Archives for posts with tag: Pigs

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

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

A recent initiative of Terrastendo has been the creation of the global slaughter index.

Across 194 countries for which relevant data is available, the index shows the number of land animals slaughtered per member of the human population in a single year.  The index was prepared using the most recent (2014) livestock data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and human population data from the World Bank for the same year.

Although it also shows the total number of animals slaughtered in each country, the rankings are not based on that measure.

Here are results for the “top twenty” nations:

The full listing can downloaded here.

Israel’s position at the top of the list may surprise some readers given the recent prominence of veganism in the country, with (for example) animal rights marches and significant media coverage devoted to the work of  activist Gary Yourofsky, amongst others. However, the country’s vegan population was still a small percentage of the total during the period covered by the index, and is unlikely to have grown sufficiently to alter the country’s position on the table.

The ratings of the top twenty countries (ranging from 53.5 to 22.1) are significant given the median figure of 6.3. This indicates that the top twenty have ratings that are at least three times those of half the covered countries.

A key purpose of the index is to highlight the enormous scale of the global livestock sector and provide a meaningful comparison of each country’s contribution to mass slaughter.

For any meat-eater concerned about their cruelty footprint, it can also potentially indicate (after allowing for the animal-bodies-equivalent of cross-border meat sales) how many animals are consumed by a typical individual in their home country. They could also use life expectancy figures to estimate their potential lifetime consumption in the absence of change.

For example, the current life expectancy in Australia is around 82 years. Assuming constant consumption levels, and allowing for the fact that domestic consumption is responsible for around 92 per cent of slaughtered animals, a typical Australian would be responsible for the slaughter of over 2,000 land animals in their lifetime.

The actual figure could be much higher if past trends continue. The overall number of animals slaughtered in Australia in 2014 was 8.4 times the 1961 figure, while the number of chickens was 16 times. By way of comparison, the size of the human population in 2014 was only 2.2 times that of the 1961 level. Here’s a snapshot:

A similar trend has occurred globally:

A critical factor in the increase has been a growing preference for chicken meat over (for example) beef. However, if you replace beef with chicken meat for perceived health or environmental benefits, or for other reasons, then you are massively increasing your cruelty footprint. This chart shows the number of chickens required to replace one cow in the top per capita beef-eating countries:

Here is another way to view the comparison for the United States:

In addition to showing the number of animals slaughtered per person, the global slaughter index shows the number of animals slaughtered per second and per minute in each country. The “leaders” are China with around 350 per second, the United States with nearly 300, and Brazil with nearly 200. Globally, the figure is over 2,200 per second or nearly 134,000 per minute.

Conclusion

The numbers presented in this article may seem astonishing. A general transition to a vegan lifestyle would avoid the horrendous cost and suffering created by the consumption of animal-based foods, which are a grossly and inherently inefficient way to obtain our nutritional requirements.

If you would like to learn more, please visit the not-for-profit campaign sites, veganeasy and whyveg.

Author

Paul Mahony

Images

Main image: Aussie Farms | http://www.aussiechickens.com.au/photos

Other images: Shutterstock | DnD-Production.com | Cow | ID 159146585; and Shutterstock | yevgeniy11 | Hen | ID 154817177

Update

Minor text amendments on 1st and 2nd October 2017.

 

 

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]

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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.

xxx

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.

shutterstock_141409255

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

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

Promotional and other videos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Cross to image of pig meat.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

APL Promotional Video 2 (included in school kit)

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

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

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

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

Go to bottom of page. WARNING: Graphic images.

Animal Liberation ACT Video

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

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Teachers as co-learners

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

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

Answer:

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

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

Is that the sort of education we want in Australia?

Looking after pigs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Healthy eating?

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

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

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

WCRF International stated (p. 382):

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

WCRF UK has stated:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quality assurance and Oliver’s Piggery

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

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

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

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

APL Disclaimer

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

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

A similar disclaimer appeared in Video 1.

Conclusion

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

Author

Paul Mahony

Related article

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

Footnotes

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

Resources

Vegetarian Starter Kit (Animals Australia)

Vegan Easy (Animal Liberation Victoria)

Vegan Australia

Update

Comments on land clearing added on 13th March 2017

References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Images

School children in classroom at lesson © Oksana Kuzmina | Shutterstock

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

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

WARNING: Graphic images.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

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

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

That is despite political doublespeak to the contrary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Author

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

Previous Publication

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

Image

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

Related Material

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

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

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

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

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

Yet that is what our state government is claiming.

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

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

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

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

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

Firstly, she did not respond to my suggestions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why do I consider that claim extraordinary?

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

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

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Conclusion

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

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

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

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

Author

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

Update

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

Sources

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

Reports on RSPCA commissions:

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

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

Images

“Aubrey”, Pete Crosbie, Willowite Animal Sanctuary

Branding a calf | © anrodphoto | iStock

Coalition for the Protection of Racehorses

Coalition Against Duck Shooting

 

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

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

jaala.pulford@parliament.vic.gov.au

31st March 2016

Dear Ms Pulford,

Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The code permits the following practices, most of which apply routinely to the vast majority of pigs used for food:

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

The Australian industry’s so-called voluntary ban on sow stalls, scheduled to commence in 2017, will allow them to be used for up to eleven days per pregnancy, and will not be binding on individual producers. In any event, the ability to monitor compliance must be questionable.

The industry has not indicated any action in respect of farrowing crates.

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

The code permits:

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

Australian Animal Welfare Standards and Guidelines for Cattle

The standards permit:

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

Please also see comments regarding the dairy industry below.

National Animal Welfare Standards for Livestock Processing Establishments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional comments on the dairy industry

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

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

The RSPCA and potential mandatory reporting

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours faithfully

 

Paul Mahony
Co-founder Melbourne Pig Save
melbournepigsave.org

END OF LETTER

Image: Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary

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

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

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