Professor Ian Lean responds!

Sow stall


Professor Ian Lean, of the school of  Veterinary Science  at Sydney University, and spokesman for the 35 scientists who support hormone fed livestock, responds here to criticism from Voiceless animal rights chairman Brian Sherman that he and his colleagues are funded by drug companies and thus biased. Mr Sherman’s letter follows Professor Lean’s comments.

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i) The opinions expressed are my own and not those of the Faculty – these are made as an individual

ii) The goal is to constantly improve the environment and well-being of animals – my comments in regard to pig confinement were made in the context of how did confinement systems arise – It was to protect piglets from deathand injury. Recent very good research at the University of Sydney has been directed to improving the safety and environment for pigs. The pig industryis adopting new and improved standards.

iii) While many of your respondents are vegetarian, they can acknowledge that the majority of humans are not. There are good reasons in terms of human health for that. Our role as veterinarians is to ensure that the animals bred for food production are kept in the optimal conditions for their health and productivity. We are passionate about ensuring that these animals are well cared for and that their lot is continually improved.

iv) Companies that make animal production uneconomic through strategies that deprive producers of any return, let alone a fair economic return, eg the milk pricing war, will unfortunately impact on animal health and human well-being (in the case of farmers). It needs to be acknowledged that unfettered market competition is not a model that protects animal well-being, nor that of producers, nor ultimately consumers. Marketing gimmicks can  have serious implications for all these and the environment.

Regards Ian

Farm animals – reality before ideology, please

Adjunct Professor Ian Lean and farm industry specialists argue that in a discussion about animal welfare, the realities should be separated from the ideologies.

We appreciate Mr Sherman’s enthusiasm for animal well-being. His passion matches our own. Mr Sherman accuses our group of scientists as having a vested interest in agribusiness; yet almost everyone in our community has a vested interest in agribusiness. Agriculture feeds our community. Farmers are in business and must make a living to support their family and provide stewardship to their stock.

If, however, Mr Sherman is implying that our vested interest extends to any conflict of interest, that is not correct. The concerned scientists include individuals who lead University Departments and Faculties and acknowledged for their life-long contributions to agriculture and the community. Many are invited Fellows of professional scientific societies, and are among the most highly cited in their fields internationally. Collectively, we greatly exceed 2000 publications in internationally peer-reviewed journals, and texts, including Nature and The Lancet.

While some of us may have received funding through pharmaceutical companies, this would be a very small percentage of our research funding as individuals or as a group. We have an independent voice in this matter and asked for support from the Animal Health Alliance to put our view to the public, because of:

i)               our substantial concerns with the position of Coles
ii)              our desire to present our views in a simple format to minimise information filtering and mis-quotation in public forums.

Mr Sherman misrepresents our position on pig housing. We support an orderly move to phase out gestation crates. Our concern is that Coles invoked a more immediate ban, when the Australian pork industry has already taken a voluntary position to phase out sow stalls. In doing this, the pork industry recognized i) the cost of this change and ii) the need to undertake research to ensure that pig welfare can be maintained in new production systems, while also maintaining production efficiency.

The phase out is essential to ensure the well-being of pigs, the environment and the farm. Confinement systems were developed to improve the health of sows and piglets. As we re-design sow housing it is imperative that we get it right through appropriate research. We suggest that those who care strongly about animal welfare, consider donating to the strong research groups residing in Australia’s Universities and national scientific laboratories.

Mr Sherman attempts to claim a moral ascendancy for his positions through invoking an argument that we must ‘know and feel instinctively’ natural is better. In doing so, he indulges in a ‘naturalistic fallacy’. We refute the ‘naturalistic fallacy’. If we relied on such ‘natural systems’, humans would live to an average of around 35 years, frequently die in child birth, and suffer high rates of infant mortality. Similar gains to those in human health have been achieved for animals through comparable improvements to their environment, health and nutrition.

Animal productivity gains made through scientific endeavour are equally impressive. ‘Natural systems’ could not feed the current human population, let alone the ever increasing population. For example, we do not have the land or biosecurity systems to manage the animal welfare and environmental difficulties of large numbers of sows ‘ranging over kilometres’ in any significant population density as suggested by Mr Sherman.

When farmers are placed under immense financial pressure, efficiencies in production must be achieved without compromising animal welfare. Commercial interests must be held accountable to the community for the impacts that they have on rural populations, infrastructure, the environment and the animals from which their products are derived. We are already hearing from very distressed dairy farmers as a result of the cut in milk price.(1)

Technologies such as the hormonal growth promotants that substantially reduce the environmental impact of producing food and that can benefit cattle well-being and improve returns to farmers are critical to sustain our animal protein supply. We note the destructive effects of supermarket policy in the UK on their agriculture and do not want to see the same errors made here and placing regional and possibly national food security at risk. After the disasters of the last 15 years, the UK is turning to more efficient agricultural systems as they recognize the looming world food crisis.(2)

We restate our position that in our view the policies of Coles are bad for people, bad for animals and bad for the environment.

