Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How farmers really treat their animals

As I often do, I was surfing the net this morning and found myself checking out the news on Twitter.  PETA had posted a link to an article about pigs.  The idea was that if pigs were dogs then we wouldn't eat them.  Fair point. If we had a pet pig, I don't know how quick I'd be to serve it up for Christmas dinner either.  What annoyed me about the article was that they outlined the way (they want people to think) pigs are raised to back up their point.  I didn't know any different so I emailed a friend of mine who is a pig farmer to get the facts.

Here's the statement from PETA: "Pigs raised for food have their tails and testicles cut off without anesthesia, and these naturally clean animals are forced to live in such crowded and filthy conditions that they must be fed massive amounts of antibiotics just to survive. Mother pigs are continuously impregnated and confined to crates in which they cannot even turn around or nuzzle their piglets. At slaughter, pigs have their throats cut and are dumped into a tank of scalding-hot water to remove their hair, sometimes while they are still conscious and able to feel pain."

My friend was good enough to email me back with this statement:

*Most male pigs are not castrated these days, those that are are made sterile by giving them an injection.This eliminates any chance of an infection.

*There is an approved stocking density that must be adhered to, audits are done on piggeries to check on matters such as these. Most piggeries have plastic slatted floors where any waste matter slips through the slats into a drain and flushed away. These pigs always look lovely and clean. Shed temperatures are also monitored and when they get hot evaporative air conditioners are automatically started. Other types of pig housing are called eco shelters. These are big open barn type structures with sawdust  or straw (deep litter) flooring which allows  the pigs to move around freely and root around in the deep litter
*Pigs are not fed "massive amounts of antibiotics" as this would put your cost of production through the roof and make your business unviable. Procedures are put into place to eliminate the use of such drugs.

*It is illegal to keep sows in single pens. All sows must be group housed giving them space to socialise and move about.

*When being slaughtered pigs are exposed to a gas which basically puts them to sleep. Then they are bled, at this stage the animal is dead. They are then placed into hot water which allows for the easy removal of their hair.

*As I mention  above audits are regularly carried out on piggeries. These check on things such as:animal health, medication and chemical use, stocking density, maintenance and repairs, feed and water quality, staff training and competency, vermin control and husbandry.

*Don't forget that there are also organically grown pigs and free range pigs. Basically there is a pig for everybody!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So people, my thoughts are these.  If PETA are really the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, then their job is done and pigs are treated ethically.  I could be happy joining a group that made these regulations possible.  But I distrust a group who use blatant lies to get into the hearts of people to turn them against raising animals at all.  If that is their agenda then they should not hide behind the word Ethical and advertise what it is they are really about: People for the Eradication of Tame Animals.  There would still be plenty of people to support their cause.  I have Vegan friends who don't eat meat purely because they dislike the idea of killing animals.  And I can respect that.  I hope that they can respect that I disagree.  PETA apparently do not, and will do whatever they can to undermine our meat producing industries.

Greening Up

It's been a pretty hectic couple of months.  With such a wet season over Christmas last year, there was plenty of feed and our creek which typically runs for about one week per year, was flowing for about ten months straight.  As the dry season kicked in, we had a lot of very dry grass around and whilst we feed our cattle supplements, they always lose a little condition over the winter months.  Then the calves start to hit the deck and our heifers need all the love and attention they can get.  We drive around the property every couple of days and the cows all come to greet us, show us their babies and have a bit of a feed of some hay.
With so much dry grass around though, it's difficult for new green shoots to get up so we have to do a bit of mowing.  I don't know how big your back yard is but it's a bit of a mission trying to mow a few thousand acres.  The only way to do it is with fire. It's not only necessary to get the grass to green up, it's also imperative to remove the fuel which could lead to massive bushfires in the the summer months.  Each paddock has a track graded around the fenceline and we watch the weather and wait for a day which is hot enough to consume the grass, not too hot that it will kill the trees and will follow closely with rain to keep the fires contained.  Permits are acquired, a firefighting unit is slipped onto the back of the ute and away we go.  Then we do it all again in another paddock later on. The cattle are used to this and with such a slow controlled burn, they are able to get out of the way very easily.  They also know that after a week or so, some really yummy green shoots will be appearing in that same place and that's where we find them.
We've finished with the burn now and have had a few spots of rain.  The grass is looking pretty green again and the cattle are all picking up.  We still go around the waters every couple of days, checking dams, starting pumps and feeding out hay.  It really gives me a lift to see all of this new life on the farm.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Live Export

I wrote this submission for the independent review into Australia's livestock export trade.  It wasn't meant as a blog post but people are reading it and responding positively so I thought I'd include it in here now.

Here's my take on live export - written in July of this year.

It is unfortunate that the people of this country have become so aggressive about this issue.  Ultimately everyone agrees that animals should be treated humanely but there are a too many people out there who are determined to take ‘sides’ and put live export in a box labelled “against animal welfare”.

