But where are all our pigs?

There is no doubt modern living has left us both desensitised and far removed from the realities of how our food comes to be. This could not be truer than in the case of pig farming in Australia. 90% of all pork products bought and eaten in Australia come from factory farms. Ninety percent can you believe that? I guess this explains why most, if not all of us have never seen pigs roaming freely on Australian farmland. Have you ever thought about that?  You see cows, you see sheep, you see goats, but where are all our pigs?

So when I was invited to join a series of community rallies to raise awareness about factory farming and why sow stalls need to be banned, I joined up. Pounding the pavement, I was soon to learn many of us have no idea how pigs being raised for food are forced to live.

Just the words ‘factory farmed‘ and ‘intensive piggeries‘ conjure up images of a cold production line, where one can only imagine that the welfare of these animals would be compromised. But there is more to this tale, as I was to discover.

‘Basically you’re asking a sow to live in an airline seat’
Temple Grandin

Despina_two

Factory farmed pigs see no sun, no sky… ever

To be frank and without any embellishment, the plight of our pigs is diabolical. Simply put, we as consumers are both driving and unwittingly supporting an industry fraught with cruelty. Cruelty no reasonable person would condone. Not if they knew and understood all the facts.  And that’s where I need to begin, with a quick synopsis of the facts. Take a look at this short video (don’t worry, the graphic content has been removed).

And then think for a moment: a living, breathing, feeling being with the cognitive capacity of a 3- year old child never ever in their entire lives seeing sunlight, never touching the earth, pregnant and weighing some 300kgs confined on a cold floor, unable to turn around, unable to socialise, unable to nest. Driven to insanity as every basic right is denied her. And this abuse continues with each and every pregnancy. All to get ‘more pork on our fork‘.

Hear me out… it is not whether you choose to, or not to eat pigs.  But rather if you will continue to support an industry (as it is now run) rife with abject cruelty that has largely gone unchallenged. Let me put it to you this way… I have never met anyone who condones animal cruelty, yet when I raise the subject of abuse and cruelty inflicted on animals raised for food, people start to shut down and switch off. You can still eat your meat people, but at the very least we owe our animals a decent life and a painless death… agreed?  But this requires us getting involved.
It wasn’t that long ago that our chickens were existing in similar harsh conditions. It is public awareness consumers’ choices and continued public pressure that has given them considerably better living conditions.  And I’m sure most of you would only buy free-range or organic, or both when it comes to your eggs and chicken meat.
Sasha_3

5.5 million pigs are slaughtered in Australia for food each year
90% of them will have lived indoors their entire lives

Pigs are intelligent, social and display complex behaviours. In fact scientists have shown them to have the cognitive capacity of a three year-old child.  Try then to imagine yourself, your mother, your child, your dog attempting to cope in these totally unreasonable conditions:-

  • Newborn piglets are subjected to tail docking (which is illegal for dogs), their teeth clipped to their gum line (so as not to injure their Mother’s nipples), their ears notched (for identification) and castration all without pain relief.
  • Mother pigs (sows) are confined day and night for all, or part of each 16 week pregnancy, in small individual metal ‘sow stalls’, over concrete or metal mesh flooring where they can either stand or lie, but cannot turn around.  They are provided with no bedding whatsoever.
Piglets
  • Unable to move freely, they never see the sun and never touch the earth.
  • Their total confinement, harsh conditions, lack of stimulation and inability to satisfy their basic instincts literally causes them to go insane. Bar biting (as you’ll see in the footage below) is a sign of mental collapse.
  • During the loading of the trucks for slaughter they see the outside world for the very first time.  Many pigs suffer lameness, and broken bones due to lack of exercise and sunshine. Individualized Veterinary care is too expensive, so they can travel for hours in severe pain. 