Adjunct Professor Ian Lean, BVSc PhD (California) MACVSc, Past President Australian Cattle Veterinarians, Gilruth Medallist


2. Beddington J (2011) Foresight: The future of food and farming. UK Office of Science.

Brian Sherman speaks


BY Brian Sherman former chairman of Channel Ten and founder of Voiceless; and Annemarie Jonson

GROCERY retail giant Coles has unjustly come under fire from a group reportedly led by Ian Lean, adjunct professor of veterinary science at the University of Sydney and managing director of SBScibus, formerly known as Strategic Bovine Services and Cattle Production Consultants.

Lean claims Coles’s policy to stock only hormone growth promotant-free beef and to phase out pork sourced from gestation crates is “bad for the environment” and “bad for animals”.

His sentiments were echoed in a full-page advertisement in The Australian co-signed by his colleagues, including the chief executive of the Animal Health Alliance, a veterinary pharmaceutical lobby group that includes HGP manufacturers. The ad denounced Coles’s policies as a “threat to the sustainable and ethical production of food”. To those of us without a vested interest in animal agribusiness, this threat appears to be doublespeak for an encouraging movement in the right direction by Coles.

Clive Phillips, professor of animal welfare at the University of Queensland and Voiceless scientific councillor, has said of HGPs, “These growth promoters are most effective in intensive feedlot systems for cattle, and with a rapidly expanding world population we should be moving to more sustainable systems that don’t use large quantities of cereal grain in cattle feed. The risks to the environment, and to animal welfare, are not worth the small improvement in growth efficiency that HGPs provide.”

There is scientific evidence that HGPs predispose cattle to a dramatic reduction in resting time, and render them more susceptible to climatic extremes, increasing the risk of heat stress. According to the RSPCA the potential side effects of HGPs include infection at the site of the implant injection, aggressiveness, nervousness and rectal prolapse. Notably, HGPs are banned in Europe. But HGP use is just one in a complex web of technologies underpinning the intensification and corporatisation of farming.

Many have a more direct and demonstrably adverse impact on animals. Gestation crates, also known as sow stalls, are metal cages, often with concrete or slatted floors, in which female breeding pigs are individually confined for much of their adult life. These cages are only slightly larger than the pig’s body. Confined sows suffer from poor health including skin ulcerations, reduced muscle mass, bone strength and cardiovascular health, joint damage, urinary infections and gastrointestinal problems. They are unable to exercise any of their natural behaviours.

If you kept your dog like this you would be subject to criminal prosecution. Britain banned sow stalls in 1999. The EU has banned them (except for the first four weeks of pregnancy) from 2013 and in the US they have been banned in a number of states. New Zealand and Tasmania have also committed to a ban. Even our pork industry’s peak body announced last year it will phase them out by 2017. The Australian government is still the international laggard. Voiceless is calling on the commonwealth to follow industry’s lead and revise the model code of practice for pigs to ban these cages. Lean and his colleagues deride the “emotion” that motivates those concerned with animals and their wellbeing.

But as consumers make animal-friendly choices, they are showing compassion is not so easily disregarded. Coles, and other retailers are making strategic decisions to embrace animal welfare and consumer preferences for responsibly produced animal products. So too, with less fanfare, is Woolworths. It removed cage eggs from its Select brand in 2009, has introduced several free-range deli lines, and is sourcing about 40 per cent of its pork from non-sow stall production systems.

The factory farmed animal is coming into view as a sentient being, with complex social and family behaviours, intelligence and a wide range of emotions. Basic decency demands that we take seriously these animals’ needs to be free of suffering and to exercise their rich behavioural repertoires. Lean and his colleagues in animal agribusiness would do well to reflect on this. As Albert Einstein wrote: “our task must be to free ourselves from the prison house” of our personal desires by “widening the circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures”.

Brian Sherman is co-founder of animal protection think tank Voiceless Annemarie Jonson is Voiceless’s head of corporate communications.

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126 Responses to Professor Ian Lean responds!

  1. Liz 27 April 2011 at 4:42 pm #

    The Battling Farmer has missed the point. DES was a “safe”drug and growth promotant used in cattle (not just in the USA) that was banned when found to cause cancers more than 20 years later. Can anyone really say that the synthetic oestrogens currently being used as growth promotants are “safe” with any certainty when oestrogen is a known endocrine disruptor and pathological conditions associated with oestrogen are on the rise (eg precocious puberty).

  2. Janice 27 April 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    I am 100 percent behind you Ruth – I am so sickened at the lack of respect and compassion we visit upon animals. Human greed and cruelty knows no bounds – how arrogant we are. I prefer to go without meat completely rather than allow an animal to suffer for my benefit. Surely we are obliged to provide a happy, healthy life for the animals who are sacrificed for our consumption.

