A controversy is brewing and I need your comments for a letter to the meat industry. Would you prefer hormone-free, free-range meat or are concerns about food shortages more important than compassion to animals?
IT’S a complex moral dilemma indeed. A few weeks ago, 35 veterinary scientists put an advertisement in this paper promoting the use of hormones in meat, and giving reasons why hormones were better for livestock, people and the environment. The ad was in response to Coles’ saying it was promoting hormone-free meat.
It was later revealed that the ad was bankrolled by veterinary drug companies including Pfizer and Bayer under the guise of the Animal Health Alliance. Spokesman for the veterinary scientists, Sydney University’s Professor Ian Lean, told me that there was no conflict of interest – the issue was so important that the scientists needed the muscle of drug companies to fund their campaign.
The verdict is out on this in medical circles. HGP is banned in Europe. But claims that current practices are good for animals are patently ludicrous. Animals such as sows are kept in crates, separated from their young. They can’t move to the right or left for their whole lives, which is why they need growth hormones. They grieve continually. Professor Clive Phillips at the University of Queensland says the suffering of hormone-fed cattle is acute: animals become overheated; they live in discomfort.
The ethics of this have not gone unnoticed by the board of Coles and now Woolworths who can see the cruelty and know that consumers no longer want to support inhumane practices. Meanwhile, adrenalin from fear and misery permeates the flesh we eat. One of the reasons pigs in particular are kept in tiny crates, claims Lean, is because they roll on their young and thus eradicate our food supply. “What mother would not undergo a little discomfort to ensure that more of her children survived?”
Buddy do you know how many people are hired by drug companies on a day to day basis for “research” ? They pick people that will side with them because they are PAID by them, pure and simple.
It’s been proven time and time again drug companies fund the research to get the results THEY want so they can feed it to the public.
Think vets wouldn’t or couldn’t be paid off by drug companies, I think you’re under estimating how money these guys have.
Remember Dr’s endorsed cigarettes at one stage also, at the end of the day with the MAJORITY of people its just about how much $$$ it takes to make them side with the person who has the $$$. Sad but true.
I would support any retailer in their efforts to minimise cruelty in food production, and unnecessary food additives. However I think Coles’ motivation is probably more concerned with the way consumers are making their choices and the effects on their profits.
I think animal ‘husbandry’ no longer exists in general and with these cruel practices (crating)in particular. Farming should be a proper relationship between the animal and farmer, whereby the farmer is responsible for the animals’ care because the farmer has taken away the animal’s ability to care for itself as it would in the wild. (That includes breeding so that the animal is bigger, fatter etc and therefore more prone to squash the young in a confined space.).
How can extra hormones be good for anyone, in any stage of the foodchain? The comment by Lean (“What mother would not undergo a little discomfort to ensure more of her children survived?) is cynical beyond belief! Does he really believe that is an argument???
I cant believe the bull said above about the drug companies.. of course they are going to fund the research.. they want to prove whether the drugs they sell are ok or not.. there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Are you suggesting that the vets are going to produce false evidence supporting the growth hormones? of course not! people who are employed at these drug companies arent just random people out for a buck.. they have animal degree backgrounds and want what is right for the animal just like everyone else. Coles just goes by what the status quo is .. in order for people to buy their food. Its great that they listen to the publics concerns about meat.. but its research like the studies done by the 35 vets that aids the publics understanding of the real facts. using hormones is much better for the already stressed environment..and the levels that are used do not effect humans as little if any is detected in the meat (contrary to some media reports) there are strict rules about the timing and doses that can be used. . and the meat from this is leaner as well. . which is healthier for the consumer.. so really the concern shouldnt be aimed towards the environment or the quality of meat, or the safety for people but the effects it has on the cows.
and the pig farrowing thing is a completely unrelated matter as far as im concerned.. we all know its horrible but you know whats more horrible ? seeing a whole litter of squashed piglets.. and scientists (such as these 35 vets) are conducting MANY studies to try and come up with a better way to contain the sow and piggies to maximise animal welfare. Its not a simple solution, and i bet most of the whining people out there still eat ham. .
