You may have seen this ad on TV last night (although I know at least two of you wouldn’t have). I received it via email earlier in the day. It’s by Animals Australia and features some imagery of how the majority of animals are farmed in Australia:
view the video here on makeitpossible.com
That’s the cruel reality of how more than 500 million animals are farmed in Australia. This isn’t a minority of animals we’re talking about, it’s not some small pocket of farms servicing only the cheapest markets... it’s the majority. A few facts from Sustainable Table (the NGO I work for):
- Free range chickens account for only 10 - 15% of total chicken production in this country
- 90% of Australia’s pork products come from factory farms, where pigs are raised in cramped concrete-lined sheds, with no access to natural light, and where mothers are confined to tiny sow stalls for the duration of their pregnancy
- There’s still 11 million egg-laying hens living in cages around Australia
- We eat roughly our own weight of meat every year – on average, 80kg per person.
These statistics are shameful. There’s no excusing this kind of farming. Demand for meat is high, but would it be if everyone knew where their meat came from?
If you’re ordering bacon at a cafe, this is likely where it’s come from. If you’re buying a sausage from a sizzle out the front of Bunnings, this is likely where it’s come from. If you’re ordering a takeaway chicken burger, this is likely where it’s come from.
I’m convinced people wouldn’t stand for this, if they knew. Most people are good people. Most people wouldn’t condone cruelty like this just so they could get some pork on their fork, cheaply. Thing is, if you value the lives of animals - and for the most part, most people do - then at some point, you have to start behaving in line with your values. You have to say, ‘I wouldn’t treat my pet like that, I wouldn’t let my neighbour house pigs like that, so why would I eat that pork bun?’
I know many people who say that in order for meat to be available so readily and cheaply, this kind of farming is necessary. They’re right, in part. Cheap meat, available from every corner store and affordable enough to eat three times a day probably isn’t viable on a large commercial scale, to the scale we have today. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
What can I do?
- Eat less meat, and pay a little more for the meat you do buy. Make meat a treat.
- Learn to turn vegetables into filling meals. Boys, it’s possible. Here’s a terrific website full of filling recipes.
- Buy meat from local, ethical farms. I only buy meat from farmers’ markets because I can talk to the farmers directly about their practices.
- When eating out, always ask where the meat has come from. I never buy meat, especially pork or chicken, from a restaurant unless the farm is specified on the menu. I’m serious.
Why should I pay more and eat less? What's in it for me?
A cleaner conscience: Okay, first up, you can have a pork chop without having to swallow the bad conscience that comes with knowing said chop came from a pig that had a terrible, tortured life. If you have pets, if you love animals, this should be important.
Grass fed meat is better for you: Animals allowed to range free on a real farm chomp down on plenty of grass and other nature's goodies (chickens can tuck into a few worms, etc). Animals raised in factories, in contrast, are fed grains and manufactured pellets. Studies show that meat from grass fed animals is higher in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, higher in Vitamin E, B vitamins and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a nutrient that lowers your risk of cancer.
Free range & organic meat tastes better: don't believe me? Try it. Just try it. Animals that have lived a low stress life, on the land, chomping on a variety of greens, feeling the sun on their backs, interacting with their buddies, doing animal-like things in the dirt, moving more.... it just tastes better.
Eating less meat and more veg can help you live longer better: Aussies eat twice the amount of meat recommended by health professionals (124kg vs the recommended 54kg per year). Our concept of appropriate serving sizes has been right royally screwed up. Meat is an important part of many people's diet, yes, but we don't need to eat it three times a day. In fact, eating less meat and more veg is one of the Blue Zones' vital factors for longevity. Click here if you've no idea what I'm talking about (I'll write a post on this soon). Use meat as a condiment, add little bits to big pots of veggies for added flavour and protein. A couple of times a week, indulge in a palm-sized pork scotch fillet or a beef casserole. I eat meat for health reasons, I feel stronger and better physically for it, but I don't eat it everyday and I don't eat large amounts of it. I treat it like gold. That goes for fish, too.
You'll be supporting small, environmentally conscious farmers: Want a better future for the planet? This is how to do it, by financially supporting farmers who are doing the right thing by us, by their animals, and by the environment.
You'll know where your food comes from: Knowing who raised your food makes you appreciate every single damn bite. And if you want to know if the chicken had a name, and any friends, damn it you can ask.
What are some ethical farms I can buy from?
If you’re in Victoria, The Gypsy Pig is great. So is Yarra Valley Free Range Pork, and Happy Valley. Milawa is terrific for free range organic chicken and duck. For a full list of ethical meat suppliers in Melbourne, see this directory.
Sydney folk, see here.
There’s good news in all this. In June 2010, Tasmania became the first state to announce a phase out of all sow stalls, with a total ban by 2017. It came about because consumers took a stand. That’s the brilliant thing – since it’s our dollar that supports farms, we have a bloody powerful vote in our hip pocket. If there’s one thing I’d love to encourage everyone around me to do, it’s to use their dollar to vote for a better, kinder food system.
Want to know more? Visit makeitpossible.com. Sustainable Table also has a heap of information about our food system and what you can do to help make it better.
I'll be doing another post on meat soon, with more info on the health and environmental benefits of eating grass fed organic free range... so keep an eye out for it.
If you know of other ethical farms, feel free to comment below!