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The Ways We Are Lied To

September 14, 2016

The Waitrose ‘Food’ magazine is free to all customers who have a My Waitrose card. I have never taken a copy before, but last week,  I did.

There was a 7 page spread in it, called “Farming for the Future” – essentially it’s about going organic. So far, so good. But all of the farmers featured were animal farmers!

Meet the dairy farmers, Rachel and Jo Horler from Somerset, pictured with their herd of some  black and white and some light brown cows, all with yellow ear tags -no horns, of course.

“To meet organic standards we have to feed a minimum of 60% forage produced on the farm to our cows – that could be grazed grass, hay or silage”

“We were already growing white and red clover but wanted something more tolerant of dry weather, so we looked at chicory. It has a large root system and different growing pattern, so the fields with it stay much greener when the weather is hot and dry. It goes into the cows’ Winter diet along with the clovers and makes a far more palatable silage, meaning the cows waste less.”

” We’ve changed how we graze and we’ve bred a herd that’s suited to our conditions”

The Sheep farmer ( Alwyn Roberts, from Snowdonia) has this to offer his customers:

” This is a family farm……. the girls are very interested in the sheep, the boys like the tractors”

“It’s good sheep country. We tend to start lambing around the end of March and then the lambs are ready to go at the end of September and into the Winter.”

“We went organic about 8 years ago, and supply Aberdale Cross Texel lambs to Waitrose. It’s a crssbreed that does well off forage…. more than 90% of what we feed the sheep is grass. All our feed has to be organic, which costs at least £100 more per tonne to buy than conventional feed, so we have to produce it on the farm”

The farmer is depicted crouching down, holding a ewe in the pose you would see if he were shearing her. It’s not a very ‘natural’ position for sheep to be in and she looks like she will run off the moment he releases her.

The organic egg farmers, Ian and Chris Brettel, brothers,  from Shropshire, have this to say:

“we started to produce eggs 15 years ago; we went organic in 2000.”

” We have 6,000 birds but we’re doubling up to 12,000 and are about to finish building the last shed. The hens will still be grouped in flocks of 2000.”

“For organic,the rule is to have no more than 6 birds per square metre – it’s 9 for conventional hens. Half the area in the shed has to be litter, which is somewhere for the birds to have a dustbath and display their natural characteristics and they have access to 2 hectares of outdoor organic land per shed.”

“The sheds are mobile and the ground is rested between each flock, mainly to keep diseases and pests at bay………we try to do things as naturally as possible”

“We rear our own pullets( young hens) and have 3 different age groups on the farm at any one time”

“We ……got automatic pop holes(doors for the birds to go in and out) so, when the birds get up at eight in the morning, say, no matter what’s going on, they all go out at the same time. They come in to roost at night when it’s dark”.

The picture at the top of the page shows one man seated on a log, hen under his arm, the other standing behind him, hen in arms. One hen is scratching about at their feet. In the background one of the sheds and a rather bare yard.

Here is the pig farmer, Guy King, from Norfolk ( who is pictured with a cute piglet tucked under his arm):

“Almost all of the organic wheat, barley and beans fed to our pigs are British”

“Previously, outdoor reared pigs would have had heir food broadcast into the soil, Trough feeding has a massive benefit – we can use a smaller feed pellet, which takes less energy to produce, waste is almost zero, pests can’t get into the troughs because they are raised off the ground, and you don’t get contaminants in the soil”

” We also use antibiotics as little as possible – only when necessary for the health and welfare of our pigs”

“For me, organic pig farming is proving a worthwhile project. I get a sense of satisfaction when I’ve done a good job”


And, finally, the beef farmer, Simon Bainbridge, from  Northumberland:

” If you’ve got a good environment the livestock does well”

“We’re pushing boundaries ……..growing lucerne and red clover. They create fertility for other parts of the rotation and superb quality feed for our cattle….they also product flowers, which are good for the birds and the bees. Over the years we’ve put in six and a half km of hedgerows”.

These are all just excerpts, but they all illustrate how people who farm living beings for profit persuade customers to buy their products. I notice that all of these organic farmers focus only on the organic feed they offer their animals, because that is the important part, to them. It’s a good selling point.  What goes into the animals is healthy, pesticide-free food, therefore the products from those animals, whether it be their flesh or their eggs or milk, will also contain only good, organic nutrition.

So, customers think they are doing something good when they buy them – helping the environment, keeping themselves healthy.

