kate I Tettmar, MBA, Joanne Tossell, RN, Ines Ushiro-Lumb, FRCPath, Richard S Tedder, FRCPath, “Hepatitis E virus in blood components: a prevalence and transmission study in southeast England”, The Lancet , Volume 384 , Issue 9956 , 1766 -1772, published 27th July, 2014, http://thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61034-5/fulltext

[8] Public Health England, “Hepatitis E: symptoms, transmission, treatment and prevention”, 11th May 2017, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/hepatitis-e-symptoms-transmission-prevention-treatment/hepatitis-e-symptoms-transmission-treatment-and-prevention

[9] Leake, J., “‘Brexit virus’ feared in 10% of sausages”, The Sunday Times, 21 May 2017, https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/brexit-virus-feared-in-10-of-sausages-hepaitits-e-hev-pig-farms-mffq0vbg3

[10] Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratory Agencies, Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, Food Standards Agency, Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express (BPEX), Public Health England, Veterinary Medicines Directorate, “Study of Salmonella, Toxoplasma, Hepatitis E virus, Yersinia, Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome virus, antimicrobial resistance in Campylobacter coli and extended spectrum beta lactamase E. coli in UK pigs at slaughter”, March 2014, http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20140707135733/http://www.defra.gov.uk/ahvla-en/files/pig-survey-key-findings.pdf

[11] Food Standards Agency (UK), “Chief Scientific Advisor’s Science Report – Issue One – Foodborne Viruses”, 2015, https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/csa-report-issue-one-foodborne-viruses.pdf

[12] Grierson, S., Heaney, J., Cheney, T., Morgan, D., Wyllie, S., Powell, L., Smith, D., Ijaz, S., Steinbach, F., Choudhury, B., and Tedder, R.S., “Prevalence of Hepatitis E Virus Infection in Pigs at the Time of Slaughter, United Kingdom, 2013”, Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2015;21(8):1396-1401. doi:10.3201/eid2108.141995, Aug 2015, https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/21/8/14-1995_article

[13] Chaturangi M Yapa, Catriona Furlong, Alexander Rosewell, Kate A Ward, Sheena Adamson, Craig Shadbolt, Jen Kok, Samantha L Tracy, Scott Bowden, Elizabeth J Smedley, Mark J Ferson, Vicky Sheppeard and Jeremy M McAnulty, “First reported outbreak of locally acquired hepatitis E virus infection in Australia”, Med J Aust 2016; 204 (7): 274, doi: 10.5694/mja15.00955, 18 Apr 2016, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/204/7/first-reported-outbreak-locally-acquired-hepatitis-e-virus-infection-australia

[14] Doyle, J.S., and Thompson, A.J.V., “Local transmission of hepatitis E virus in Australia: implications for clinicians and public health”, Med J Aust 2016; 204 (7): 274, doi: 10.5694/mja16.00167, 18 Apr 2016, https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2016/204/7/local-transmission-hepatitis-e-virus-australia-implications-clinicians-and-public

[15] Food Safety Authority of Ireland, “Hepatitis E Virus and Food”, 14 Jan 2016, https://www.fsai.ie/faq/hepatitis_E.html

[16] Barnaud, E., Rogee, S., Garry, P., Rose, N., Pavio, N., 2012. Thermal Inactivation of Infectious Hepatitis E Virus in Experimentally Contaminated Food. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 78, 5153–5159, http://aem.asm.org/content/78/15/5153.full.pdf+html and http://aem.asm.org/content/78/15/5153.full

[17] Brassard J, Gagné MJ, Généreux M, Côté C, “Detection of Human Food-Borne and Zoonotic Viruses on Irrigated, Field-Grown Strawberries”, Appl Environ Microbiol. 2012 May;78(10):3763-6. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00251-12. Epub 16 Mar 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3346374/

[18] Kokkinos P, Kozyra I, Lazic S, Bouwknegt M, Rutjes S, Willems K, Moloney R, de Roda Husman AM, Kaupke A, Legaki E, D’Agostino M, Cook N, Rzeżutka A, Petrovic T, Vantarakis A., “Harmonised investigation of the occurrence of human enteric viruses in the leafy green vegetable supply chain in three European countries.”, Food Environ Virol. 2012 Dec;4(4):179-91. doi: 10.1007/s12560-012-9087-8. Epub 21 Sep 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23412890 and http://tinyurl.com/ya2zc7mo