From birth to death pigs literally exist in one state of abuse or another

What I am asking myself is, who developed these methods so lacking in humanity and why are we supporting them?  The blame cannot rest solely with the farmers, afterall we are the ones driving the demand.  It cannot rest solely with the pork industry officials; they need to run a profitable business. It has to rest with you and me as consumers.  To me it is simple: either we are part of the problem, or we are part of the solution. We need to ask more questions and think before we buy.
Today Australians (per capita) eat 24.4 kgs of pig meat
(pork, ham, bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, salami, chorizo, mince, suckling pig)
three times more than the 6.7kgs
consumed annually by Australians in 1969
The bottomline is, sow stalls should be banned. If you need further proof, look abroad; based purely on welfare, sow stalls have been banned in Britain since 1999. 7 states in America followed suit, along with the 27 member nations of the E.U. and Tasmania will see Australia’s first ban take full effect by 2017. If Smithfield Foods the world’s largest pork producer, is committed to making sow stalls a practice of the past, so should we (warning: contains graphic images)

Otway Pork – Farming methods for the future  (warning: footage contains hope and shows just how all pigs being raised for food should live) http://www.otwaypork.com.au/cms/otway-story/

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‘To make a difference, you need to do something different
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau 

Pig_boy

Get involved: it’s easy, here’s how

Stay informed, join us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ethical-Eating/241069425945627

Make compassionate choices: Say no to factory farmed pork.  Next time you order procuitto on your pizza, buy a ham sandwich, go out for breakfast for a serve of crispy bacon ask if the pork is free-range, or organic, if it isn’t don’t buy it!

Support ethical producers: Buying organic requires pigs to be raised in a free-range manner. Buying free-range means pigs are born and raised with access to the outdoors. Read product labels, ask questions and please think before you buy.

Lobby: Write and keep writing to your local MP, our minister for Agriculture and our Prime Minister. Write to your favourite publications.  Demand an end to sow stalls in every state of Australia and now. Learn how to here: http://www.animalsaustralia.org/action/editor.php

Make some noise: Join a community protest, sign a petition, donate, share our pigs’ plight with others. Learn more here: http://www.savebabe.com/change.php

Sign this petitionhttp://www.avaaz.org/en/australia_end_animal_abuse_b/?cwYgsdb

Join celebrity campaigners: James Cromwell, Jackie O, Rebecca Gibney, Suzie Wilks and Darren Cordeux.  Learn more here: http://www.savebabe.com/james.php 

Boycott: Vote at the checkout.

Sources: material supplied by Paul Mahony, www.rspca.org.au, www.SaveBabe.com, PETA, Animals Australia, the book Ethical Eating by Angela Crocombe ISBN: 9780143008569, www.sustainabletable.org.au and smh.com.au article: Bite-size view of a nation 

Photos: Professional images by Kylie Grinham  http://www.kyliegrinham.com/

The truth about M-I-L-K

In just two-minutes, learn how to make this tasty nut-milk recipe from the ‘top health blogger‘ Sarah Britton.  A dairy-free alternative that won’t cost our planet… 

<p>My New Roots – How to Make Nut Milk from My New Roots on Vimeo.</p>

The nut-milk bottle featured in the video can be bought at Matchbox for $6.95.  We used Onya Weigh reusable produce bags as our sieve or nut-milk bag.  You can buy a pack of 5 (they make great gifts) for $13.95 online here: http://www.onyabags.com.au/shop.php?crn=208

Onya_bag

My curiosity about why we drink milk has uncovered a number of very unexpected truths that now makes cow’s milk to me, quite frankly a four-letter word. I’m certainly not suggesting that we all become vegan… but there must be a better way forward.  What I do know is our purchasing decisions heavily influence what ‘industry’ does.  Check the facts out for yourself… what do you make of all this?

I’m guessing that the fact modern life has us so removed from how food makes it to our table, is probably the main reason why so many of us are blissfully unaware that cows actually produce milk for the same reason as we do: to feed their young.

Humans are the only species that drink the milk of another animal
Cows do not drink cow’s milk…
Calves stop drinking cow’s milk between the ages of six – eight months

Courtesy of the Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, this 3-minute video shows us how milk gets to our table.  From my research, I chose this video because it was the least distressing  