It drives me crazy when people constantly blame our struggling farmers and the vets and animal scientists that obviously care about animals and are way more educated than we are and put in endless effort towards animal welfare. What do you want, the farmers to be driven out of jobs? what will you eat then? Until we find a better solution or we all grow our own meat practices such as using farrowing crates are going to have to do.. and if we all start going veg. we will have even more problems .. so dont think thats helping… we have way to large of a population for us NOT to grow meat using hormones and using farrowing crates.. and our poor farmers are pushed further and further towards their limits..
I think it’s fantastic that this issue is being publicised now after the previous success of the free-range chicken and egg debates. My family have long gone out of our way to find free-range, hormone free meat and eggs wherever we are living, and are always willing to pay more for these.
It’s wonderful that a big chain supermarket is jumping on board with this, however, I’ll be interested to see if their free-range and hormone free meats are certified such by Australian standards or if it’ll just be labelling to sell more product. In my experience, many people are not aware that unless a product is certified there is a good chance it’s not what it claims to be (free-range, organic, etc.). When I first started looking into organic products I found many are not certified at all but just slap the word ‘organic’ on the label and charge twice the price of the regular product.
Good on Coles for being smart enough to read this growing ethically-concious market, however, when Coles introduce hormone free or free-range meat to their fridges I will still make the slightly longer trip to the nearest family owned certified free-range butcher where I get great service AND can support a local business, which supports my community. Coles is still after all just out to make money money money.
As a small time primary producer of beef cattle I would like to point out that the EU bans any meat which has had hormones added to their diet. It is interesting that the same rule doesn’t apply to Australian markets.
If a producer doesn’t know whether his/her beef is going for domestic consumption or for export, (and most don’t), then he/she does not use hormones in their production practice, as this would limit their market potential.
I am furious that Coles are pretending to be concerned about the welfare of sows in Australia. When asked about all the imported pork and ham, their comment was something like ‘we cannot control what goes on in other countries”. They are making one set of rules for Aussie farmers and another set for the rest of the world. No wonder our farmers are losing their viability.
Some years ago i did an agricultural degree and a studyof a piggery was a part of this. Sow pens are very disturbing, especially what we know regarding pigs’ intelligence. i was also struck by the similarity of the behaviour of the younger pigs (under 1 yr) to puppies. I remember the pig farmer used to let all the piglets out of their pen and let them run up and down the long shed aisle. Their behaviour was just like watching puppies as they gambolled and played with each other, squealing with delight. I personally made the decison a long time ago based on my agricultural experiences that i want to see the lot of all production animals improved, most especially and urgently those farmed intensively so the practices are humane as possible. i will happily pay more for my meat for this outcome (and do). No question.
Like many contentious issues, the debate regarding the use of growth hormones in cattle has been dominated by the extremes with the reality somewhere in between. The facts are that Coles have instigated the measure not because they are good corporate citizens but because it may help claw back market share from Woolies. It is also a fact that whilst the EU has banned hormone growth promotants, the ban has been proven in the WTO appelate to be scientifically unjustified.
There is no science to prove that these hormones have any affect on human health, this is unsurprising given that a serving of milk contains 9 times the level of hormones as a serving of hormone treated beef – a serving of cabbage 710 times and soybean oil 7466 times.
Cattle are produced in feedlots because Australia’s climate does not allow cattle to reach marketable weights during poor seasons (droughts) or particular times of the year when rain doesn’t fall. In addition, consumers in both domestic and export markets actively demand grain fed beef due to the industry’s ability to consistently supply market requirements in terms of quality and quantity. Beef feedlot production is also more efficient, with less land and cattle required, less stress placed on the environment and less greenhouse gas emissions produced. Specifically, feedlot cattle compared to grass fed cattle, produce 38% less emissions per kg of beef produced.
What ghastly practices?
“Isn’t this a human emotion that is transferred to this situation from your perspective? Do you have an insight to how a pig thinks?”
