"If we grant ourselves the right to kill other animals for food, then the least we can do, is strive to give them the best life in our care."
Creedy Carver, Devon.
In the late 40's a new agriculture act was introduced in the UK to encourage greater output leading to better national food security and less reliance on imports. Farmers turned to technology to help provide a solution and slowly small country farms that had operated using traditional methods and ethics steered towards factory farming and the lucrative subsidies the government could provide.
By the 1960's farming had become more akin to industrial processing than traditional farming with huge colonies of battery hens laying eggs, which in turn drove the price of eggs down so low that many smaller farmers simply had to packup. Battery hens never saw daylight, or experienced grass under their feet. This however was rarely seen by the public and was deemed perfectly acceptable.
Broiler chicken rearing is also done on an industrial scale and with the introduction of the Cornish Cross in the 1960's, rearers were able to bring a chick to its slaughter weight within 35 days. Before this time, the majority of meat chickens were unwanted cockerels from the laying sector. Go back further and a chicken was not an everyday expectation, but a once a week treat. Needless to say, as with the laying chickens, they never get to experience anything natural.
Left: Typical broiler sheds. Right: Free range chickens at Beech Ridge Farm
Dairy farming in the UK has not yet become as industrialised as it it in the US however that is slowly changing with 10% of the milk In the UK coming from factory farms. Our beef industry is one of the best in the world and the fear is that we could end up importing vast amounts of cheap US meat and letting our own beef farms diminish.
Left: Intensive feeding operation, USA. Right: Grass fed cattle at Swillington Farm
Pig farms in the UK have higher welfare standards that the rest of the EU which is a good thing. However unfortunately this means they cant be as competitive and with our insatiable appetite for all things piggy much of the pork is imported from countries with very low animal welfare standards. This doesn’t mean that all UK pork comes from happy pigs. Indeed according to the Soil association 80% of UK pigs have their tails cut off (bored and unhappy pigs shut up in sheds will bite the tails of the pigs they are confined with), and 98% of UK pigs are fattened (finished) in sheds.
Left: Intensively reared pigs. Right: Natrual farming at Eversfield
By buying locally you'll know exactly where you're meet comes from and in most cases can actually go and see the farm first hand. UK farmers with excellent animal welfare standards will be more than happy to shout about it.