Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gene & Jamie

Two men, very different diets. Gene Baur, a vegan, and one of the leaders in the American movement to improve the lives of farm animals. Jamie Oliver, a British chef and meat eater, working, surprisingly for the same cause: a better life for the animals consumed each year (in the U.S. alone, that's 10 billion).

On Gene
"You know what's missing today on the farm?" a swine unit manger asked Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder of Farm Sanctuary, after failing to justify the egregious conditions on modern day pig farms. "Pigmanship," the manager said.

Gene recalled that very conversation in his packed discussion at the New York Public Library. In his best-selling book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, he provides a window to the horrors of life on factory farms. The pork industry would rather keep the shades pulled down.

No pigmanship here
In the book, Gene documents that "Each of the roughly six million breeding sows in the United States is expected to give birth to two litters a year, or a total of about twenty piglets. Over the course of their lives, breeding sows are fed the barest minimum, only about half of what they would normally eat, and are chronically hungry."

He remarks on the "the connection between the farmers and the animals" being lost, and that "each sow is merely a production unit." Farming doesn't even seem to be a fitting word at all for what goes on, for there is no nourishment, no cultivation, no respect for life. Only profit.

He writes of gestation crates, 2 x 7 foot enclosures scarcely larger than the sows' own bodies. These sows serve a jail sentence, but they committed no crime. They are just the victims of our greed for cheap pork.

Thanks to the efforts in part of Farm Sanctuary, gestation crates in Florida and Arizona were banned by voters. When put on the ballot, voters, the majority of whom want to consume meat, reject such egregious cruelty.

I can't help think about how far removed the treatment of farm animals is compared to Georgeanne Brennan's memoir of her years in France. In A Pig in Provence, she writes of the notion of the pig being the farmer's friend, and of their highly-sensitive noses, used for hunting prized truffles. When it came time for the slaughter, she writes, "They spoke quietly, not wanting to upset the pig. They understood an agitated animal would not bleed well, and if it didn't bleed well, the meat would be tainted, the hams wouldn't cure, and it would be a big loss to the family." There must be a lot of tainted meat considering today's practices, as well as a lot of tainted ethics.

On Jamie
On Giada De Laurentiis' web site, you can buy not only her cookbooks, but you can also pick up Giada's Sicilian Sea Salt/Tuscan Herb Mix and Giada's Sicilian Sea Salt/Tuscan Herb Mix Extra Virgin Olive Oil. You won't read about how her Veal Stew with Cipollini Onions is produced. Rachael Ray's web site? I spotted a $1 off coupon for Perdue Chicken, and the most popular recipe was Teriyaki Chicken Lettuce Cups. Paula Deen? The animals won't find any southern comfort on her site. She even has her own line of pork made by Smithfield Foods. Not a peep about animal welfare (pun intended).

Why are American chefs so unconcerned about the welfare of the animals they recommend millions of people eat? The Brits, and the animals, thankfully have Jamie Oliver in their camp. To his credit are two shows exposing the horrors of the chicken and pig industries, and his web site devotes a section to pig welfare, where he notes 65% of British pigs spend their whole lives indoors.

"The sow stall is where pigs live for probably 90% of their lives for four or five years," he told the Radio Times. While banned in the UK, they're not banned in Europe, Jamie bemoaned.

A recent Taco Bell ad asks the consumer, "why pay more?" Jamie has been a tireless advocate of paying more for meat so that animals can have a better quality of life.

The labeling game
Gene Baur talked about being a "conscious consumer." For those who don't wish to go veg and are trying to purchase more humanly raised meat, milk and eggs, that can be a challenge, especially when it comes to confusing labeling guidelines, combined with bad behavior sanctioned by organizations and our very own government.

Farm Sanctuary's "The Truth Behind The Labels: Farm Animal Welfare Standards and Labeling Practices" report took a look at this very issue. For instance, under the Certified Humane program, which is administered by Humane Farm Animal Care and endorsed by some animal advocacy organizations, confinement of pregnant sows to gestation crates is prohibited, and bedding is required. However, there is no requirement that pigs be provided access to the outdoors, and tail docking pigs is allowed under some circumstances. Neither of those seem particularly humane to most caring individuals.

Across the pond, no legal definition of 'free-range pork' exists in the UK. The RSPCA believes that the label 'free-range' should only be used where the pig (and the sow that bred the pig) is kept outside for its entire life, in paddocks with ample space to move around and soil to root in, Jamie's web site noted.

Clarity is needed. "How many people outside of the industry know the difference between outdoor-bred and outdoor-reared, for example? Not many," Jamie remarked in a guardian article.

Learn more about the RSPCA campaign, Rooting for Pigs.

24 hours
How would humans fare in crates that sows endure their entire lives in? Jamie puts a few to the test. Unfortunately, the animals don't get to volunteer where they live, nor do they get a reprieve after 24 hours and a treat to follow.

Flashback to Jamie's exposed on factory farmed chickens, Jamie's Fowl Dinners, and my entry on Jamie Saves Our Bacon.

Check out Jamie's vegetarian recipes.

See more clips of Jamie Saves Our Bacon from Eat Me Daily.

Pigs enjoying life at Farm Sanctuary's Waktins Glen, NY shelter.

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