You say this in response to the comment- yet do YOU yourself have an insight into how a pig thinks? How is it that your feel that you can make definitive and closing statements, when in reality, you are in no more authority to state how a pig “feels”. Are you a pig yourself? Have you lived through the experiences that they do, before being cruelly butchered for human consumption?
I believe that logic determines that a pig indeed thinks and feels deeply. By no means am I saying that they are of the same intellect- but does the fact that they scream, squeal, and fret not convince you that perhaps they grieve?
Before you try to find errors in the comments of others, perhaps consider to substantiate your own. Until I hear from a pig itself that they do not feel fear or pain to any significant extent, I am not convinced.
Like Jen, I do not consume animal products- not because I doubt that our eyes were to prey, and our diets intended to be omnivorous, but because I cannot comprehend supporting the cruel practises in place in modern society in obtaining animal products.
I agree with your statement, and believe that humans WERE intended to eat animal products. However, I do not believe that for this factor alone, humans can justify the ghastly practises occuring in modern day “farming”. Maybe Jen’s stance is emotional, as is mine, but is that so wrong? Perhaps more emotion is needed, in a world that is clearly lacking compassion and empathy
Ruth: Anything at all you publish which may instigate
some positive thinking about how we abuse animals,mostly without being aware of it, is very welcome in my opinion. People have no idea of animal behaviour – just because it is often different to ours.
We have hunger, jealousy, fear, love and some of us, a need to protect. So do other animals. I have heard just recently that apart from their early morning exercise some race horses never see the light of day – stuck in their stables! I don’t eat them.
Love, and congratulations on being a beautiful person.
1. It’s a decent human being who cares about the well-being of the animals we farm. 2. Animals deserve to be drug-free and enjoy having all their needs met. 3.Most of us could eat less meat. 4.We’d probably be healthier if we did.
Heather, Can you find the studies that link meat consumption to early puberty? I am aware of studies that show that improved food nutrient is said to be the reason; that is a balance diet of meat vegs, eating to the food pyramid and the nutrient retained in the food presented on the shop shelf.
With the use of the word probable with inferring that “real link is with oestogen and HGP “enhanced” meat” it is more like a wild guess especially when studies have shown that there is more oestogen in vegetables than beef treated with HGP’s.
I noticed Professor Lean claims there is no evidence that feeding oestogen and BGP to livestock contirubtes to cancer in humans but makes no comment about health issues other than cancer. There are studies that link meat consumption with early puberty and increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. It’s probable the real link is with oestogen and HGP “enhanced” meat!
And then of course there are the animal cruelty issues – Coles and Woolworths may well be involved in a “cynical marketing exercise” as Prof Lean claims but in taking this initiative they are responding to, as distinct from ignoring, the real facts – including an increasing public awareness , and intolerance, of the very real cruelty involved in high volume, low time, meat production.
Not much to add without repeating what the vast majority have said. My personal view is that we should all eat much less meat (say once a week) and try to ensure as best we can that it has been raised, treated and killed with respect. This means paying more (money) and spending more time sourcing produce which is free range and most certainly hormone free.
Hi Roger, please post on my story about animal land rights above, I value your opinion and your colleagues at Just Ground, and thanks for this
Ruth, you wrote: I am a freedom speech advocate – Voltaire, “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”
Wrong, I’m sorry to tell you. The actual quote was, ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.’
Attribute to Voltaire, the words are in fact S.G. Tallentyre’s summary of his attitude towards Helvetius following the burning of the latter’s De l’esprit in 1759; in ‘The Friends of Voltaire 1907) p. 199
Oxford Dictionary of Quotations p. 717
Sometimes Melinda, it is hard to see the progress that is slowly being made. Jamie Oliver is on the right track starting with the kids. What he did with the goat was an example of training as opposed to education. People were involved and their behaviour was challenged. That is why he got such a strong reaction but it had impact and many will have been changed by the event. (Ruth also has expressed how she was affected by her first-hand experience in Asia.)
But, dispiriting as it sounds, significant change will probably take a generation- at least. All great change takes time. What we can and should do is keep the ball rolling.
ps I include your “cruel end” as part of my “in between”.
Hey readers, I have just introduced a new topic on this page, animal land rights being mooted by a leading Australian academic. Any comments?