[19] Crossan, C., Baker, P.J., Craft, J., Yasu Takeuchi, Dalton, H.R., and Scobie, L., “Hepatitis E Virus Genotype 3 in Shellfish, United Kingdom”, Emerging Infectious Diseases. 2012;18(12):2085-2087. doi:10.3201/eid1812.120924, Dec 2012, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3557861/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3557861/pdf/12-0924.pdf

[20] Australian Red Cross Blood Service, “Hepatitis E study kicks off”, 20 July 2016, https://www.transfusion.com.au/BSIB_July2016_8

[21] Price-Hayward, M. and Hartnell, R., Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, “Summary Report of Joint Scientific Workshop on Foodborne Viruses” (Commissioned by Food Standards Agency and European Food Safety Authority), 20 Oct 2016, https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2016/15612/key-priorities-established-for-research-on-foodborne-viruses, http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/supporting/pub/1103e and http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/sp.efsa.2016.EN-1103/pdf

[22] C.C. Oeser, D. Morgan, S. Ijaz, B. Said, “Characterisation of the increasing numbers of autochthonous hepatitis E infections in England and Wales 2010-2015”, International Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol. 53, p129, December 2016, http://www.ijidonline.com/article/S1201-9712(16)31538-7/fulltext and http://www.ijidonline.com/article/S1201-9712(16)31538-7/pdf

[23] Hartl J, Wehmeyer MH, Pischke S, “Acute Hepatitis E: Two Sides of the Same Coin”, Viruses. 2016 Nov 3;8(11). pii: E299, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27827877

[24] Jun Zhang, M., Xue-Feng Zhang, Shou-Jie Huang, Ting Wu, Yue-Mei Hu, Zhong-Ze Wang, Hua Wang, Han-Min Jiang, Yi-Jun Wang, Qiang Yan, Meng Guo, Xiao-Hui Liu, Jing-Xin Li, Chang-Lin Yang, Quan Tang, Ren-Jie Jiang, Hui-Rong Pan, Yi-Min Li, J. Wai-Kuo Shih, Mun-Hon Ng, Feng-Cai Zhu, and Ning-Shao Xia, “Long-Term Efficacy of a Hepatitis E Vaccine”, N Engl J Med 2015; 372:914-922 March 5, 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1406011, http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1406011#t=article

[25] Pan, A., Sun, Q., Bernstein, A. M., Schulze, M. B., Manson, J. E., Stampfer, M. J., Willett, W.C., and Hu, F. B. (2012). Red Meat Consumption and Mortality: Results from Two Prospective Cohort Studies. Archives of Internal Medicine, 172(7), 555–563. http://doi.org/10.1001/archinternmed.2011.2287, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712342/ and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3712342/pdf/nihms462637.pdf

[26] 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

[27] Australian Pork Limited, “Get the facts on your pork industry”, April 2015, http://australianpork.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/1113329_AustralianPork_Final-Cover_1-2_AustralianPork_Inner_1-2_Page-PDF-LoRes.pdf

[28] Australian Pork Limited, “Import, Export and Domestic Production Report”, Graph 4.3 Australian Import Volume Share by Country – Financial Year Comparison, March 2017, http://australianpork.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/ImportsExportsDom-Prod-March-Report-2017.pdf

[29] World Health Organization, Media Centre, Hepatitis E Fact Sheet, July 2016, http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs280/en/

[30] Krain LJ, Atwell JE, Nelson KE, Labrique AB. Fetal and Neonatal Health Consequences of Vertically Transmitted Hepatitis E Virus Infection. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. 2014;90(2):365-370. doi:10.4269/ajtmh.13-0265, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3919250/

[31] Victorian State Government, Better Health Channel, “Pregnancy and diet”, https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-diet

[32] Strassmann, M., CBS News, “North Carolina hog farms accused of putrid pollution”, 4th July 2016, http://www.cbsnews.com/news/north-carolina-hog-farms-accused-of-putrid-pollution/

[33] Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, “The effectiveness of controls for imported uncooked, cooked and cured pig meat – Interim inspector-general of biosecurity audit report”, June 2013, http://apfa.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/IGB-report-imported-pig-2013.pdf

Image

Photographee.eu | Closeup of woman dishing out grilled sausage | Shutterstock | Photo ID 283801919

Update

29th May 2017: Additional comments and reference added in relation to Australian pig meat imports, along with additional comments in relation to the Victorian Government’s “Better Health” page.