  3. Geraldine McKay-Seay 27 April 2011 at 4:10 pm #

    Geoff, we live 6 months of every year in the States ans I need to let you know that it is extremely difficult to find homes for stray animals. Every year we have between 1 and 5 cats/kittens dumped in the forest behind our home and I gp thru the difficult task of gaining these creatures trust, feeding them up and then finding them caring homes which is very hard work. I also pay for spaying/neutering and shots as needed. In our area there are 2 large animal shelters and several small ones all trying to do the same thing. Every weekend there are organizations at large shopping centers with animals ready for adoption. I know one lady who cares for over 20 cats at a time in her modest home while she tries to find homes for them. And it has been much worse since the economic down turn when there are so many people out of work and struggling to put food on the table, let alone look after a pet. Unfortunately, many of these beautiful creatures cannot be found homes and it breaks my heart to know that many thousands in the US and in Australia are killed every year as there is no one to care for them. If every pet owner spayed or neutered their pets and if only licensed breeders could keep ‘entire’ animals for breeding, we would gradually see a lessening of unwanted pets. It is a truly horrible situation which has largely been brought about by, guess who? Man, of course. Geraldine

  4. Ruth Ostrow 27 April 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Thanks Vanessa, you have always been one of the most compassionate people I know. I wish many of our readers here would listen to people like you and also people like most of the consumers posting here and on the other blog One Man’s Meat who simply DO NOT want to eat animals that have been treated with cruelty and chemicals!

  5. Gemma Wills 27 April 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Thank you Ruth for highlighting this issue. I have stopped eating pork, and I have trouble with lamb, even free range! I love your columns and identify with so many things that have happened to you. Please, please can’t we treat all animals, including our food animals with the respect and kindness all living creatures deserve, even if that means we stop eating them. I really don’t know. I love a good steak as much as the next person. I will always remember a young english chef who killed a free range lamb that he collected from a field, and the emotion that choked him as he remembered the experience. Quote from Don Juan – “But words are things and a small drop of ink; falling like dew upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, THINK.” Good on you, Ruth!

  6. Joy Fowler and Alan Castree 27 April 2011 at 3:57 pm #

    It’s unbelievable that it’s not illegal to keep animals in crates or cages and to feed them hormones. It’s time to stop the cruelty and prevent animals being kept in such terrible conditions.

  7. Geraldine McKay-Seay 27 April 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Ruth, thanks for giving folk the opportunity to speak on this important issue. I am absolutely against raising any animals for human consumption in circumstances which cause them distress (physical or emotional), ill health or which denies them their rights as living beings. It is completely unethical for us humans to consider that the World’s animals are on this planet purely for our use and we can therefore treat them any way we wish. Many species receive brutal treatment in 3rd world countries and many individuals and organizations are endeavouring to change these practices. For educated people in this country to try and justify any similar treatment of animals and dress it up as ‘necessary’ for any reason is abhorrent. There is always a better, humane way to put ‘meat’ on the table. And, by the way, we all eat far too much!

    In support of our animal friends.

  8. Carolyn Malley 27 April 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    I strongly support your views, Ruth. It is a subject dear to my heart and I am appalled at the suffering many animals (whether they be cows, sheep, pigs or chooks ) are subjected to . I always try and buy free range , hormone and antibiotic free and ethically raised animal products. I try and persuade others to do so as well.. I also support campaigns run by organisations such as the RSPCA and Animals Australia and urge others to as well.

  9. Judith 27 April 2011 at 3:35 pm #

    There’s only one sure and simple way to be compassionate towards all farmed animals – stop eating them! My husband and I have been vegans for more than 25 years and no problems (except with people who aren’t). Just being vegetarian is not enough as the dairy industry is based on many forms of cruelty. All “animal lovers” should inform themselves by reading widely on veganism. Google search the UK Vegan Society (they publish an excellent magazine), Animals Australia, and books on animal exploitation and cruelty. Veganism is good for the environment too.

    Good to see a column on the subject.

    Judith Worthy

  10. Dora Zacher 27 April 2011 at 3:28 pm #

    It’s all very well for Coles and Woolworths to be self righteous about not buying Australian pork that is grown under conitions that are not good for the animals. They scource an increasing amount of meat from overseas countries where there is no way of checking on how animals are treated, while they expect Australian farmers to raise stock under much higher standards. They just want to import even more meat, while they pretend to act in the interests of animals.

  11. vanessa 27 April 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    You only need to look at the conditions pigs and battery hens are kept in to know the life for these animals must be quite tortuous. Animals have natural instincts that are not allowed to be followed when they are so caged. It is indeed a horrendous existence for them and any moves to farm in a more humane way need to be hurried. As for the hormones, none of us really know the long term affects of ingesting so many antibiotics and hormones through our food supply.
    Like most things, the more natural and unadulterated the better. Right now, it costs a lot to buy organic …but if it was standard it would be healthier for all.

  12. Graham 27 April 2011 at 3:21 pm #

    It is my belief that is unethical for farm animals to be fed hormones to speed up their growth. Animals raised for food production should be allowed as much freedom as possible to roam and interact with their kind. They should be afforded protection from preditors and diseases and allowed to mature to the marketing stage naturally. Good on you,Ruth, for raising this very important issue and thanks for providing the opportunity to contribute.

