Animals farmed: non-stun killing, trade wars and the Red Tractor row
Welcome to our monthly roundup of the biggest issues in farming and food production. We’ll gather together the must-read reports from around the web and pass on recommendations from readers
News from around the world
Fish welfare continues to rise up the international agenda. A report this week from the European commission on fish slaughter methods concluded that this was a matter best left to national states. But according to the Eurogroup for Animals, the EC is flouting an earlier legal commitment to produce standards.
There’s trouble in Brazil, as Bloomberg reveals that one of the world’s largest meat companies – BRF SA – is not only reporting very bad financial results (the worst in its history, according to Bloomberg), but is also facing a government probe over food safety.
In the US, it looks as Trump’s steel tariffs are not the only trade war he’s waging. Vietnam has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organisation against the US, stating that the new USDA inspection regime, which targets catfish, amounts to an illegal barrier to trade. Meanwhile, chef Dan Barber (pictured above), one of the founders of the farm-to-table movement, has now launched a new enterprise; an organic seed company aiming to come up with new and incredibly flavourful vegetable breeds.
In South Africa, the issues at the heart of the world’s largest listeriosis outbreak (180 dead so far) continue to unfurl. The outbreak now appears to have been traced to a meat processing plant in the state of Limpopo.
News from the UK
Minette Batters, the new head of the National Farmers Union (and first female leader), told her conference that the UK would not lower standards post Brexit, while the environment secretary, Michael Gove, spoke about his plans for a new subsidy system based on payment for public goods, while launching the consultation on the new agriculture bill. “For once, farmers have a ‘big beast’ at the cabinet table,” noted the Economist.
Data showing that non-stun killing – carried out in Europe only under specific religious exemptions – had risen in the last few years has prompted a poll from Farmers Weekly. At the time of going to press, 75% of votes were in favour of a complete ban on non-stun killing.
And a mini row broke out over Red Tractor, the assurance company that, according to its website, “was launched by the food industry to promote clearer labelling and ensure food originates from a trustworthy source”. First, chef Jamie Oliver criticised the scheme, and then Radio 4’s Farming Today waded into the discussion, interviewing a spokesperson for the company. You can hear the slightly awkward encounter here for as long as the broadcast is available.
Highlights from the Guardian
In partnership with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, we broke the news of widespread failings at US meat plants and also looked at the attempt to pass the world’s most progressive farm animal rights law in California. We also assessed the problems at meat plants in the UK.
Our Australia office exposed the devastating extent of deforestation in the country, with 3m hectares of Australian forest to be lost in 15 years.
And Jonathan Watts wrote about the UN’s moves towards recognising a human right to a healthy environment.
Farmer Christine Page of Smiling Tree Farm wrote in to tell us about her most recent blog, tackling the tricky question of the carbon cycle in cows. It comes with a helpful illustration.
Tracy Hunt in Cheltenham told us: “I try to live by the golden rule – To treat others as you wish to be treated yourself. This includes all living things. The planet does not belong to humans. Animals did not evolve for the benefit of humans. We must get back to co-existing. At least by aiming for this, the suffering can be reduced, the conditions of farmed animals improved, the health of the human race and planet taken better care of.”
And Joe Monahan in Iowa recommended the series of pieces that Harvest Public Media, a small media organisation, has been running on the human toll of working in a slaughterhouse.
Quote of the week:
Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field.
Dwight D Eisenhower, 34th president of the United States, descended from farmers.
Send us your recommendations and thoughts on the Animals farmed series at email@example.com.
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