Disclaimer

No information in this article is intended to represent medical, health, nutritional, dietary or similar advice, and should not be relied upon as such. Please consult a medical professional if you have any queries or concerns about the issues referred to in the article.

 

 

 

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Less Meat Less Heat (LMLH) is an Australian climate change campaign group that was created in early 2015. Its mission is “to reduce the consumption of meat most damaging to the climate by promoting a Climatarian diet”.

It describes such a diet as one that involves “. . . choosing what you eat based on the carbon footprint of different foods”, and focuses on a reduction in the consumption of cattle and sheep meat (“beef” and “lamb”). The group’s founder, Mark Pershin, has said, “the only guideline we have for the climatarian diet is cutting back beef and lamb consumption to one standard serving a week”.

This post considers some of the climate change, animal rights and health aspects of LMLH’s campaign. Much of the LMLH material referred to comes from the FAQs concerning its “Climatarian Challenge“, which LMLH describes as a challenge to eat in a carbon-conscious way . . . for 30 days. Participation occurs via a specially-prepared smartphone app.

LMLH is a relatively recent arrival on the scene of climate change campaigning, and the basis of its message is not new. In fact, Pershin has said he was inspired to take action by (in addition to some post-graduate environmental studies) the 2014 documentary “Cowspiracy”, which was also a relatively late (albeit effective) arrival with the livestock message.

The group’s approach seems to be largely marketing based (reflecting Pershin’s background), in seeking behavioural change to an extent that it considers achievable. LMLH seems to see a reduction in ruminant meat consumption as “low hanging fruit” with a “big bang for the buck” in terms of climate change mitigation, as reflected in the relative greenhouse gas emissions intensity of different products.

That might seem a reasonable approach, but there are many shortcomings, some of which I aim to highlight in this post.

The urgent need to act

It seems impossible to overstate the extent of the crisis we are facing in the form of climate change. I agree with LMLH on the urgent need to act in order to avoid a global catastrophe. Feedback mechanisms within the climate system are (by definition and in practice) accelerating, potentially leading to runaway climate change beyond the scope of any mitigation efforts we might seek to initiate.

Nevertheless, we must fight to retain a habitable planet, and I also agree with LMLH that a key plank in the required emergency action must be a general change in dietary practices. However, rather than adopting LMLH’s approach of focusing almost exclusively on certain types of meat, I argue for a general transition toward a plant-based diet. More on that below.

The danger of “bright-siding”

To support its position, LMLH cites global “high meat” and “low meat” scenarios developed by UK “think tank” Chatham House, along with its own more optimistic scenario. The scenarios utilise the “global carbon calculator” developed by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change, the World Resources Institute and others. It has used the two low meat scenarios to argue that a reduction in beef and lamb consumption will give us a reasonable chance of staying within a 2°C temperature target.  Here’s some of what it has said.

LMLH STATEMENT:

“If we can all cut back our consumption of beef and lamb down to once a week for a standard serving size (65g) or once a month for a large portion such as a roast or steak then we can actually limit climate change to what climate scientists consider safe levels . . .

This sounds too easy, like changing light bulbs, but that is what the climate models used by world leaders tell us and hence what we are telling you. So be part of the solution, take part in The Climatarian Challenge and become a climatarian!” [LMLH, Climatarian Challenge]

RESPONSE: That is a major overstatement that masks the true danger

The first problem with LMLH’s statement is that the 2°C target is widely considered politically expedient and lacking scientific merit.

The former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Dr James Hansen, has described it as “a prescription for disaster”.

Authors of “Climate Code Red: The case for emergency action”, David Spratt and Philip Sutton have said:

“A rise of 2 degrees over pre-industrial temperatures will initiate climate feedbacks in the oceans, on ice-sheets, and on the tundra, taking the Earth well past significant tipping points.”

Although LMLH understands the danger of runaway climate change and the need to stay well below 2°C, its message is inconsistent, and it appears to give challenge participants the impression that all will be well if people simply reduce their red meat consumption.