  13. Ruth Ostrow 27 April 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    Big apologies to all that I didn’t accept your posts till now. I just got to read them all and get with the latest debate since Prof Lean, and Brian Sherman’s open letters to each other. I have been so tied up here moderating the last few days I needed a break from the computer. Had a work out at the gym! So back now to take comments and here passion and facts. And yes, I am publishing anything that isn’t obscene even if it offends me, like equating abattoirs to Auschwitz. Having lived with a man who’s entire family was wiped out in the Holocaust including all his mother’s five sisters and their little children who went to the gas chambers, I think that these sorts of comparisons are very ignorant and unhelpful, even though I know we all feel strongly on animal rights. I also wonder about the person who wrote that PETA kills animals. What?!? I must have a closer read of that one, but at this stage my initial response is one of skepticism at the author’s claim. Let’s see where those claims come from.

  14. Geoff Brown 27 April 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    As Ruth cares for animals so much, perhaps her next campaign could be against the animal terrorist group PETA.

    See PETA kills anmals:

    Animal lovers worldwide now have access to more than a decade’s worth of evidence showing that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) kills thousands of defenseless pets at its Virginia headquarters. Since 1998, PETA has opted to “put down” 25,840 adoptable dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens instead of finding them “forever homes.”

  15. Lynne 27 April 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    G’day Caroline, My comment isn’t just aimed at you but your comment is typical of many comments here that combine lightweight fluffy statements together with hate filled diatribe. “Lives close to its natural state”, sounds wonderful, but what is an animal’s natural state that has been domesticated for thousands of years? Secondly will the economic system allow it? Are you prepared to pay much more for food?
    Then we have the old “factory farm” thrown in; isn’t this aimed at creating a natural perception? Can you substantiate the statement that to stop eating meat is “lighter” on the environment?

  16. J M Addison 27 April 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    Growth hormones and other drugs fed to animals must be ingested by humans once the animal is slaughtered and sold for human consumption. so both the animal and humans will suffer . no-one knows what the ultimate outcome for health will be for both human and animal. keeping animals caged up must stress them
    i look for hormone free meat and eggs and where possible also buy free range produce
    i suffer from a number of 21st Century allergies so want both people and animals to not suffer like me

  17. Scientist 27 April 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    I notice that Ian Lean talks of the need for “reality over idealogy”. Would he care to address a few reality checks ?

    Given that the Earth is finite, does he really consider that technology “solutions” can forever solve all the issues related to ever-increasing resources demands placed upon the Earth’s finite resouces ? If “feeding the masses” is his mantra, can he prove that 12 billion humans on Earth is “better” than 6 billion? Can he also show that this ongoing “growth “forever and a day” approach is sustainable ? Is not drawing ongoing growth drawn from finite resources both simply and mathematically impossible? He may respond that he is addressing the “here and now” but is he really perpetuating the myth that the Earth can “always provide”?

    He also mentions animal productivity gains of the past, and restates that the policy from Coles is “bad for people , animals and the environment”. Perhaps he can release these weight-of -evidence research findings ? Selectively reporting about reduced environmental footprint does not serve his argument well when potential questions about possible longer term effects of added hormones on human, animal and the environment are not reported.

    In terms of conflict of interest, scientists may be tempted to accept financial support to promote a position, but this must always be resisted, if scientific credibility is valued.

    As for the motives from Coles, at least they have given us choice, where we had none before.

    In the end, scientists would be better advised to concentrate on improving natural husbandry practices but within the ambit of a world popultion which the Earth can in fact, sustain. It is all about balancing what the Earth”s finite resources with the needs of a sustainable world population.

  18. Ian Richardson 27 April 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    I can only support Ruth’s comments of last Saturday (23rd April). The acceptance of the likes of sow stall, feed lotting, use of growth stimulants and intensive chicken raising for the economic advantage is a blight on us. To reduce animal production to improved margins is to devalue our humanity. The additional cost of improving the lives of our feed animals is the price of a civilised society. Consumers can ultimately deliver the message but I doubt that we are, in general, sufficiently motivated to look past the dollar at this stage. Well done Ruth for raising this issue.

  19. Lynne 27 April 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    G’day Jane, in recent decades there has been a widening gulf between rural areas & the urban with a lot of urban people having no idea of not only what occurs on farms but in nature itself. People have become so insular in the artificial concrete jungle, comfortable lifestyle etc that they have sanitised themselves even to the fact animals of prey kill other animals. For you to say that food production has been removed from public scrutiny is false, there is no conspiracy; people have moved away from food production and the reason for some being appalled by emotive half truths presented to them is that they live in ignorance of the real world.

  20. Hank Deucker 27 April 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    We own a small herd of Lowline cattle and are in full agreement with the sentiments expressed in “One man’s meat…”. Our herd management principles are along ‘organic’ lines but as we live in a Tick area we need to use chemicals for the wellbeing for the cattle but no other chemicals are used.

    The problem with antibiotics and hormones used ad lib is that they get into water and soil, and cannot be removed. As for needing more food for more people, this would be better addressed by cutting back waste and improving distribution, and dare we say it, distributing to a wider variety of people. It is obscene that we play with food while others go hungry.