We live in a very fortunate environment in which the majority of people can go to a supermarket and buy their meat without having to think about the process it took to get there.  It is a luxury that many other people of the world do not have.  We also have the luxury of being able to voice an opinion based on our experiences without retribution.  We have comprehensive media networks on which we rely to bring us information about what is happening in our country and around the world.  These networks are very good at inciting an emotional response in their viewers/readers.  By their very nature, they cannot tell the whole story.

When I was at university, I learned how to critically analyse media sources to avoid getting caught up in emotional hype.  I also learned the techniques to find more information and the necessity of getting a balanced view of important issues.  I understand that many people have not had the benefit of this vital education.  Otherwise how could one media program cause so much drama and damage.

I live on a beef cattle property.  Each animal is special to us.  We care for them as we would our own children.  We are there when they are born, and get excited about each new baby on the farm.  We support the mothers with nutritional supplements.  We regularly check that our children have enough to eat and drink, that they are safe and happy.  We vaccinate our kids and protect them from parasites and predators.  They have a good life.

The reality of it is, for you to have your steak on any random Tuesday, one of these beasts has to die.  Systems are set in place to do this as quickly and painlessly as possible.  Wherever it is found that this is not happening, there are dozens of people working to change this.  This occurs in Australia and overseas, including Indonesia and was in place well before Four Corners single-handedly incited pandemonium.

Farming practices are improving all of the time.  We are far more humane to animals than we ever have been in the past. But we have to also be sensible and realistic.  Northern Australia floods for more than a third of each year.  It is rude to ask a business such as a meatworks to start up in this part of the country and then ask it to only operate for seven months of the year.  What of the staff?  How will it maintain economic viability? 

Indonesia has no refrigeration.  How can you offer them a continuous supply of fresh meat if it is not alive when it arrives there?  And even if this was possible, would they be able to afford meat processed here?  Have people forgotten so quickly that it is only in the last century that power and refrigeration have existed anyway.  Is our history already lost to us?

There is more at stake here than the welfare of animals.  We need to also consider the welfare of our food providers.  Without them there would be no food.  They need to be able to have the ability to do their jobs in the safest, most ethical and most economically viable fashion.  If you don’t believe that farmers and graziers are the first and most passionate environmentalists and animal welfare activists then don’t get your information from the media.  Get in your car and drive to the country.  See for yourself what really goes on out here.  Talk to the people who are responsible for putting food on your plate before you take away their livelihoods.

Lastly, if we take away live export, we take away the farmers ability to raise cattle.  That means there is no reason for the cattle to be there at all.  Is it better to let these animals have a good life and a quick death to provide protein for the masses?  Or is it better for them to never have lived at all?

Thank you for considering this submission.

Michelle Croner

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fat Tax Joke

I was flicking channels on the TV to see if there was anything worth watching (unfortunately no) and I happened to catch the poll on Today Tonight.  "Should Australia implement a tax on fatty foods?" is the question. I nearly choked.  In fact I went straight to my computer to look up Today Tonight to see what this complete rubbish was about.  I read their article and a blog that was attached unfortunately sounded reasonable, completely wrong, but it sounded reasonable.

Apparently Denmark has just started taxing fatty foods.  Why on earth would you do that?  It has been scientifically and comprehensively proven that the consumption of fat does not make you fat.  David Gillespie's books "Sweet Poison" and "The sweet poison quit plan" outlines this in great detail if anyone wants to read it.  Here's a summary:

It's not fat that makes you fat, it's sugar.  To be more specific, fructose, (which is found in sugar and all foods which are made with sugar including supposed fat-free products).  It does this in a number of ways, the most significant being that it turns into fatty acids immediately upon consumption and it also inhibits your ability to feel full, thus allowing you to overeat.  Here's a simple solution to obesity - stop eating sugar, nothing else - you don't have to exercise or anything, just stop eating foods and drinks which contain sugar.

Taxing fatty foods is ridiculous on a number of levels for this reason and here's some more.  The GST didn't encourage people to drop convenience food for healthy eating so why would another tax?  Fat-free foods are higher in sugar than the full fat versions so you'd be encouraging further consumption instead of lower levels.  I could probably think of some more but I'm too cranky about this to think straight. Leave a comment for me at the end of this post if you can think of some yourself.

Honestly people, if fat makes you fat, wouldn't the obesity epidemic be decreasing by now with all of the fat-free products on the market?  The weight loss market has never been more affluent.  There's a Gym on every corner and diet companies everywhere.  It's not working. Why not?  Nobody wants to be fat, so why are we?  Misinformation.  We're being mislead guys.  Not intentionally I don't think, but too many people are on the bandwagon that fat makes you fat and it's just not true.  

Talk to David Gillespie, he's on twitter as @gillespi or read his books.  Let's stop this madness.