The smell of bacon
It is easy to pick up the neatly packaged bacon - pig meat - from your supermarket, cook it up with some eggs and toast and not think about it any further. The "Ignorance is Bliss" card is getting old though because the consequences are just too large at an individual, local and now global scale. Sound extreme? I urge you to hold your judgement until the end of this blog. In Australia we kill approximately 5 million pigs a year. The majority of these pigs are raised in over-crowded factory farms, thousands in each enclosed shed, with bare concrete floors and no access to the outdoors - where they are constantly fed antibiotics due to the high amount of disease from the concentrated method of production. The disease and stress levels are so high, that even with the antibiotics, 1 in 10 sows - female pigs - die in a 2 year period.
In the last few years one of the more public animal welfare outcries has been regarding a standard procedures used in these industrialised farming practices - the use of "sow stalls".
These stalls - metal cages - are where pregnant female pigs are kept for the 16 weeks of their pregnancy. They are so small that the pigs can not even turn around. These intelligent animals, that are smarter than dogs, are restricted from socialising, suffer from skin abrasions and severe depression.
They are then moved to farrowing crates which are even smaller, to birth their babies on hard concrete floors, where they again are completely restricted. Their young are taken and have to endure painful mutilations, having their tails and teeth cut off and being castrated, with no pain relief. The cycle then happens again and again, as they are continuously kept pregnant.
These sow stalls have been banned in many parts of the world, such as the UK, EU the US state of California.
In Australia, due to consumer and animal welfare group pressure, Coles decided to phase out the sale of pig meat produced through the use of stow stalls by 2014 and the states Tasmania and ACT have banned their use. Woolworths have imposed restrictions on the amount of time sows may spend in the stall for pig meat they sell and the Australian Pork Group - whose largest customers are Coles and Woolworths - will phase out the use of sow stalls by 2017. This proves that if consumers and interested parties speak loud enough and for long enough - change will eventually follow. Even though pigs will continue to suffer in factory farms, it is a step in the right direction and a reason to celebrate!
Sixty Minutes aired 'The Hidden Truth' that looks into the Australian Pig Farms. It is well worth 10 minutes of your time.
Here is also a quick undercover video of an Australian Pig Farm:
However the issue with these animal concentration camps does not end with the welfare of the pig and the problems that have arisen in North Carolina are a perfect example.
In this state of the US, they slaughter 10 million pigs a year and the pollution that this causes is off the charts. A pig produces 4-8 times the amount of waste as a human. This waste is then pumped, untreated, into "lagoons" that are as large as football fields. These lagoons get full rather quickly though. To disperse some of the waste (pig shit), it is sprayed onto feed crops. Some of it overflows into surrounding fields and then into drains, streams and rivers, contaminating them with nitrogen, antibiotic resistant bacterias and salmonella.
Im not talking about a little overflow; documented millions of gallons a year runs off and pollutes the countryside from these "hog farms" and after past hurricanes over 22 million galleons has spilled out, causing environmental catastrophes.
The health implications of the spread and contamination of air, water and land with hydrogen sulphide and ammonia is a serious problem for local residents. Those who live in North Carolina have to live with the acrid stench of the putrid pig waste and the resulting respiratory and eye illness that this causes. It can be so bad that they have to stay inside their houses or if outdoors, need to cover their faces.
Smithfield, the Pork Producer, has been fined over 50 million dollars in the past for these environmental problems but since it profits over 13.2 billion dollars a year, the company hardly blinks and eye and continues with its ways. Now it has also infiltrated and is taking over the pig farming in Poland, Mexico and Asia, where environmental regulations are even more lax.
There is a plethora of craziness surrounding the pork from North Carolina and The Rolling Stone put out a fabulously written and researched article, 'Boss Hog; The Dark Side to Americas Top Pork Producer', in 2006. It may be a few years old but is seriously worth the read... it will blow your mind!
“Smithfield’s holding ponds — the company calls them lagoons — cover as much as 120,000 square feet. The area around a single slaughterhouse can contain hundreds of lagoons, some of which run thirty feet deep. The liquid in them is not brown. The interactions between the bacteria and blood and afterbirths and stillborn piglets and urine and excrement and chemicals and drugs turn the lagoons pink.”
The below movie is a quick look into the disaster of the Smithfield Pork Production in North Carolina and EU.
For a quicker 5 minute version check out the below.
I mention the Smithfield Pig Farming problems because it is serious and is now multi-national; moving into new countries around the world, causing suffering to animals and communities and major pollution. It is not ok what is happening. It also highlights the deep hole of implications with factory farming methods.
In my next post I will go through Australian Pig Farmers, the environmental issues closer to home and where to source your pig if you still want to eat your bacon.