    Animal welfare is a huge consideration, the misery of factory farmed animals should be of first concern to a vet. We owe our animals a happy life and a humane slaughter if we must eat meat.

    Lowline Angus beef is purebred Angus, a line of small cattle developed by the NSW Dept. of Agriculture from the 1920s to 1974, for the high quality of its meat and its small environmental footprint. They live at pasture, with supplementary feeding (forage fodder) but no growth promotants, antibiotics or hormones are fed to these cattle. They are allowed to grow steadily and are always kept in good condition for even weight gain and marbling. In many parts of the country, with good farming practices land damage can be minimised. For example cell grazing, where the farmer moves the cattle from paddock to paddock every week or so, leaving the ground to recover and benefit from the fertilisation of their manure.

    There is a growing awareness among those of us who eat meat that we need to care for the animals we eat in a more humane fashion. In his book The River Cottage Meat Book, writer, broadcaster and beef farmer Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall outlines a Contract of Good Husbandry, whereby “in return for the living they provide [the farmer], and the food they put on the table, he will look after them”. [The Australian Weekend Magazine 24-25/7/10]

    A further issue arises with feed lot finished beef, where cattle are kept in small yards and stomp around in their own faeces, in the case of Waygu cattle for around 600 days for the highly desired tenderness and marbling.

    To quote John Newton in his book – The Ramblings and Recipes of a Man Who Gets Paid to Eat – “For three years in the 1990s, Queensland beef cattle farmer and entrepreneur Deb Newell ran a program she called “Paddock to Palate”. A panel of palates (I was one) blind-tasted a selection of beef, both pasture-fed and grain- (or feedlot) fed, and rated them. Over the series of tastings, the palates placed pasture-fed beef first, second and third. During the course of this process, I began to actively dislike the taste of grain-fed beef, which leaves a nasty, fatty coating in my mouth. Pasture-fed beef is sweeter, cleaner and often, as observed by fellow palate Max Lake, tastes of the pasture it has been eating. In his book Beef, Lake noted that beef from Mt . Eugene, where pasture is improved with Brazilian herbage, tastes of lavender and sage. The fifth of Lake’s laws of flavour states: what we eat tastes of what it eats. This is an almost universal truth (I’d call it Newton’s Law, but there is unfortunately a far more distinguished precedent): the better and more carefully and humanely an animal is raised and slaughtered, the better it tastes.” [As above]

    Hank and Judy

  21. Battling Farmer 27 April 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    This comment is totally dishonest in that it makes those who do not follow the link believe that this chemical is currently used in cattle feed.
    If one follows the link one finds that not only is the source American, but that the chemical was used in the 1960’s.
    We have come a long way since then in all industries including farming.

  22. Zdenek Korinek 27 April 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    We often control when the animals are born and when they die, it should be our duty to make sure that the time in between is as stress free as possible. It is incredible that we still treat animals the way we do, for profit only. How often do you see sheep or cattle grazing on properties without any shade at all, it reflects badly on the owners. And the same applies to the hormones, only used so that the animals can be sold to the slaughter houses quicker. How sad.

  23. Bev Parker 27 April 2011 at 1:19 pm #

    All animals have the RIGHT to as natural a life as possible, whether farm animals or not. As I do the shopping for my family, if I can’t get free range eggs, poultry, pork or grass fed, hormone free beef, we eat vegetarian. If the time ever comes when we can’t get unadulterated meat, we will become totally vegetarian.
    Having read about free range pigs, they DO NOT roll on their young – please check with the farmers who raise pigs this way. They may when kept in small cages, but not when raised free range.

  24. Esther Price 27 April 2011 at 1:13 pm #

    Farmers are among the most compassionate people I know. They are compassionate about their animals and their natural environment.
    If they weren’t, they would be unable to meet the obligation of the Australian public – to keep producing ever-increasing quantities of quality, nutritious food.
    This responsibility also means there are times when they need use scientifically proven, safe drugs that are the best-available option to meet quantity and quality food targets.
    The coming generations of Australians need the business of farming to achieve even greater skill levels in order to produce more with less as the climate continues to dry.
    But how motivated do you imagine these great Australian farming families are, when they face a constant barrage from people who call themselves ethicists, and who call into doubt farmers’ compassion for their animals.
    These farming families must also face an Australian public that is told via clever advertising campaigns, to demand ‘cheap food’ from its supermarkets.
    How do you imagine farmers feel about this?
    They are told to produce more food; use the most expensive methods there are to produce it; improve the environment while they do it – oh – and then, sell it for less. And here’s the real kicker – go back and do it all again next year.
    The business of Australian farming is in desperate need for an Australian public that makes it their business to understand farming.
    In return, Australian farming families need to be nurtured and understood by the people who rely on their success for sustenance. This is the only condition in which they will be motivated to farm.
    I agree with Ian Lean – that today’s consumer would not support our supermarkets if they really understood farming.
    The continued media inference that Australian farmers don’t care; and inaccurate statements like “hormone-treated animals in feedlots are heat-stressed”; are testimony to the fact that too many people in influential positions don’t understand farming.
    They need to understand, otherwise they put at risk future of Australian farmers and Australian-produced food.
    To get the best out of someone, the common practise is to praise and reward. When I read articles such as Ruth’s column, I think Australian farmers feel nothing but berated and discouraged.
    But the real risk we face, is that Australian farming families will be discouraged to a point where they are replaced by foreign-owned multinational farming conglomerates. See how compassionate and drug free they are.

