The Hog Blog
Imagine low-cost airlines started doing long-haul, and you’re squashed in economy on a 24 hour flight. Now picture spending your life on a series of back-to-back flights like this one. Thinking about spending your life indoors in cramped conditions offers a very faint suggestion, and a sanitised one at that, of what life might be like for a factory-farmed pig. Except to the pig, your seat would look like it’s in first class. And that’s before we even get on to the toilet facilities or lack of in-flight entertainment (‘environmental enrichment’ down on the farm).Ok, so it’s a daft comparison, but if you’ve ever experienced a painful lack of legroom, you can sympathise.
Welfare standards in pig farming in the UK are, to a certain degree, ahead of many of our European counterparts but there is an awful lot of room for improvement. The danger is that the proposed introduction of US style ‘mega-farms’ could not only reverse the progress we’ve made, but see animals suffer even worse than ever before.
One such proposed factory farm in Foston, Derbyshire, would house a staggering 25,000 sows and their offspring. Not surprisingly, the plans are meeting with vehement opposition. Objectors believe that intensive farming on such a scale simply isn’t compatible with ensuring good welfare and are campaigning to stop the mega-farm becoming a blot on the landscape — and a blight on the future of farming.
It’s notable that Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) points out that ‘scale per se may not be the issue when it comes to animal welfare’ and that the Foston proposals include a commitment to ‘meet or exceed RSPCA welfare standards for pigs which would be a welfare advance’. However, for CIWF, larger-scale industrialized farming remains ‘a real concern’, and lots of restaurant customers agree. The SRA’s research shows that more than two thirds of diners want to know about the welfare standards of the meat they consume in restaurants.
The SRA promotes the use of high-welfare meat, believing animals should be treated with respect. Lots of our members already use free range, organic, outdoor bred and ‘freedom food’ options for the meat on their menus, and others are aiming to make changes. For many, the idea of sourcing meat from factory farms is a no-brainer and meat from mega-farms is unthinkable.
And as plenty of carnivorous foodies will tell you, high-welfare meat tastes better. With good reason: stress is known to affect meat quality, making it tough and tasteless. We’ve said before, eating out should be about enjoyment. If you’re a concerned carnivore, you’ll want to eat meat that doesn’t compromise your ethics. So join with the Soil Association, Pig Business and others and say ‘Not in my banger’.