LMLH also fails to say that Chatham House’s low-meat scenario gives us less than a 50% chance of staying below 2°C. They are horrendous odds when the future of the planet (as we know it) is at stake.

It should perhaps also highlight the fact in its challenge material that an aspirational target of 1.5°C (which is also dangerous but perhaps inevitable) was established at the 2015 Paris climate summit.

Critically, Chatham House’s low meat scenario assumes: (a) global meat consumption will fall below current projections, with monogastric meats, such as chicken and pork, largely replacing ruminant meats like beef and lamb; and (b) nations will comply with pledges to limit energy-related emissions and seek to improve energy efficiency.

LMLH’s third scenario is consistent with the dietary aspects of Chatham House’s low meat scenario, but is more optimistic regarding energy-related emissions, assuming a general transition to renewables. It would almost certainly also involve a high risk of failure relative to what is at stake, and may reflect a high degree of wishful thinking.

LMLH’s notion that “we can actually limit climate change to what climate scientists consider safe levels” by reducing consumption of beef and lamb may represent a form of what David Spratt calls “bright-siding“. Spratt uses the term to describe the tendency of many environmental groups to act on the belief that only positive “good news” messages work, thereby avoiding “bad news” such as climate change impacts (or in this case, the fact that continued consumption of all animal-based foods will contribute significantly to climate catastrophe). LMLH seems to be offering a potential solution to climate change that falls well short of the mark if we want to have a reasonable chance of overcoming the crisis.

A key component of LMLH’s bright-siding approach is its aim “to drive behavioural change in the mainstream population by taking a pragmatic approach”. That approach is consistent with the fact that “pragmatism” is one of its stated values, and reflects the marketing background of its founder.

In the words of David Spratt:

“Is selling ‘good news’ and avoiding ‘bad news’ the way to engage communities in understanding how climate change will affect them and what they can do about it?   In the commercial world the answer is yes, you can sell a ‘solution’ without a real problem, because half the game is about fabricating demand (status, for example) for things people don’t need (a new car) . . .

But with climate change, the problem is not a commercial or political construct, and not fully solving the problem will be catastrophic beyond most peoples’ imaginations and current understandings.”

LMLH dangerously ignores the actual and potential impacts of animal products other than beef and lamb. With meat consumption currently increasing in developing nations such as India and China, we cannot afford to focus solely on beef and lamb in our efforts to create dietary change. Some more focus by LMLH on the impact of fossil fuels and the Catch 22 of aerosols would also be helpful.

Greenhouse gas emissions intensity

LMLH’s main concern is the high greenhouse gas emissions intensity of beef and lamb.

Per kilogram of product, the emissions intensity of those foods is high relative to that of other foods, including other animal-based and plant-based foods, and LMLH is justified in being concerned. However, if we measure the emissions per kilogram of protein, those other animal-based foods do not seem such favourable choices, as shown in Figure 1. The charts show the emissions intensity based on 100-year and 20-year time horizons for determining the global warming potential (GWP) of various greenhouse gases. [Footnote 1]

Figure 1(a): Emissions intensity (kg CO2-e/kg protein) for beef, sheep meat and cow’s milk

Figure 1(b): Emissions intensity (kg CO2-e/kg protein) for other products

Even when measured per kilogram of product, the emissions intensity figures of other animal-based foods are multiples of the figures for plant-based options, with the emissions intensity of eggs, chicken, fish and pork being between 160 and 340 per cent higher than that of soy beans. Economic rationalists may be horrified at efficiency differentials of 5 or 10 per cent, but here we have climate change inefficiencies that are up to 68 times as bad as those figures (5 per cent versus 340 per cent).

A related point is that the inherent inefficiency of all animal-based food products means we require far more resources, including land, than with plant-based options. That creates grave risks for what are currently carbon sinks, such as the Amazon rainforest. With no buffer in our need to deal with the climate crisis, we must use every mitigation opportunity available, including revegetation and avoidance of further land clearing.

The second point is highlighted by the fact that we need many kilograms of plant-based protein to produce one kilogram of the animal-based variety, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Feed conversion ratios

Some major impacts of industrial and non-industrial fishing on our climate system are not accounted for in emissions intensity figures or national greenhouse gas inventories.