  25. Rahnie Tranter 27 April 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    Too often animal care is pushed to the side in favour of human greed. Animals should not be injected with growth hormones – it is unethical and not natural.

    As to the growing population – people need to stop breeding/not have as many children each – the earth cannot sustain it! Animals are crammed into tiny and dirty spaces so humans can house more and more so humans can eat more and more. Take a look around – how many overweight people are there?

    Here is a solution – go vegan and save the world! Live and let live.

  26. Lynn Nickols 27 April 2011 at 11:56 am #

    Could someone advise Prof. Lean that sows do NOT roll on their young when there is space to choose not to. They simply lie down and the piglets come and choose a nipple. They are very large animals and piglets are very small, so if kept in confined spaces, of course accidents will happen unintentionally. I know space costs more, but we can all cut down on the amount we eat.

  27. Hilary Horan 27 April 2011 at 11:12 am #

    “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Mahatma Gandhi

    Philosophically I am a vegetarian but just too time poor to actualise this philosophy! However when buying meat & eggs, I buy free range and do not buy veal on principle.

    Einstein reminds us that the intelligence and capacity of human beings is at its best when infused with compassion.

    In the bible, Humans are said to have “dominion” over the beasts of the field but this does not give us the right to abuse them. It charges us with protecting them and treating them with respect and dignity each according to its kind.

    What goes around, comes around – so the sooner the better we start treating our fellow creatures humanely the better.

  28. Ian Yeates 27 April 2011 at 10:59 am #

    What a good letter Roger, From one who surely knows what’s going on.
    Look the sow stall is designed to stop the sow rolling on the piglets and smothering them. My wife’s uncle had mixed farming and the piglets ran everywhere but if he had the good fortune to have a sow stall available he would no doubt have employed that.
    Is is cruel and barbaric to seek to protect the tiny animals?I don’t think so.

  29. Liz 27 April 2011 at 10:43 am #

    We should be learning a lesson from DES – a synthetic estrogen used to prevent miscarriage instead causing reproductive cancer in the daughters of these women. However, 20% of the affected children were suggested to be from food intake ie DES used in cattle as a growth promotant (see: )

    We are being flooded with endocrine disruptors in our environment, food, medication. Endocrine problems such as precocious puberty are on the rise (see: ). Male genital malformations in babies relate to endocrine disruptor exposure of parents (see ). Endocrine disruptors in wild animal populations are causing similar problems – first documented by Theo Colborn (see her book Our Stolen Future for the science).

    Finally a large company being responsible and proactive about what we eat. The government certainly isn’t.

  30. Janet jenkins 27 April 2011 at 10:34 am #

    A society is judged by how it treats it most powerless members – animals are sentient creatures, yes, even farm animals! The industrialisation of food production has resulted in supply adapting to meet demand, hence we have these inhumane practices.
    Out of sight seems to be out of mind for most people -how about compulsory visits to abbattoirs for all school children, now there’s an idea.
    In 1982 the government of the day received a Royal Commission report into the cruelty of Live Export of Animals.It recommended that it should be abolished. The large amount of $$ generated to farmers by this inhumane trade leads directly to votes, hence the Live Export Trade has increased ever since. Conditions and mortality on board are often whitewashed over to disguise the suffering that continues to this day.
    Genetically, our nearest relatives the Chimpanzes only eat meat about twice a month. If you look at our dentition you will see that we are not designed to be carnivores. My suggestion is if you must eat meat, free range/organic and twice a month at the most.
    Well done Ruth for raising this important issue.

  31. Tricia Searson 27 April 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Professor Lean is in the wrong business. Veterinary science should be about the health and welfare of animals bringing the best that science, medicine and skill can provide to aniamls in need. He, along with other veterinary scientists that support things such as the live export trade, are willing to put everything aside for money and commercial outcomes – even if the cost is a few hundred, a few million anaimal lives. Let him be employed by the lobby groups he supports and who are bankrolling he and others like him. At least then there is some transparency in his position rather than have him hiding behind the guise of an independent, well informed veterinary scientist. Who could condone keeping pigs in crates where they can’t move or turn around because otherwsie they will roll on and kill their young?!


