More on Transparency: Canaries in the Mine

I’ve already expressed my opposition to any proposed ag gag laws and related desire for more transparency, so today I’m going to be brief and blunt as I extend it.

Intensive livestock farming needs to stop. Here are a few reasons why:

  • it concentrates effluence, leading to water, air and soil pollution as well as loss of social amenity for those who live nearby;
  • it drives increased meat consumption (which in turn drives increased monoculture grain production to feed livestock instead of people, which in turn drives further deforestation, etc, ad nauseam) – the only reason chicken and pork are consumed in the vast quantities they are is due to growing numbers of these animals in sheds;
  • it forces you ‘to get big or get out’, which has meant a concentration of farming to fewer, bigger farms and the loss of regional livelihoods across Australia (and the global north). There were about 50,000 pig farmers in Australia in the 1960s – now there are just 660, and yet production is higher now;
  • it leads to a higher incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which makes human illnesses harder to treat (not to mention non-human illnesses);
  • it’s wrong to confine an animal in a cage for the entirety of its life.

The first four points are virtually indisputable, so I’ll say a couple of things about the last one.

Some people obviously believe it is not wrong to raise animals for meat in cages. Their ethical code differs from mine, just as a vegan abolitionist’s code differs from mine.

I say it’s unethical to cage animals. Vegan abolitionists say it’s unethical to kill and eat animals.

I have pursued a life as a free-range pig farmer because I believe so strongly that people should have the choice of genuine pastured meat to help them stop eating animals raised in sheds and cages.

I call myself an ethical farmer because we raise our animals on the paddocks in a way we believe is ethical. I do not say this to suggest all other farmers are unethical, however, as I’ve said, I do believe it is unethical to raise animals in cages.

If you call your produce ‘farm fresh’ or ‘natural’, are you suggesting everyone else’s produce is rotten and fake? No? I didn’t think so.

Some animal rights activists spend their lives trying to take footage of what happens in intensive farms because they believe so strongly that it is wrong to confine, kill, and eat animals.

These activists are targeting intensive livestock farms, as well as live export. If you’re not confining animals on land or on a ship, they’re not likely to sneak in and film your operation. And if you share your own story, open your doors, and crucially, do what you say you’re doing, it’s very hard for someone else to catch you out.

They are the canary in the mine, people, and if you don’t let the animals out you might get shafted.

I would genuinely like to see a gentle transition that supports family farmers as they move away from intensive animal farming, not a shutdown of the industry that ruins lives while trying to protect animal welfare. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing, but it does need to change.

Politicians may make more laws, but whistleblowers will find a way to uncover what they believe is an injustice, so why not just stop the injustice?

Let them eat grass!

PS Russ Patterson wrote a response to my original transparency post on Ann Britton’s blog. I’ve responded to his arguments there.

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Tammi Jonas

The infrequent and imperfect yet impassioned musings of a farmer, meatsmith, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and cultural commentator with a penchant for food and community.

3 thoughts on “More on Transparency: Canaries in the Mine”

  1. Wonderful writing, Tammi. You are an outstanding advocate for, and practitioner of, ethical farming.

    It’s worth also adding that this is a system that is driven entirely by the ruthless and coldly calculating logic of the pursuit of profit above everything else. The global intensive livestock farming system is one cog of a much bigger wheel, that begins with the patenting of life in the form of GMO seeds, and continues with mass dispossession of indigenous and peasant communities in South America and deforestation on an horrendous scale, producing ‘green deserts’ of GMO soy that ends up as chicken and pork feed in massive intensive farms in Europe and China. Via Campesina documented this in a short film (Killing Fields) back in 2009 –

    From there this system feeds the phenomenal expansion of the fast food industry, whose products are marketed to us and our kids ad nauseum via every medium possible. It makes me sick that my son’s junior soccer team is sponsored by Maccas, so that the goals of the under 7s and the bibs of the parent helpers are emblazoned with the corporate logo. Everything is and must always be up for sale in this corporate culture where the logic of commodification extends into every sphere of life.

    The system and its ‘efficiencies’ (an Orwellian term if ever there was one, given how much waste and pollution the system generates – as much as 40% of all food produced, never mind the GHG emissions) are enormously profitable for the small handful of multinational agri-food companies that dominate meat-packing, grain trading and global food processing.

    This system is not about ‘feeding the world’ – that’s a myth and pure propaganda. As a recent ETC report demonstrated, it’s actually smaller-scale and peasant farmers that produce 70% of the world’s food, while the industrial food system uses 80% of all fossil fuels burnt in agriculture and 70% of the water, to produce only 30% of the food: And yet we’re told this system is ‘efficient’ and ‘highly productive’.

    It’s not about benefiting farmers either. It’s about driving farmers off the land, or turning them into contract managers for mega-corporate operations. You need only look at the stats, as Tammi said: Australia had 50,000 pork producers in the 1960s, now we have less than 700.

    In this system the farmers are expendable, ecosystems are expendable, climate stability is expendable, our children’s health is expendable, any quality of life for the animals is entirely moot. What’s not expendable are the profit demands of the corporations who control the system and drive it forward.

    Sooner or later, that’s the question we’ll have to confront, if we want a chance at a humane, decent future – for everyone, people and animals included.

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