Recently I was chatting to a bunch of seemingly well informed people about Food Inc the movie. One of the comments made was that the film was about industrial agricultural in the USA, so wasn’t ‘relevant’ to Australians. It’s interesting to see how very little we actually know about where our food comes from, how it’s produced and how we are willing to believe that it ‘couldn’t happen here’. The truth is often obscured because it’s ugly and bad for business.
Take Sow Stalls for instance. Until 20 minutes ago I wasn’t familiar with the term, reading that they are being phased-out in Tasmania brought it to my attention. A quick search in Google returned 254,000 results and after reading a report by the RSPCA in Victoria and others, I can see that this is an extremely barbaric practice – essentially battery farming for pigs – that should be banned immediately (as it has been in the UK and soon the rest of Europe).
The point here is that sadly, as consumers we are intentionally kept in the dark. Should we have the right to know how our food is being produced? Would it make a difference if we did? I think that if we were better informed it would make a huge difference in what we buy and what we feed our families. I expect that like myself, most people would be horrified to know that sow stalls are a perfectly legal and ‘normal’ practice here in Australia and if they did know the facts they would give more consideration to what meat they purchase (or at least make an informed choice one way or the other).
I am no vegetarian, but it seems to me that if we are going to eat our animal friends then we should at least provide them with a natural, stress-free habitat, making sure they are healthy and well looked after. As Joel Salatin points out in Food Inc. “A culture that just uses a pig as a pile of protoplasmic inanimate structure, to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter, will probably view individuals within its community, and other cultures in the community of nations, with the same type of disdain and disrespect and controlling type mentalities.”
Unfortunately, there are many problems with intensive meat production and animal welfare is just one of them (check out the environmental cost here). However, we can make a difference by considering what we choose to buy and who from. Ask your butcher where they source their meat, how the animals were raised, always insist on organic, free range meat and be happy to wear the extra cost.