  • Day-old calves are taken from their mothers, man handled and treated as ‘waste products’ whom the dairy industry deem acceptable to withhold food, even water for up to 30 hours before they are slaughtered. www.animalsaustralia.org/take_action/bobby-calf-cruelty       
  •  A new mother left frantically grieving for her calf, because instinctively she wants to nurture and allow them to suckle, is returned to the herd to be milked several times a day, by milking machines which will force her to produce about 10 times more milk than she would naturally all to meet our consumption demands of ‘three serves of dairy a day, for strong, healthy bones’. So the milk that nature intended for her calf ends up in our tummies.
  • The cow is reimpregnated 6-9 weeks later, and this cycle continues until she can no longer produce enough milk to be considered ‘profitable’. The constant overstimulation of her udders leads to painful mastitis (inflammation) for her and pus in the milk for us. Yes, you read that correctly, pus.  Google it for yourself.  The dairy industry calls it ‘body cell count or somatic cell count’ and in the USA (I haven’t been able to get the figures for Australia) they allow one eye-drop of pus, in every glass of milk.  And before you say ‘but milk is pasteurized’, just remember pasteurization is a sanitizing, not a removal process.
  • Dairy cows no longer live out their natural lifespan of 25 years.  They are disposed of after just 4-5 years because their milk production will have declined, along with their profitability

 1.8 million dairy cattle produce 10,000 million litres of milk
in Australian every year

I don’t want to sound evangelical because like you, I at times still consume milk products. Why? Habit, its convenient and good for me right? Well maybe not, my research is turning up evidence to the contrary.  Here’s an easy to digest summary: http://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/dairy-calcium-myth.php

I just don’t know what is more shocking.  What actually happens to get milk onto our supermarket shelves or the fact that the dairy industry has so skillfully convinced, or should I say duped us into believing that ‘to have strong healthy bones‘ we must drink milk.

What I am saying is, how did we get here?  Who has taught us to be so mean and so indifferent? As a mother I find it intolerable that anyone could think it is ethical to starve a baby for 30 hours.  This situation is made worse when conglomerates like Coles lower the price of milk to $2 for 2 Litres, further driving the demand of what is undeniably an unethical product.

 Dairy farming has an environmental impact comparable to that
of beef farming, with significant methane emissions, high water
usage and significant animal welfare issues

Now that I am better informed, and if the realities bother you as much as they bother me, rest assured that for every dairy product there is a cruelty-free alternative.  In addition to being humane, products like soy, oat and nut based milks are often lower in fat and calories and contain no cholesterol.  Here are some alternatives to consider, that I love and you will too.

Products I love:

A note about buying organic… Buying organic where possible, is better for you and the environment, as dairy farmers using organic farming methods consume considerably less water. That said, it is important to point out that ‘organic’ does not mean better conditions for the cows or their calves.

Ice cream: There are a huge variety of non-dairy ice creams available (soy, rice, almond and coconut milk) like Coco Luscious.  You can find this at irevive in Toorak or Nushie’s Natural available at all Thomas Dux stores.  The major supermarkets also stock dairy-free alternatives like Soy Delicious, Soy or Rice Dream and the Tofutti brand

Cocoluscious
Nushies

Yoghurt: Let’s support Australian farmers doing the right thing. While not dairy free, B.-d Farm Paris Creek based in South Australia are ethical biodynamic producers. Their FAQs will give you piece of mind, with their ethical farming methods resulting in exceptional yoghurts, milk, cheese and butter. Read more: http://www.bdfarmpariscreek.com.au/FAQ.html  View their full product range here: http://www.bdfarmpariscreek.com.au/Products.html

Paris_creek_yoghurt
Paris_creek_cheese

Also, Barambah Organics based in Queensland do not treat their calves as ‘waste products’ and send them to slaughter.  Read more about their business here: http://www.barambahorganics.com.au/barambah-difference/the-farm.aspx

Barambah

Chocolate: Eskal’s dairy-free Noble Choice available at Thomas Dux and good health food stores. Even the most discerning chocolate lover would not be able to tell the difference.

Chocolate

Cheese: Look for cheeses that do not contain rennet.  The stomachs of slaughtered calves are used to extract the enzyme rennet, commonly used in cheese production.  There are many non-animal rennet options available, you just need to check the label.  Stay tuned for more cruelty-free options coming soon.

Milk alternatives: Soy, rice, oat or nut-milk can replace cow’s milk in any recipe.  Try using almond, oat or coconut milks in your desserts

Ethical_milk

Sources: Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, Animals Australia, PETA, Angela Crocombe’s Ethical Eating, My New Roots blog and Gary Yourofsky’s website www.adaptt.org