Thursday, 27 January 2011

Pigs Might Fly

Down on the farm animals roam free in green fields, while the farmer works the land with two trusty sheep dogs at his side. The scene complete with cosy farmhouse, veg patch and plump farmer's wife. Picture perfect, or it would be if all farms were run this way. My imagination yet again getting the better of me. The truth, in most cases, is very much the opposite. Hens and pigs crammed into cages and crates so small, there's no move to breathe let alone grow. Cruel measures no human would wish to subject on another or be subjected to. In factory farming, there are no privileges. Animals are equal in only one respect – all fattened up fast and packed off for the chop. Prime cuts, budget mince or pet food their final stop.

Are farmers to blame for imposing inhumane conditions on the animals in their charge? Yes and no. Many farmers are desperately trying to hold onto their livelihoods, bowing to financial pressure and unworkable supermarket demands. I sympathize with their plight, but some farmers have lost their way. Driven to prioritizing capitol gain above the animals entrusted to their care. Correct me if I'm wrong for I'm no country girl, but I view farming as a stewardship. A position of tending the earth – animal, vegetable and mineral. Man and nature coexisting side by side.

A Panorama Special – Supermarkets: What Price Cheap Food? aired towards the end of last year unveiled the true source of conflict. An unequal balance of power pervades the farming industry. Farmers who once had a voice now reduced to barely a squeak. Those not conforming forced to sell their land. The “Big Four”clearly have a lot to answer for. Are we as the consumers concerned? Not enough it seems. The solution – Americanised farming. Taking factory farming to the next level. We already have battery hens, so why not introduce battery cows and pigs. Permanently confined indoors never to see their natural habitat and programmed to feed, feed, feed. We too one day could boast of the fastest growing pork and mega-litres of milk produced in a single day. The future of food, a scary prospect where animals are slave to the corporate machine.

Is this what we want? A more callous mechanised version of the good life? My romantic views of rolling hills and dales obliterated by huge metal compounds and sty-scrapers reaching up to the skies. Tower blocks for pigs, another touted invention, to replace run-down estates in parts of London. “Pigs might fly”, you may scoff, but the world we live in dreams of making the impossible possible. The “Big Four” shaping the reality – farmers will concede to their terms and shoppers will form an orderly queue of homogenised consumerism. Their position of power dictated by a line from Alice in Wonderland, “I've a right to think,” said Alice sharply... “Just about as much right,” said the Duchess,“as pigs have to fly.” Unlike Alice in this warped imaginary world, we have a right to make our thoughts known. Speak up, give animals their wings.