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Our Diet: Leading to a Sustainable Future or Killing the Planet - Part 6

Transcript for the following video on changing our diet to save our planet:

I’m going to move on to speaking about some current animal farming methods, by focusing on a very beautiful animal. One that has been grossly misunderstood for centuries, an animal who is friendly, intelligent and good-natured when he isn’t mistreated. I am speaking, of course, about the pig.

Pigs are friendly, sociable and fun-loving.  In the wild, pigs are curious and active. They have highly developed patterns of behaviour.

The pig has one of the  highest IQs of all animals, surpassing even the dog. 

Pigs recognise people, they remember individuals clearly,

they appreciate human contact when it’s not hostile. If possible with their living conditions, pigs will never soil their own bedding, eating or living areas

Unfortunately, few pigs have the chance to live a normal life as the majority are raised in factory farms. Not all farmers use cruel intensive farming methods, but many do use methods that have been already banned in a number of countries. I would like to reassure you at this point that in this slideshow, I will not be showing you any vividly distressing images such as animal slaughter.

The sow spends most of her life confined in the Dry Sow Stall which measures about  60cm wide by 2m long. The pregnant sow is confined to this stall for all or most of her 16 week pregnancy.

She can only stand up or lie down. Turning around is impossible. She is denied exercise, movement, fresh air and adequate light

Being unable to carry out any of her natural behaviours, she repeatedly chews in frustration at the metal bars in front of her.

She is by nature a clean animal, yet is forced to lie in her own excrement. She is by nature an intelligent and sociable animal, yet is deprived of any meaningful companionship.  And she stays like this for most of her pregnancy

At the end of her pregnancy the sow is transferred  to a farrowing crate where she will give birth.The farrowing crate is often narrower than the sow stall. Pigs exhibit strong maternal instincts, and would normally spend days making a nest for their young in the wild. But in the farrowing crate, the sow will scrape the concrete floor with her nose in a futile attempt to care for her young and build a nest for her babies.

The sow stays here until her piglets are taken away when they are about 4 weeks old. A few days after the piglets are taken, she is inseminated once more and returned to the sow stall for another pregnancy

Meanwhile, the little ones who have been  separated from their mothers at 4 weeks (in the wild, by the way, they are normally weaned at 2 months), they spend the remainder of their short lives inside dark, overcrowded pens on concrete floors. They are unable to roam, or dig, or do anything else they would normally do in the outdoors. Painful foot sores are rife, and skeletal deformities are common as a result of abnormal posturing to relieve foot lesions

These bizarre and stressful living conditions drive the piglets out of their minds and lead to bizarre  behaviours. One of these behaviours is called ‘tail-biting.’The piglets often start biting their pen-mates’ tails, and sometimes the attacking pig continues to eat even further into the back of the victim pig. The meat industry has found a way of preventing tail biting that does nothing to correct the grotesque conditions that give rise to the behaviour in the first place – they cut off the pigs’ tails. EU law prohibits routine tail-docking but it is common practice in other countries. Some factory farmers also castrate the male piglets by cutting off the testicles

Castration and tail-docking are usually performed with a knife or scalpel and no anaesthetic – I don’t think I need to explain to you how excruciatingly painful that must be for the little piglets

Prior to slaughter, pigs will suffer from any one of up to 40 diseases. Pneumonia and respiratory disease is very common in factory farmed pigs, dysentery is common, infections, abscesses and joint diseases are rife. Many of these conditions are directly related to the methods used for factory farming, and some, such as swine flu, spread rapidly due to the intense crowding and dirty conditions the pigs are kept in, The influenza virus can sometimes pass directly from the infected pigs to the human farm workers, a potential risk for an influenza outbreak which can easily break out into a pandemic. The inhumane factory farming methods we use, have in the past contributed to human disease outbreaks, and continue to pose a major risk for the development of severe infectious diseases that can be passed to humans.

During transport to the slaughterhouse, many painful injuries occur from bruising to leg fractures. Imagine the little pigs crowded together in dark trucks - the unpredictable truck movements cause the pigs to lose their footing and fall on top of one another, leading to painful injuries, fear and panic. The whole journey reminds me of the way Jewish families were transported to the concentration camps in Nazi Germany. It’s exactly the same form of transportation – it’s just that now we are talking about animals, and not people.

In the slaughterhouse, the pigs will hear the screams from other animals, they will smell blood, hear strange sounds, they will see other animals being stunned (sometimes ineffectively).

Do animals feel terror? One way to answer this question would be to look into the eyes oo our beautiful pet dogs. Do we know when our dogs feel happy, or excited, or nervous? Yes, I think we do – I think it’s very clear to us when our dogs feel these emotions. And if a dog can feel terror, so can a pig.

Now you might say – what is the big deal? Animals have always been killed for food – this is the way our cultures have always been -  what is the difference now? The difference now is that never before has the process of meat production been exercised on such a vast scale as it is being exercised today. Never before have we killed so many animals – 1 billion every week – Never before have we subjected so many animals to the horrors and cruelties of factory farming, to a life of abject misery.The problem, therefore, is not just the killing of the animals but rather the miserable and  painful lives, and deaths, which we force them to endure, in order to satisfy our palates. Many of us are concerned about the production of our food but we largely ignore the production of meat – I mean the whole process, from beginning to end, including the killing part.

Most of us would not intentionally cause pain or suffering to any animal, and yet, meat-eating has become so deeply ingrained in our culture, that we readily eat meat for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner, seemingly blind to the process that the animals have had to endure in order to end up on our plates. We have a great capacity to show love for our pet dogs and cats, yet we have allowed ourselves to become totally disconnected from other intelligent animals. It is this disconnection on our part, this indifference, which, unfortunately, is the cause of immense suffering for many animals.

In the words of William Wilberforce, who fought for the abolition of the slave trade:

“We may choose to look the other way, but we can never again say that we did not know.”


Dr Aryan practices as a Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine in the Hutt Valley, New Zealand.  Dr Aryan is also interested in the many-fold and far-reaching effects of our diets, and particularly how our diet affects the environment. She has written and spoken widely about this topic and has presented her talk, Our Diet: Leading to a Sustainable Future or Killing Our Planet? in many venues around New Zealand. She has been interviewed about the link between diet and climate change by both local and national radio and newspapers.

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