Rob I agree with the content of your post but there are a lot of people who don’t care about animal welfare or are able to submerge their concerns on the way to their next burger. Are these peolpe unethical or do they just have a different ethics base?
It is ‘the in between that matters’ and also the end must be least cruel possible.
The hypocrisy of the furore when Jamie Oliver slit a goats throat prior to cooking it is testament to the head in the sand attitude of consumers. I am a vegetarian but thought Ok that’s where meat comes from get with it meat eaters. This is how it is done. This is your food source. People don’t want to see it. I admired him for doing it.
The aim must be to treat and harvest all animals and their produce humanely.
Can we rely on the majority of consumers to ingest education and change eating practices. Sadly I think not although I may be pilloried as condescending but just witness the many ways we destroy our own health with what society offers up dspite unrelenting education.
As a community we wont even unite and refuse to buy $1 milk. There are those who buy it from financial desperation and those who buy it because they love a bargain and now there are those who buy it because anything else on the shelf is minimal or close to use by date. A win for Coles. Most people understand the long term repercussions of cheap milk but they want it now regardless.
To change the way we treat animals we have to get the numbers required to exert serious influence trhough energetic lobbying. Will all the relevant groups unite to do this or does each have their own discrete territorial power base? If influence is gained it will have to be forced on the greater populace because their will be a financial impost from humanely produced animal product. The paradoxical imposition of a dictatorial humaneness wll be the only way forward for animal welfare.
Albert Schweitzer (1950’s Nobel Prize winner – yes the 50’s so excuse him the ‘man’ references I’m sure he means us too girls/women/ladies and others)
“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies.”
As Albert suggests religious customs would have to be taken on. Live export …………….. it goes on.
The reason I have been purchasing certified organic meat as well as GM-free ‘free-range’ chickens for the last 20 years is to avoid:
+ growth hormones
+ pesticide/herbicide sprayed feed
+ and the latest technological ‘fix’ genetically engineered organisms (which are fed to ALL intensively farmed animals, unless otherwise stated).
Animals from certified organic and gm-free ‘free-range’ farms by definition have a better quality of life.
Thanks Ruth, Coles and the bunch of scientists… and so many valid points of view ranging from human health to animal ethics that need to be amalgamated. Naturally a few confusing ones too which distract from the issue at hand. However, you have helped stir up a hornets nest which in the long term should be for the good.
If this is a debate about ethics then a few basic starting points would be helpful. Long ago i came to the realisation that everything that lives will die, its what happens in-between that we need to concern ourselves with. I also accept that humans are meat eating omnivores and that like all living creatures, we must kill to live. (Not that I am saying that all species are equal, but imagine the insects that would need to die if we all became vegetarian:-).
However, it is the quality of the lives of animals reliant on our care, used for our benefit and proven to be capable of feeling and suffering that is up for discussion. With most of the world’s 6 billion people hell-bent on conspicuous consumption these animals need our help.
No ethical person would deny a principle which requires us to balance our culinary pleasure against the suffering it causes. As one writer commented, limiting our meat consumption to a set number of portions a week would be a good strategy. Knowing this, all the various purveyors of meat and animal products do their best to isolate us, the consumer, from emotive connections including the animal’s predicament. (Perhaps like cigarette packaging we should legislate for honesty in advertising and packaging and even promote open farms and abbattoirs?)
I have no doubt Coles are more interested in marketing than animal welfare so it is the moral responsibility of animal product consumers to make themselves aware of the issues and develop an informed opinion by reading widely and shop accordingly. I would prefer change to be based on ethical standards and scientific evidence, however, given their reliance on continuing industry funding I do not expect to get unbiased opinions from funded research scientists.
“Unfortunately it seems meat (and dairy) cannot be more sustainable to produce AND kinder to the animal.”
What a load of codswallop! Prove this madam. My herd is sustainable, and I happen, along with many other producers care very much for the well being of our animals while we are the custodians of them.
When I drive into the paddock and pull up, all I have to do is call out, and my stock come up to the vehicle. Even sniffing my working dogs on the back of the ute. No fuss, no tension and exchanging “licks” between dog and beast.