  32. Roger Landsberg 27 April 2011 at 8:54 am #

    I am a beef producer in the semi-arid tropics in north QLD. I breed and fatten cattle for the domestic market as well as overseas markets.Our animals are all range fed on mostly native pasture systems. The wet season (Dec-Mar) is the key driver of the ecological and production systems in the tropics and very little, if any rainfall is received between April and November in the inland areas, in most years. Consequently, during the dry season, pastures lose their protein and feed quality and animals lose weight and condition during this period. I use HGP’s (Hormonal Growth Promotants) to assist animals to reach their turnoff weight more quickly so that they can be marketed as soon as possible after the wet season. This takes the pressure off the landscape so that overgrazing during the dry season doesn’t occur and the ecosystem is not overstressed. Because of the lower turnoff age and higher pasture quality, less methane is also emitted.
    So HGP’s are beneficial to the environment when used correctly.
    As for the health arguments, most HGP’s are naturally occurring hormones and there are no scientifically based arguments that link them to any deleterious affects on human health. If there were I wouldn’t use them nor would they be allowed in the market.

  33. Jan Hauser 27 April 2011 at 7:47 am #

    I always buy organic and free range meat (and other foods) because I can’t bear to think of animals being treated inhumanely just so that we can eat ‘more’ beef. Professor Lean’s reasoning that its ‘vital that animals be fed hormones so they get fatter and off to market quicker’ is ridiculous. Not eveyone wants to eat ‘more’. I (and thousands of others) would rather eat meat less often and be assured that the animals haven’t suffered in the process. It is really distressing to me that these animals live in fear and misery. I totally support the boards of Coles and Woolworths for taking this stand.

  34. anitra thomas 27 April 2011 at 7:15 am #

    for those who defend cruel confinement or abnormal homonal stimulation of animals for food, they should be prepared to experience living under those same conditions themselves. A lack of empathy allows cruelty and suffering to be defended for profit or job security across species. I eat meat. But source out wherever possible animal cruelty free sourses. Surely the spin doctors realize that the public are not devoid of ability to see through thier distorted dishonest claims. Animals have a right to live torture free lives before humanely being sacrificed to the human need.

  35. angie randall 27 April 2011 at 7:09 am #

    Leave the hormones,antibiotics and general pharmaceuticals out of the animals diet until and if they need treatment for health or injury problems. Lets avoid drug resistant health problems in animals.

  36. Tara 26 April 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    Right on.

  37. RUSSELL CLARKE 26 April 2011 at 9:11 pm #

    My reply to Your question is , this matter troubles me and my family very much, we are ,all 17 of us, so against this direction of big corporation attitude! Not one of us is prepared to eat fish chicken meat ,if we are aware that it has not
    grown naturally ! so much so that we currently have 5 confirmed vegetarians in the family with it looks like more to come . None of us ,are green voters by the way! and I would like to believe rational and fairly level headed compassionate human beings! And please include GM farming as part of this issue, having read enough imformation on this matter to scare us to think about growing our own vegetables etc! some European countries have already started to boycott this practice.

    Yours Truly Concerned

  38. starlee ford 26 April 2011 at 5:08 pm #

    The whole argument on meat production reinforces my belief that humans are stupid, base and cruel. One only has to read the article on Royal Wedding menus (the Australian April 23-24 – same issue) to be absolutely disgusted and appalled at ‘civilized’ behavior. Although I was vegetarian, am now a vegan, have fabulous health and look twenty years younger.
    Research has found that on average vegetarians live ten years longer at least. As for high cholesterol – that’s only for the animal eaters. Animal foods make you sick, fat and insensitive. Animal protein has 70% ash content ( waste),
    giving stench to human body waste. Incidentally, we are the only beings to drink the baby food of another animal!
    If we ate plant food, we would have a better chance to fight poverty, and have less sickness, more public dollars etc.

    While we are breeding, killing and eating animal body parts ( yuk!), we cannot expect peace on earth. Birds, fish and animals live here in Hell, a perpetual Holocaust.

    Vegetarianism if the starting point to assessing someone’s intelligence and awareness.

  39. Greg 26 April 2011 at 3:05 pm #

    Ruth, I really enjoy your work.
    I think food is one of the lovely pleasures in life. I am lucky to be married to a woman who has a passion for cooking and I have a passion for her.
    You raise a few issues but I believe you highlight scientists advocating hormones in meat and the treatment of animals used for human consumption.
    If you like seedless watermelons and mandarins and you enjoy the greater consistency of quality fruit and veges then you should be an advocate of science led improvement in food production and the wonderful work of our farmers. It is crucial the science does not negatively impact human health. In this regard I trust the work of government regulators and people such as yourself to ensure the scientific impact is prudent.
    The reality is that the world’s population will grow by almost 50% over the next 40 or so years. Without scientific-led improvements there will be significant world tensions related to food scarcity.
    Regarding the treatment of animals for human consumption, western society demands have come a long way in a very short time. Undoubtedly, farmers and regulators have struggled to keep up. In many ways major retailers are setting the standards. I believe it is regulators and/or retailers that need to set the standards. With globalisation and major retailers with extraordinary market power there are significant pressures on farmers to reduce costs. This can lead to poor practices as mentioned in your article. With a set of government or retailer standards the opportunity is to raise the bar and set the lowest common denominator on animal treatment AND cost.
    Finally, I believe consumer awareness can move markets. Let there be full disclosure to consumers and let them decide instead of increasing the power of the nanny state. Look how free range eggs have taken off. If a sign said ‘scientifically improved seedless watermelon’ I would think ‘you beauty’ and buy one. If I sign said ‘hormone improved pork’ I would probably shy away but a bloke in India might jump at it. If a sign said ‘tiny cage grown pork’ I would find the store manager and give him or her a kick up the rear end.

