Good Food Blog
The pig issuePosted at 12:02PM, 21 January 2009 by Jessica Gunn - Features editor - olive magazine
What is it with the Brits and animals? On the one hand - and I quote a piece from the New York Times - 'Britain's reverence for small, furry creatures is well known,' - while on the other, we merrily chomp through millions of cheap burgers, sausages and fried chicken made from animals which endure living conditions that, were they domestic pets, would have the RSPCA around in a jiffy to arrest the owners under the Animal Welfare Act.
Research carried out by The Charitable Aid Foundationshows that animal charities rank fifth in the list of causes we-re most likely to hand over our hard earned cash to - ahead of charities set up to help the disabled, homeless, environment, health and arts.
Yet when it comes to the animals we eat, it seems many of us still find it all too easy to close our eyes to the truth and, reach for the cheapest option on the supermarket shelf.
Last year, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall's Chicken Out campaign, highlighted the plight of battery chickens - for most of us, it made shocking viewing. This year Jamie Oliver is set to expose the lives of pigs - source of the 1.3 million tonnes of sausages, pies, chops and bacon etc that we consume each year.
...consider how happy your pet dog or cat would be if you chopped off its tail (without anaesthetic), kept it in a small, overcrowded pen with slatted or concrete floors with no toys or exercise.
olive magazine has a piece looking at the treatment of farmed pigs coming up in its March edition (out beginning of Feb), and for me at least, it makes shocking reading. Pigs have shown in tests to be more intelligent than dogs. A quick look at the (somewhat disturbing) undercover coverage of pig farms taken by Compassion in World Farming shows not just the appalling conditions in which many pigs live (overcrowded and barren pens) - it also clearly shows how unhappy the animals are. Unsurprising when you consider how happy your pet dog or cat would be if you chopped off its tail (without anaesthetic), kept it in a small, over-crowded pen with slatted or concrete floors with no toys or exercise.
Or maybe that's all rather melodramatic? The reality is that these are animals who have short lives and which are ultimately destined for our plate. Meat eating is part of our society and for most of us, the prospect of a roast chicken or bacon butty free future would be bleak indeed. Better conditions for farmed animals generally mean higher prices and while British standards on pig farming aren't brilliant, they remain stricter than EU guidelines.
So before Jamie wades in with his pitch on pig farming - what do you think? Is the fuss about meat production over-hyped - just another publicity-generating podium for another celebrity chef? Is affordable food for everyone more important than the welfare of animals bred purely for eating?
Or do you think the way we treat farmed animals is unacceptable? Are you willing to change your buying habits to ensure you only eat animal-friendly meat - even if it costs you more?