The problem arises from the fact that fishing disturbs food webs, changing the way ecosystems function, and altering the ecological balance of the oceans in dangerous ways. The loss of ocean predators such as large carnivorous fish, sharks, crabs, lobsters, seals and sea lions, and the corresponding population increase of herbivores and bioturbators (creatures that disturb ocean sediment, including certain crabs) causes loss of carbon from vegetated coastal habitats and sediment. The ocean predators are either caught intentionally by fishing fleets, or as by-catch when other species are targeted.

These factors also reduce the ability of the oceans to sequester carbon. If sequestration capability was reduced by 20 per cent in only 10 per cent of vegetated coastal habitats, it would equate to a loss of forested area the size of Belgium.

In respect of emissions intensity figures generally, a major inconsistency in the approach of LMLH is that in written material it refers to methane’s GWP on a 20-year basis (e.g. methane’s warming impact is 86 times that of CO2), but figures used for the app are based on the more conservative 100-year timeframe.

Multiply your cruelty footprint with the Climatarian Challenge

LMLH expresses concern for animals, as demonstrated in the quotations below.

LMLH STATEMENTS:

“Let it be clear that we are firmly against the cruel treatment of animals in the factory farming system . . . we do encourage you to understand the compassionate footprint of your food and engage with other organisations that advocate for animal rights and bravely fight against factory farming. We think that together we can work towards a safer and more compassionate world . . .”  [LMLH, Climatarian Challenge, FAQ, Other Issues, What about animal rights?]

“When we buy meat that is not free range it is factory farmed. Animals raised in factory farms are subject to intensely stressful conditions and sometimes unimaginable cruelty all in the name of cutting costs. These conditions are fuelled and passively accepted by us, the consumers who demand more for less.” [LMLH, “Why free range?”, The Animals]

RESPONSE: The expressions of compassion and concern are not consistent with other aspects of LMLH’s campaign.

If LMLH is “firmly against the cruel treatment of animals in the factory farming system“, then why is it continually encouraging people to replace beef and lamb with chicken and pig meat?

As stated by Eric Baldwin in the short 2002 documentary, “Meet your meat“, “chickens are probably the most abused animals on the face of the planet”. Pigs are not far behind.

Every animal is an individual, with the ability to suffer physical and psychological pain. The fact that one is smaller than another, or perceived as less cuddly, does not reduce the suffering.

If you have a spare couple of minutes, why not watch this short clip, demonstrating the link between a mother hen and her chick, who (unlike most) were given the opportunity to live in a natural way.

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Quite apart from the horrendous conditions experienced by most chickens and pigs in the food production system, to replace the meat from one cow with chicken meat in the top beef-consuming nations would require between 101 and 360 additional chickens to be bred, raised and slaughtered. (88 per cent of the 70 billion land animals slaughtered around the world annually are chickens. In Australia, they represent 90 per cent of the 642 million slaughtered.) The number of pigs is smaller, but still a multiple of cows.

Here are the comparisons by country, determined by the relevant production yields for each product. (Yes, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publish pig meat figures for all the countries shown here.)

Figure 3(a): Number of chickens required to replace one cow in top per capita beef-eating countries

Figure 3(b): Number of pigs required to replace one cow in top per capita beef-eating countries

Here is a statement that appears to demonstrate LMLH’s lack of concern for animals:

LMLH STATEMENT:

“Fill your plate with ethical deliciousness. Trade your centrepiece of Christmas roast beef or lamb shanks for a lower-carbon alternative. Turkey, ham, chicken, and kangaroo will be sure to satisfy the hunger of your guests with less of a heating effect on the Earth. [LMLH, “An Ethical Christmas Guide”, Dec 2016]

RESPONSE: Shouldn’t cruelty feature in a discussion on the ethics of consuming turkey, ham, chicken or kangaroo?

Here are some examples of legalised cruelty involving chickens, turkeys and pigs, enshrined in Australian livestock codes of practice and legislation (with similar arrangements in place in many other countries):

Chickens and turkeys:

  • life-long confinement indoors;
  • beak trimming 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;
  • forced breeding;
  • 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, they are sent along a conveyor belt to an industrial grinder while still alive.)

Pigs:

  • 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;
  • forced breeding.

They are some of the legal forms of cruelty, and do not include brutality which has frequently been recorded with under-cover cameras.

