This week in Northern Ireland, 2,000 pigs were burnt alive in a fire on a factory pig farm in County Down. Unfortunately, this is not a rare occurrence as in the UK, 1,700 farm buildings are destroyed by fire each year, many of them housing livestock. The fire at Glenmarshal Pedigree Pig Farm, exposed to the world the cages in which sows give birth and suckle their piglets for 5 torturous weeks under UK basic welfare standards and the Red Tractor label. They cannot move except to stand up and lie down and are unable to fulfil their natural desire to make nests, nurse their young and to forage and root in the soil. If the gates open to a flood of cheap US pork, where mother pigs are kept in these cages for their entire lives, competition will ensure that the UK farmers will never be able to raise their animal welfare standards.
On 7 September Animal Rebellion activists were locked onto coffins outside the entrance of Tulip pig slaughterhouse in Manchester, while others occupied the gas chambers on the roof. A banner outside the entrance read ‘ANIMAL FARMING = PANDEMICS & CLIMATE CRISIS’.
Though Farms not Factories asks meat eaters to buy high welfare meat and are lobbying for government to promote agro-ecology and a network of small scale abattoirs, in horror at the systemic cruelty, human illnesses and ecological destruction from factory farming, an increasing number of people are giving up meat entirely. Animal Rebellion’s action comes just days after news reports that half of the staff at Banham Poultry slaughterhouse in Norfolk – 75 in total – have tested positive for Covid-19 that resulted in a backlog of chickens so 300,000 had to be euthanized and disposed of – no wonder people are going vegan!!
A 2018 study into the environmental impacts of food production – the most comprehensive of its kind – found that a plant-based food system could reduce farmland usage by 76% and greenhouse gas emissions by 49% from current global levels.
This week Feedback has released a report called ‘Bad Energy’ – about the role of anaerobic digesters in a net zero carbon scenario. We have written this article outlining a case study in Northern Ireland where ADs were used to facilitate building new factory farms next to communities that were almost unanimous in their objections to the toxic stench and nitrate pollution that inevitably follows. Also see our 30 minute film, Pig Business in Northern Ireland, to hear local objections to massive factory farms to understand how ADs cannot continue to be framed as a miracle cure that solves the problem of farm waste, decarboniser agricultural industry and provides carbon-free biofuel.
A new free-trade agreement between the EU and New Zealand gives the pending UK/US trade deal a good example to follow as, for the first time, animal welfare is included in the terms of the agreement. Simone Clarke, executive director at World Animal Protection New Zealand said; “where European standards are higher, we should adopt them. And conversely, they should adopt our higher standards where that is the case. To do otherwise would potentially undermine animal welfare in both jurisdictions and see lower welfare food enter our market“. Higher animal welfare is an indicator that the farm is better on many levels beyond a contented life for the animal, not least, less antibiotics used, less waste so less pollution, farms are smaller, independent, use local small scale abattoirs which are more resilient to disease plus selling locally and so more of the profits stays in the local community.
Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss, who is currently negotiating a UK/US trade agreement, assures UK farmers that she will not allow them to be undermined by cheap, low welfare imports. However, British farmers, backed by the NFU, are not convinced and are pushing for the House of Lords amendment to the trade bill that would give parliament the ability to ratify or veto new trade deals.
It’s not hard to see how UK trade negotiators could be pressured to give away sovereignty over food imports. In his op-ed ‘Trussed Up Farmers‘, Rutland farmer Andy Brown asks, “What will US trade negotiators expect in return for zero tariffs when they import food from the UK? There can be only one meaningful answer to that: they will expect to be allowed to sell their agricultural products in UK markets with equal cuts in import duties. They won’t expect to be required to sign up for additional food safety standards on the products they want to export”. A prime example of a country lowering its standards to secure a trade deal is Taiwan where the government now allows imports of pork from pigs that were treated with Ractopamine, the muscle builder drug banned in 160 countries due to human health concerns, to allow imports of US pork.
If you’re interested in updates to the Trade and Agricultural bills, Sustain has published this excellent newsletter with lots of information. And, if you haven’t already, this is a suggested letter to edit and send to your MP explaining why we cannot afford this trade deal.
As both FNF’s co-director, Alastair Kenneil and I are investigative journalists and filmmakers, we are very concerned that if Julian Assange is extradited, the freedom to publish government and corporate wrongdoings will disappear, along with his WikiLeaks service, where whistleblowers can release information in the public interest without revealing their identity. So, we’d like to share with you our 20 minute film of the first day of the hearing as seen from outside The Old Bailey; the powerful speeches from his supporters includes filmmaker – John Pilger, former British Ambassador – Craig Murray, NUJ President – Tim Dawson, Julian’s father- John Shipton and WikiLeaks editor – Kristinn Hrafnsson plus their updates to international journalists and human rights ambassadors waiting for information outside the court. Every day I will be uploading interviews with Julian’s father John Shipton about the legal manoeuvres in court that day and I will also post links to the wise and witty genius, former British Ambassador, Craig Murray’s written summaries.
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