After a dire experience visiting a factory pig farm in Italy, Clodagh McKenna decided to only cook with high welfare meat from then on. “We all have ideals of the kind of person we want to be and I think every single one of us wants to be somebody that is making a little bit of a difference in this world”, she says. So, using the power of her purse, the acclaimed chef and author of numerous cookbooks, is helping to close factory farms by only buying meat from high welfare British farms like Helen Wade’s Eastleach Downs Organic Farm. Helen rears rare-breed saddleback pigs that are sold from their on-farm butchery. She says, “For me the welfare of the animal is the most important thing, pigs are very intelligent creatures and they should have the best possible life we can give them.”
Clodagh McKenna is a chef, TV presenter, author, gardener and much more. Her stellar food career began in West Cork 25 years ago when she had a stall in a farmers’ market selling fresh pasta, pates and home baked bread while running Slow Food Ireland and publishing a guide to the best producers and pig farmers in Ireland.
From where she lived she could see a dismal collection of large sheds and was told it was a pig factory producing industrial pork for the global market. She was so shocked that such a travesty could even exist, she asked if she could visit and was shown round the rows of overcrowded pigs, squealing in distress and frustration.
On the point of leaving in horror and despair, on the spur of the moment she asked if she could buy some piglets, and so came away with six 3-week old piglets, already weaned much to soon from their mothers (organic pigs cannot be weaned until 6 weeks) and took them home in a horsebox. Expecting a ‘Free Willy’ moment when the pigs would leap out of the horsebox at their new home and run and frolic around outside for the first time, she was heartbroken to see them hobble a few steps then fall over because they had no muscles in their legs.
With so much suffering and cruelty in the world, she understood why people don’t want to think about yet another injustice unless they are aware of how easy it is to make a difference. She urges us all to help bring an end to this shameful cruelty by never buying pork from animal factories but only ever from high welfare farms where pigs are kept outdoors in the fresh air and sunlight.
Every single one of us wants to be somebody who is making a difference in this world. Lets all try to be the person we want to be. If I want to be Clodagh who feeds my family only on animals that have been rightly treated, with pork that comes from a conscious farm, I can start that today.
And this is where Helen Wade comes into the story. Her saddleback pigs at Eastleach Downs Organic Farm are kept in the best possible conditions, with hutches filled with fresh straw on green spacious fields. They are contented and busy rooting, foraging, raising piglets who are free to scamper around in the sunshine, or huddle together in the hutch out of the cold wind in the deep clean straw.
Pigs are part of our crop rotation. They come round every five years onto each field and we grow cereal crops to feed them. We grow wheat and beans and peas and barley and our plan is to feed them completely from the farm, and to completely get rid of imported soya from the rainforest, with all its environmental problems and food miles.
Helen turns away from the camera frequently to talk to the pigs, constantly aware of them as living creatures with their own personalities and moods that vary according to their farrowing calendar, whether they are nursing a litter, or pregnant with the next one, or growing for market, they have differing moods and emotional needs that she understands from a lifetime of empathy and understanding.
These are highly intelligent sentient beings and if we are reduced to eating meat from factory farms what have we become? I’m much more in tune with someone who chooses a vegan diet than someone who doesn’t care what they eat.
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