It should go without saying that the slaughter process is also not something to be taken lightly, but that seems to be how most people consider it. According to the animal advocacy group, Aussie Farms:

Due to the high demand for meat and other animal products, abattoirs are required to kill very large quantities of animals per day, resulting in a typically rushed environment where ineffective stunning can easily occur. Animals that reach the kill floor without first being properly stunned are then ‘stuck’ and bled out while still conscious.

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 terrible fate.

If interested, you can see undercover footage from the Aussie Farms website here and from Animal Liberation NSW here. (Warning: Graphic footage.)

The great majority of pigs in Australia are stunned for slaughter using the CO2 method, whereby they are directed into a cage, which is then lowered into a CO2 chamber. Many people may wrongly believe that the process is free of pain and stress for animals. This video (Warning: Graphic footage) from Animal Liberation Victoria appears to indicate otherwise, a view supported by Donald Broom, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at Cambridge University.

LMLH also overlooks the horrific suffering of fish and other aquatic animals. Like other animals, those in the oceans and other waterways feel pain. In the aquaculture industry, they spend their lives in crowded, often filthy enclosures, with many suffering from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. In the wild, hundreds of billions of fish and non-target “bycatch” are caught each year in nets or dragged for hours on long-lines. Most fish die slowly through suffocation, and many aquatic animals are prepared by cooks for eating while still alive or killed in horrific ways.

Please also see comments below in relation to kangaroos and free range systems.

Kangaroos: The gross injustice of our present approach

It is pleasing that LMLH recently stated that it would cease advocating the consumption of kangaroo meat as a low-carbon option. However, three items in which it does so were appearing on its website at the time of writing, and kangaroo meat was mentioned by Mark Pershin in a radio interview as recently as 10th April 2017, without reference to its negative aspects.

To the extent that it applies, the decision may have been prompted by interactions on social media with individuals who pointed out various aspects of the kangaroo meat trade, such as its extreme and inherent cruelty (including the plight of joeys who are clubbed to death or abandoned) and the fact that it is not viable as a food source on a scale anywhere near that of the cattle and sheep meat sectors.

A grave concern is that the prime targets of shooters are the largest, strongest individuals, with potentially critical impacts on the prospects of their mob (the term used to describe their group), along with the gene pool and the resilience of the species in increasingly challenging environmental conditions.

Most modern kangaroo species have evolved over a million years or more. Without human intervention on the scale imposed by Europeans commencing just over 200 years ago, they would have continued to live in harmony with the landscape to the extent that it remained habitable. Like our interaction with most non-human animals, the power balance in our favour and a lack of compassion in respect of kangaroos create an example of gross injustice, for which we should be ashamed.

In any event, we consume kangaroo meat at our peril. Parasite infestations and the role of red and processed meat in bowel cancer, heart disease and stroke are major concerns in terms of human health. The fact that kangaroo meat is relatively low in cholesterol may offer little comfort, as it is high in L-carnitine, a compound associated with increased incidence of cardio vascular disease in the form of atherosclerosis.

The folly of “free range” and “grass-fed”

LMLH is a strong advocate of “free range” and “grass-fed” production systems, but free range production methods will never be able to respond on the scale required to feed the masses.

Here are some issues to consider.

Greenhouse gases

LMLH STATEMENT:

“When selecting your beef and lamb meal for the week we recommend opting for a grass-fed option . . .”

RESPONSE: Why does LMLH recommend grass-fed when the emissions intensity is far higher than the alternative?

Meat from grass-fed animals is far more emissions intensive than that from animals fed in mixed systems. [Footnote 2]

Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has estimated that cows fed on grass produce four times as much methane as those fed on grain. [Footnote 3]

Similarly, Professor Gidon Eshel of Bard College, New York and formerly of the Department of the Geophysical Sciences, University of Chicago, has reported, “since grazing animals eat mostly cellulose-rich roughage while their feedlot counterparts eat mostly simple sugars whose digestion requires no rumination, the grazing animals emit two to four times as much methane”.