But what of the animals themselves? Who is considering them? They all end up in the same slaughter truck, going to a brutal death, no matter how free range and organic their lives until that moment have been. The calves on an organic dairy farm are still removed from their mothers – the males to immediate death by whatever means is cheapest and most convenient for the farmer, and the heifers to a pen with other heifers, to be raised on formula from a bucket. No dairy cow, organic or otherwise, is allowed to keep and suckle her calf – the milk is for sale to humans. There is no mother/infant bonding, and the cows bellow frantically for their calves, for days afterwards; the baby girls look in vain for the mother they should be suckling from and keeping close to, the baby boys, not fed anything unless stuffed into a veal crate, attempt to suck the fingers of the men who are loading them for slaughter. Organic, free range or zero pasture intensive lot – the scenario is the same.

There are no bulls on dairy farms. Calves are created using sperm from a bank, and the cows are confined in a rack – which the industry itself calls a ‘rape rack’ (because they have no respect) and artificially inseminated. All through their pregnancies they are milked just the same – this is the milk that is still flowing from the birth of the previous calf, as it is essential for industry profits to impregnate the cows again as soon as possible after the birth of one calf, so that the milk never dries up. This is the same no matter what sort of farming is being practised. Organic, free range  rape,insemination and constant lactation, loss of calves and slaughter when you are no more use, is just the same as the conventional systems. It is all exploitation and abuse, all of it totally unnatural.

Semen is taken from special pedigree bulls whose prime purpose in life is to donate sperm.They do not live anywhere near cows. They are masturbated by a vet, their sperm collected and stored. They are sperm- producing machines just as the cows are milk production units. The status of all these animals is property and commodity. The word ‘livestock’ says it all – that’s what they are, stock, stuff, cargo, assets that happen to be alive, and so what? They are not important, they are ‘just’ animals that will be turned into food. That they are sentient, intelligent, characterful beings who experience all the same emotions and physical sensations as any dog, cat or human  is never allowed to be considered. It can’t be  – because you cannot treat living beings the way farm animals are treated and still believe yourself to be a kind, caring, decent person. You can, however, treat inanimate objects any way you choose.

This is exactly how Hitler’s Nazi Germany created the environment in which they could get away with the mass murder of those they considered undesirables in their society – they ‘de-beinged’ them.  With relentless propaganda – and a fat dose of terror – they gave these people sub-human status, the status of livestock (things), packed them into trucks and drove them off to slaughter. In fact, these people were treated even worse than most of the livestock was in those days,  because factory farming got invented after the war and because nobody is taught to actually hate pigs, cows, sheep and chickens – just taught not to care enough to mind that they have to be killed. There’s a huge difference.

The belief that these animals have to be killed,  and that it is the way of things, and always will be, and it’s pointless to expend too much energy caring about that, is another lie – the truth is that human beings not only do not need to eat animals or anything that comes from them, but also we would all be a lot healthier if we didn’t.

Globally, 98% of all animal products consumed come from intensive units – factory farms.  Any person who tells a vegan they ‘only buy free range meat’ is likely to be lying, without knowing that they are. You can get packets of animal flesh, boxes of eggs and bottles of milk that are labelled ‘free range’ or ‘organic’ and sometimes both, but most people do not buy these. Those who do, will be supporting factory farming whenever they buy anything that contains animal products – stock,  jelly, canned goods, fresh chicken soup, processed foods, sandwiches, ready meals etc,  any fish (because the seas are dredged of anything edible to be ground up into food for farmed prawns and also feed for cattle and pigs on factory farms) and any time people eat animals when dining out, the ingredients for the meal will be from a factory farm unless specifically stated otherwise – and you will seldom see this on any restaurant menu.

But can you even believe the ‘free range’ labels?  Undercover filming gives evidence that you cannot. Read again the comments from the organic, free-range egg farmers above:

“For organic,the rule is to have no more than 6 birds per square metre – it’s 9 for conventional hens. Half the area in the shed has to be litter, which is somewhere for the birds to have a dustbath and display their natural characteristics and they have access to 2 hectares of outdoor organic land per shed.”

Now think. Nine birds per square metre for ‘free range’. If it’s organic too, it can’t be more than six birds in this small square. How ‘free range’ is a square metre, for 6 birds, let alone as many as 9? The outdoor space for a flock of 2000 birds is 2 hectares – that’s the size of two football pitches. Is that any sort of ‘free range’?  No – it’s a large exercise yard for an overcrowded prison.

