Why Ending Factory Farming is Key to Post-Covid Sustainability

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This week, I had the great honour to share the stage with wildlife legend, leading conservationist and UN Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall at Compassion’s webinar event, Pandemics, Wildlife and Intensive Farming. The event was co-hosted by distinguished MEP Anja Hazekamp and attended by two EU Commissioners, a good range of MEPs, media journalists and had over 1,700 people registered.

It gave us a tremendous platform to set out a new post-Covid vision for food, farming and animals. A reset, a new beginning, where we move beyond the current commoditisation of animals and truly value them as sentient individuals.

Image: © Xiao Shibai/CIWF

My Message to the European Commission and Brussels Parliamentarians

As countries start to emerge from Covid-induced lockdown, what has become clear is that the coronavirus pandemic has shown how fragile society really is; and that for the sake of a decent tomorrow, big changes are needed today

Whilst Covid-19 is widely seen as having emanated from China’s wet markets and the illegal wildlife trade, it is but the latest disease to emerge from our appalling treatment of animals.

Industrial agriculture, where thousands of animals are caged, crammed and confined, produces the perfect breeding ground for disease. Highly pathogenic strains of Avian Influenza or Swine Flu are but two examples, the latter causing a pandemic only a decade ago killing some half a million people.

Unless we take this opportunity to change things, to reset the way we view animals, both farmed and wild, then we can predict with reasonable confidence that it won’t be the last.

There are more animals factory farmed in Europe, in the world, now than ever before. More than 300 million farm animals in the EU still spend their entire lives in a cage. As more than a million citizens have said: it is time to end the cage age.

Factory farming is at once the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet and a major driver of deforestation, pollution and decline in the world’s wildlife. 

Meat and dairy consumption continues to rise worldwide, wiping away wildlands, bringing us into contact with potentially new and dangerous viruses, undermining sustainability.

Society needs a reset.

In the words of the United Nations, we need to seize this moment to “build back better” by creating more sustainable, resilient and inclusive societies.

The European Commission’s ‘Farm to Fork’ Strategy has much to welcome: a review of animal welfare law, targets to reduce antibiotics and pesticides in farming, encouragement for more organic farming and non-meat alternative proteins.

Credit: Richard Dunwoody/Compassion in World Farming

I encourage the EU to seize this moment to reset the place of animals in society. To end the caged farming of animals. To set clear and challenging targets for reducing meat and dairy consumption.

To lead global action in moving away from damaging industrial farming practices in favour of a regenerative food system, without factory farming and much less dependent on resource-sapping intensive animal products.

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