The estimates from CSIRO and Eshel relate to the period an animal is eating grass as opposed to grain. The “mixed-fed” result allows for both feeding regimes, resulting in a comparison that is less stark. For example, the FAO has recently reported that the global average emissions intensity of “grass-fed” beef was 62 percent higher than beef from mixed systems, based on the 2010 reference period (95.1 kg vs 58.6 kg CO2-e/kg product). [Footnote 4]

Cruelty

Please see comments from LMLH under the earlier heading “Multiply your cruelty footprint with the Climatarian Challenge”.

There are no legally enforceable free range standards in Australia, and the systems still involve cruelty.

In respect of cattle (who generally live in free range systems for most of their lives), the livestock industry codes of practice (endorsed by legislation) 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;
  • forced breeding.

Here is a calf, possibly “free range”, enduring the horror of hot iron branding.

Major problems have been exposed in relation to pig meat production on the “Free Range Fraud” website of Animal Liberation Victoria, involving brands accredited as free range by the RSPCA. A related point is that the RSPCA has been reported to earn a royalty equal to 2 per cent of sales from accredited producers. In any event, the RSPCA has no power in relation to the legalised forms of cruelty.

Many free range farmers send their animals to regular abattoirs for slaughter. Tammi Jonas of Jonai Farms has confirmed that her business sends the animals to Diamond Valley Pork in Laverton, Victoria, where the CO2 stunning shown in Animal Liberation Victoria’s video, referred to earlier, occurs. (Warning: Graphic footage)

In its FAQ on dairy, LMLH recommends “grass-fed cheese”. The failure to acknowledge the animals whose milk is used seems to demonstrate a lack of empathy. It also highlights a failure to recognise the immense, inherent cruelty involved in dairy production, whereby cows are impregnated in order to stimulate their mammary glands, only to have their newborn calves removed within a day of birth so that the milk that was meant for them can be consumed by supermarket customers.

LMLH erroneously uses the term “animal rights”, when in reality it means “animal welfare”. The latter assumes that animals have no rights, and must be available for our use.

Health

LMLH STATEMENT:

“Meat is nowhere near as good for you as when the animal is raised on pasture and eats what it has evolved to eat.”

RESPONSE: Whether “grass-fed” or “grain-fed”, red meat has serious health implications.

The only health issue raised by LMLH is the fatty acid composition of meat. However, whether a cow eats grass or grain, the meat represents a serious health risk, with the detrimental impacts being well documented by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), 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. 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 health organisations classify pig meat as red meat.) The results primarily reflect anticipated reductions in the rate of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer, and type 2 diabetes.

In 2012, Harvard University released a study involving more than 120,000 participants over twenty-six years, with similarly damning results. Citing the study, the New York Time reported that “eating red meat is associated with a sharply increased risk of death from cancer and heart disease . . . and the more of it you eat, the greater the risk . . . Previous studies have linked red meat consumption and mortality, but the new results suggest a surprisingly strong link”.

Land use

LMLH STATEMENT:

“Cows provide many valuable services to the grasses that they graze on, including feeding them with nitrogen from their manure.”

RESPONSE: The impact on land of cattle grazing is overwhelmingly negative.

Much of the land on which cattle graze was once forest or other forms of wooded vegetation, with an ongoing loss of carbon sequestration on top of the impact of carbon being released at the time of clearing. Even perennial grasslands are no match for forest in terms of sequestration, with Australia’s Chief Scientist reporting that forests are typically more than ten times as effective as grasslands, per hectare, at storing carbon.

Rather than promoting the growth of healthy grass, cattle grazing generally degrades soil, with devastating impacts well beyond the pasture. For example, the erosion generated by cattle grazing is one of the largely hidden reasons behind the ongoing demise of one of the world’s natural wonders, the Great Barrier Reef. Cattle grazing is responsible for 75 per cent of sediment in the reef’s waters, along with 54 per cent of phosphorus and 40 per cent of nitrogen. The sediment blocks the sun and smothers coral. The fertilisers promote algal growth that represents a food source for crown-of-thorns starfish larvae.

Researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Wollongong estimated in 2012 that the reef had lost around half of the coral cover that existed in 1985. [Footnote 5] The research attributed the loss to three main factors in the following order: cyclones (48 per cent), crown-of-thorns starfish (42 per cent) and coral bleaching (10 per cent). It is estimated that if crown-of-thorns starfish predation had not occurred during that period, there would have been a net increase in average coral cover.