The egg farmers tell us they raise their own pullets. They do not say what happens to the male chicks. Of course, they are all killed. There are no cockerels on egg farms – sperm is collected from a few sperm donor birds, just like with dairy farming. How hens are artificially inseminated I do not know, but I doubt it is pretty. Chicks hatch in a huge incubator, a hatchery.  None of the chicks ever emerge to see their mothers. They do not hear her comforting croonings to them as they are warmed beneath her breast,  developing inside the shell, they hear only the sound of the generator that regulates the temperature in the hatchery. They do not hatch to discover her protecting wing for them to hide beneath. They hatch amongst hundreds of other chicks, with whom it is impossible  for them to have any sort of meaningful interaction (unlike with their own siblings in a natural brood of about half a dozen).

I want to know more about this organic egg farm than what they are feeding their hens.  I dispute that the label ‘free range’ is anything more than a deceitful way of describing a slightly less confined life than that endured by caged hens.

See how the pig farmer talks about his pigs – he boasts about the trough feeding system and the sparing use of antibiotics on his farm, knowing that these things will be of interest to discerning customers. He poses with a piglet – how cute. But do his piglets keep their teeth and tails? No mention of that. In the background of the picture is a rather bare field, with the tin shelters I am used to seeing on outdoor-reared pig farms. We pass by a huge one near Stonehenge en route to Michael House in Cornwall ( vegan guesthouse).

He does not mention how many pigs are in each field. There are no trees for shade and fallen fruit – especially acorns, which pigs love. The trough system denies the pigs the pleasure of rooting for their food – a natural behaviour – and the pellet diet, although nutritious (designed to put on the weight quickly, all the faster to get you to the slaughter house, little piggies) is dull – pellets, pellets and yet more pellets.The joy of food is in its variety and texture as much as taste.

All the joy of life is removed from the majority of farmed animals, whatever system they are in.  Pigs are forest creatures, who love to nose about in the leaf litter for tasty morsels. In the wild they roam in family groups to forage, covering miles in one day. The lives of domestic pigs are a travesty of this, even in the ‘best’ units.

Perhaps the ‘luckiest’ of the farmed beings are the sheep and the beef herds. These, at least, get to be pasture grazed and the infants stay with their mothers – for not long enough, but they do get a taste of what life is supposed to be for them before they are dragged off to the death truck at a few months old.

We talk, all the time, about the animals who are raised to be food for humans, as if they were no more sentient than the leg of a table. When you look at factory farms- where the majority of ‘agricultural animals’ languish miserably all their tortured lives, it is clear that these poor creatures have less worth than any family’s dining table or television. Nobody deliberately vandalises and disrespects the furniture they paid good money for, but everybody abuses and disrespects the living beings we have arbitrarily labelled ‘food’. The disrespect is in allowing these systems to exist at all, and in paying for the horror that is the slaughter house. To eat animals who have been denied everything that makes life good – freedom, space and a natural life – is to disrespect them as beings, fellow earthlings.

Whether or not people can agree that killing animals for food is wrong for a moral being like humans to do, is one thing – but we should, as decent people, agree that treating them the way we do when we ‘farm’ them,  is the utmost disrespect of them. They are all descendants of wild creatures who were captured and enslaved,  and those born into this slavery today are the most unfortunate beings on this earth. They have no voice, no way to protest, they are completely without any defence against human beings, who bully and mistreat them and kill them without pity.

Organic is excellent – the best. But it should be organic crop farming. The words ‘farm’ and ‘living being’ should not belong in the same sentence.

The evidence is mounting that animal agriculture is the second largest cause of climate change, more damaging than the transport sector. This is a problem that will affect everything on earth.

Medical studies are also now showing us, more and more, that we eat far too many animals for our own good – we are giving ourselves cancers, heart disease, diabetes and stroke, and growing obese – costing the health services billions of whatever currency you choose. Dairy is the cause of osteoporosis and a trigger for arthritis and breast cancer, to name only a few of its adverse effects on human health. Most of the world’s humans do not consume dairy products and in these places, the bone and joint diseases we in dairy cultures develop as we age, are non-existent. This ought to tell us all we need to know. Milk from another species is bad for human beings.

We fall for the lies the animal farmers tell us, because it is easier to not think, not care and not act. Most people around me do not care enough to go vegan, or even to do one thing like ditch dairy. They seem to not care for the animals who suffer, to not be against killing and violence to them, to not be bothered about how eating animals is wasteful of resources and contributing to world hunger and water depletion, to not really care about their own health.

Being vegan is about uncovering the truth, exposing the lies,  making the invisible victims of animal farming visible, asking the people around us to please care. Vegans would like a less violent and less cruel world. Why doesn’t everyone?

Pigheaded: How Smart are Swine?








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