So your statement has no basis whatsoever, is is far to sweeping – maybe that was your intention, and you didnt think anyone would respond to you and call you to account on this distortion of the facts?
“The only way to produce meat (and dairy) that has less of a carbon footprint is to pump it full of hormones to grow (and so be slaughtered) quicker and to be kept in unstable, over-crowded conditions”.
Oh sweet mother of god. “carbon foot print” and “unstable” , Adriana, you certainly are familiar with the “catch phrase” words of the day are you not?
I think all you people in the cities should be walking, catching public transport – better still – there are more of “you” down on the seaboard’s – that far outnumber our livestock – problem solved – stop breathing!
Seriously though, the vegetation that is on (in my case) my rural working property, not one of these damn “hobby farmers” is more than enough to counter act any alleged “carbon foot print” I can assure you. lol – I find your comment mystifying at the very best!
” That grass-fed beef may have had a happier life but all that land that’s needed to graze is arguably worse for the environment.”
Now you have hit the nail on the head here – the word “arguably” is correct. Many farmers spend their entire working lives arguing with people who do not know our land, who have no idea of the vast eco-systems and bio-diversity on our lands. They, (departmental persons and law makers) listen to so called “stakeholders” who would not be able to survive in the bush 48hrs, and these are the people who argue that the environment, our land, our environment, is being harmed! What a load of rubbish from them!
The biggest threat to our environment, but that the LAND THAT I BOUGHT AND PAID FOR is mine. All that is on it is mine – and I am ropeable that I have to live by laws, legislation, that I do as a law abiding citizen, that kills my eco-systems and bio- diversity on my land! Laws and legislation that does not allow me to actively manage my land, my business and my beautiful bio-diversity that any one of you on here will never see – and I would never show any of you, as I dont trust the comments on here that are so unsubstantiated, it is unbelievable.
“So if you care about animal welfare, the environment or your diet than the only way to go is vegan.” and there you have it my vegan “friend” – you would place all human needs on one source of food, which our bodies need more of than what you are doing to yourself.
I respect your right to treat your body as you see fit, not of my concern, however how many supplements do you take for this? Rhetorical question really, as a poster has already said what they had put their body though on the same belief that you have, how horrible.
Toby and Annie. Picture them. Two healthy Dalmatians.
Bertie County (North Carolina) Animal Control Officer Barry Anderson testified (25/1/07) two Dalmatians named Toby and Annie — dogs he described as “just healthy, playful, and well-fed” — were handed over to
This is the official trial record of two PETA employees who claimed animals from shelters, euthanased them and them dropped them in dumpsters.
“They came to the shelter to take all the dogs that were not being quarantined or on hold for any reason and take them back to Virginia. My understanding was that if it’s an animal that’s good or adoptable, you try to find homes for them. especially the two Dalmatians that were running around. And I asked her [Hinkle] if she thinks that those two dogs were adoptable. And she said yes, you know, she thought that they shouldn’t have a problem at all finding homes for those Dalmatians.”
Ahoskie, NC newspaper editor Cal Bryant reported this morning (in the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald) that unnamed “PETA officials attending the trial” now acknowledge Hinkle killed animals from Anderson’s shelter — including those two Dalmatians — while the PETA van was still in the parking lot. Presumably, this was just minutes after Hinkle assured Anderson that the dogs were adoptable.
An excellent point. The purchasing policies and promotional activities of supermarkets such as Tesco were influential in forming these UK policies and shifting production offshore. And guess who is now running Coles, the same people.
Hi all, Thursday morning and we’re off to a fiery start. I am out for a couple of hours but please post and I will moderate when I get home. Ruth
Thanks Anita and I did appreciate where you were coming from. But I live with the Holocaust every day, in reality not moral theory. And with that declared sensitivity am able to bring the conversation back in line with the more important aspect of understanding what people are feeling and why, so we can put together some sort of coherent blog post for Coles, scientists farmers and regulators to read and make decisions that are hopefully kinder and more compassionate.