The release of carbon due to soil erosion following livestock-related land clearing was a key factor in Beyond Zero Emissions and Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute (University of Melbourne) estimating that animal agriculture was responsible for around 50 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. Other factors included an allowance for short-lived climate forcers and a 20-year GWP.

The Pew Charitable Trusts have reported on the destructive environmental impacts of livestock grazing in remote areas of Australia, including the introduction of invasive pasture grasses, manipulation of fire regimes, tree clearing, and degradation of land and natural water sources.

According to Professor Ian Lunt of Charles Sturt University, managed grazing systems are only suitable in a small number of Australian ecosystems, particularly lowland grasslands and grassy woodlands on productive soils in areas of moderate to high rainfall.

Conclusion

LMLH appears to have been effective in engaging with the public and media on climate change and the impact of diet, but there is too much at stake to avoid highlighting concerns over various aspects of its campaign.

Although those involved can be proud of their efforts in many respects, they appear to be: (a) understating the true dangers; (b) ignoring or overlooking key mitigation measures; and (c) failing to adequately recognise or acknowledge the plight of food production animals.

I hope LMLH will reconsider some aspects of its current approach, potentially enhancing its effectiveness while also raising awareness of various issues that are currently largely out of public view.

Author

Paul Mahony

Footnotes

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions intensity and GWP: The 100-year figures have been published by the FAO, while the 20-year figures represent an adjustment allowing for the apportionment of various greenhouse gases for each animal-based product as also reported by the FAO, along with  and the IPCC’s 2013 GWPs for methane and nitrous oxide. The GWP-20 figures are approximations, as the apportionment of greenhouse gases per product was based on results from GLEAM 1 (2005 reference period), while the latest FAO GWP100 figures are from GLEAM 2 (2010 reference period). [GLEAM is the FAO’s Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model.] Some figures are higher than estimates I have conservatively reported elsewhere, where I chose not to adjust for yield. The beef figures include beef from the dairy herd, the emissions intensity of which is lower than that of the specialised beef herd, as emissions are also attributed to other products, such as milk and cheese.
  2. FAO reporting: A recent FAO spreadsheet using the 2005 reference period indicated the opposite result, but the organisation has confirmed that emissions from land use change for pasture expansion had inadvertently been attributed to mixed, rather than grassland, systems. The spreadsheet has been withdrawn, and correct results will be published for the 2010 reference period.
  3. Emissions from grass-fed cattle: Although the CSIRO subsequently reported a reduction of around 30 per cent in emissions from the northern Australian cattle herd, emissions from grass-fed cattle remain on a different paradigm to those of most food-based emissions. The same can be said for potential reductions in methane emissions through the use of seaweed and chemicals in animal feed, which are likely to have the added problem of being an impractical option for grass-fed animals.
  4. Feeding regimes for cattle: Cows are not fed grain exclusively. They have not evolved to consume it, and if it is used at all, they are generally only “finished” on it for up to 120 days prior to slaughter.
  5. Loss of coral from the Great Barrier Reef: The precise figure lost since 1985 was 50.7 per cent.

Some minor concerns

Here are some less serious concerns with LMLH’s material:

  1. In explaining the use of “carbon points” in its climate challenge app, LMLH has linked to a 2011 article from the Guardian, explaining Global Warming Potential. The problem is that the figures are out of date, and do not represent the figures used in the app.
  2. Twice on its Climate Challenge FAQ page, LMLH refers to “The United Nations Farming and Agriculture Organisation”. The title used is incorrect, with the main problem being the use of the word “Farming” rather than “Food”.

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Images

Naqueles tempos | duardo Amorim | Flickr | Creative Commons | Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

noBorders – Brayden Howie | Young Kangaroo on east coast of Australia. Close up of head and face. Photographed in the wild | Shutterstock

Videos

Mama Hen & Baby Chick (English Subtitles) – from Peaceable Kingdom film, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLxSg42Oj5E

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

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

Animal Liberation Victoria, “Pig Truth”, Undated, https://www.alv.org.au/pig-truth/watch-pig-truth/

Update

Comments and references concerning aquatic animals and livestock grazing expanded on 26th April 2017, along with other minor revisions to text.

The second sentence under the heading “Kangaroos: The gross injustice of our present approach” amended on 10th May 2017.

Comment on crown-of-thorns starfish modified on 26th June 2017.

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