When I was about six, my parents were hosting a New Year’s Eve party at Queenscliff. They wanted enough chicken to feed up to fifty guests. We drove to a poultry farm that advertised they could supply chickens wholesale.
My dad came out ashen faced and without any of the advertised chickens. What he had seen inside that poultry farm challenged his boyhood memories of chickens free-ranging in the family backyard; truly ‘Happy Hens’. Instead, it was his first encounter with battery hen production. It inspired a boycott of eggs and chicken produced under such conditions, as far as possible for the rest of his life. Instead he returned to producing our own, or sourcing eggs from friends.
His attitude to intensive pork farming was the same. “Pigs need somewhere to wallow”, they should never be kept on concrete, let alone confined in stalls where they can barely move. Again the use of antibiotics in their feed as a matter of course rather than because one is ill, says much about the unhealthy and unnatural conditions these intensively raised pigs experience.
Like my dad, I like to know that animals I eat have a life that is as natural as possible and that are not fed hormones to stimulate growth, antibiotics or genetically modified food. These get passed directly onto us in the food chain. Generally what is best for the animal itself, in turn is also best for us, for we truly “are what we eat”!
Some years ago we caught the Ghan, from Adelaide to Darwin. This time, coming into Darwin train station, we were confronted with something new. Feed lot cattle, without a scrap of shade, in the tropical sun. We seemed to pass these unfortunate beasts for about twenty minutes. Feed lot, after feed lot after feed lot, each a mirror image of the one before. These poor animals were being fattened up for shipment to Indonesia. It was with considerable irony I followed the public outrage at the appalling conditions cattle exported to Indonesia and the conditions they faced there a few years later. I wondered how loud the public outcry would have been, had they too seen the conditions to which those same cattle were being subjected to right here in Australia. Hardly the paradise of natural grazing, herd experience and an ability to seek shelter from extreme weather that our Herefords had at our Chepstowe farm!
I’m with my dad. I am not prepared to eat meat farmed intensively. I would rather pay more and know what I eat has experienced a high quality of life. That quality of life produces quality food, with real flavour and texture. I’d rather have it as a treat, than know that by buying factory farmed meat or eggs I am condoning an industry I find abhorrent and compromising the welfare of all animals in my name.
The Animals Australia website offers much information about factory farming and the live export trade. It has the extended flying pig video that has been used as a successful education campaign. But be prepared to be confronted if you watch it. I found it heavy going. I signed the pledge to only eat ethically produced meat and dairy products. That was something I was doing anyway. Joining Animals Australia and signing the online pledge is another way public opinion can be literally counted. It is a process, known as lobbying, to ensure our opinions and values are clear, to producers, supermarkets and politicians. It is one thing to actively boycott such products, but another to ensure that such boycotts have a public voice and profile!
I urge anyone who cares about animal welfare to exercise the power they hold as consumers. Demand meat and dairy products that are guaranteed to have been humanely produced and treated.
I choose to shop at John Harbour’s butcher shop, in Lydiard Street Ballarat, as he only sells meat that has been grazed on local pastures and in the case of pork and chicken is free ranged, under humane conditions. The quality of the food I purchase there is exceptional. Oh; that such establishments were the rule, rather than the exception!
John can always tell you where an animal he has butchered has come from and what it has been fed. Given it is often necessary to queue to be served there, it seems, many of his customers also seek ethically produced meat and eggs.
Other friends go further, eating only the meat they produce and slaughter themselves, or become vegetarians.
The degree to which you choose to commit yourself to eliminating factory farming is up to you. But, together, our ethical choices can make a difference to the life of thousands of animals!