February 2, 2014
Chicken farming, heavy cockerels in rearing shed with drinkers and feeders,
It's long been said that we are what we eat. For many of us in the developed
world almost everything we eat comes from commercially produced animals and
crops, and is bought from supermarkets. A new book lifts the lid on the dangers
of mass food production both for human health and for the health of the planet.
I spoke to Philip Lymbery, one of the joint authors of Farmageddon: the true
cost of cheap meat.
0Philip Lymbery: "The problem is that these things are so huge - so many
animals in usch a small space that it's not only cruel to the animals but you
have a tremendous problem of what to do with all that muck. So, inevitably you
have pollution but it also renders the meat less healthy - very high in
saturated fats. It's unnecessary and unnatural.
0"There's been a creeping industrialisation of the countryside in Europe.
Bird populations have been decimated - tree sparrows by 97%. Butterflies and
bees too - Britain has less than a quarter of the bees it needs to pollinate its
crops. These are serious, serious consequences.
"And there's a growing push towards US-style industrialisation with
mega-dairies, with battery rearing of beef, with GM crops is likely to ramp all
of this up and take the countryside to a new tipping point, a new low."
0Don't we need food production to be industrialised to ensure food security?
0"A food system that started out with good intentions after WWII has taken a
wrong turn. We know that the internationalisation of the food system can be good
and bad. I've seen the bad - for example GM soya grown in Argentina for Europe,
the way the seas off Peru are plundered to feed industrial livestock. But. I've
also seen healthy food, countryside friendly production in other countries from
which we can learn. We aren't sayin that big is always bad, it's how it's done.
But when it's intensive with too many animals in little space then it's
0Some people say supermarkets drive industrial farming. They also offer too
many types of the same product?
0"The system has broken down. There appears to be lots of choice but are we
really able to make the choices on offer? Much meat comes with the label
'fresh'. I know that in the egg market many people think 'fresh' means
'free-range' but that isn't the case. Even supermarket managers sometimes
0What about the health consequences of eating this industrially produced
food? Some people believe cancer may be related to the way modern people eat and
what they eat.
0Increasingly the consumption of food with saturated fats, and the over
-consumption of food is implicated. A study in the Lancet said that if we
reduced our consumption by 30% we would see a 15% reduction in serious
cardio-vascular disease. These are the hidden costs of eating cheap-meat. I am
arguing for a rebalancing of the way our food is produced. This book is not
about 'poor animals. It is not anti-meat or anti-corporate. What we are saying
is the food system internationally is broken. It needs fixing to avoid 'Farmageddon'."