  40. David Stewart 26 April 2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Hello Ruth, my wife and I do not support the feeding of HGP and oestrogen to livestock. This is an unethical and cruel practice resulting in animals living in fear and misery. While the long term human health issues are yet to be established lets take a conservative approach to putting additional unnecessary drugs into our bodies and also treat our livestock with compassion.
    Cheers, David & Diane Stewart.

  41. eve 26 April 2011 at 2:43 pm #

    I am totally opposed to the cruel way in which pigs are kept in crates. People who keep them in this inhumane manner must have lost, or never had, any fellow feeling for other living creatures. All credit to the boards of Coles and Woolworths for no longer supporting such treatment of pigs and for their rejection of hormone fed meat. And all credit to the people who have become aware that they are complicit in such cruelty if they buy meat, poultry and eggs where animals and birds have been confined in a cruel way.
    Also, Ruth, I would like to suggest that you have a short pithy comment somewhere on this web page where people can just click “I agree” or “I disagree”.

  42. margaret thomas 26 April 2011 at 2:36 pm #

    I definately support humane treatment of animals. I am happy to pay more, to buy any animal product certified that it was produced, under humane and ethical guidelines. I did not know about the treatment of pigs.

  43. Caroline J 26 April 2011 at 2:33 pm #

    I feel very strongly that animals should be allowed to live as close to their natural state as possible, uncontaminated by profit motives which is why they want to use hormones. All that is WRONG and so I buy organic meat and support an industry that treats their animals humanely. I am absolutely convinced that if your average customer were to be shown around a working abatoir and a working factory farm they would instantly loose an appetite for meat.
    In any case, if they want to save the hungry billions we should all stop eating meat in the first place and eat lower on the food chain. That is much lightter on the environment. Poor people eat very little meat.
    I do agree , however, that Coles and Ww are only doing it cos they detect that there is a trend towards fewer hormones and chemicals and less cruelty too.
    The Vetinary industry is no better than the medical industry….. puppets for big Pharma.
    Great stuff!! great to see in the Asutralian Magazine!!! more please………hey…. Ruth … have a read of “Slow Death by Rubber Duck: the secret danger of everyday things” by rick Smith and bruce Lourie for more ideas along these lines. you will have to order this on line. Great and quite amusing read, and very enlightening.

  44. eve 26 April 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    I am totally opposed to the cruel way in which pigs are kept in crates. People who keep them in this inhuman manner must have lost, or never had, any fellow feeling for other living creatures. All credit to the boards of Coles and Woolworths for no longer supporting such treatment of pigs and for their rejection of hormone fed meat. And all credit to the people who have become aware that they are complicit in such cruelty if they buy meat, poultry and eggs where animals and birds have been confined in a cruel way.
    Also, Ruth, I would like to suggest that you have a short pithy comment somewhere on this web page where people can just click “I agree” or “I disagree”.

  45. Lynn Nickols 26 April 2011 at 1:38 pm #

    Obviously, Prof. Lean has never seen pigs in their natural state.
    My father took me and my bother, as children, to see the new piglets bred at Peak Downs, as part of the Queensland British Food Corporation agreement. Pigs were kept in a paddock with a rough shelter in one corner. The sow had retired to the shelter to produce her 8 piglets, but was now out rooting around. Dad showed us how clean pigs are when left to their own devices. They used only the far corner of the paddock for their “toilet”. He pointed out that people think pigs are dirty because they keep them in areas far too small, where they can’t behave naturally.
    We were mightily impressed. Indeed they were happy pigs for their short lives.
    The thought of those cruel crates, for pigs or hens, is enough to turn this meat-eater vegetarian. We choose to pay more for our meat and use less. We buy from a certified organic butcher who buys only from inspected properties. It is a choice which keep us in good health and some lucky animals happier.

  46. Jim 26 April 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    My partner, Maureen, and I are with you all the way. There is no way we choose to buy any animal products where the animals have been ill treated or fed unnatural inducements to speed their growth. Keep up the good work and love your column.

  47. Mike 26 April 2011 at 12:34 pm #

    Thank you for your piece “one man’s meat….”.
    This morning I had been thinking how to add to your already impressive readers’ responses when I turned on the television. Martha Stewart on Channel 72 was interviewing Joel Salatin, a successful freerange farmer in Virginia,USA.
    Perhaps local farmers who feel they are being forced into either selling up or adopting industrial farming techniques could gain some insight by reading äbout Salatin’s farming techniques (adapted to local conditions) as outlined in David Suzuki and Holly Dressel’s book -“Good News for a Change” and documented in Eric Schlosser’s book and DVD – “Fast Food Nation”.
    Shoppers can change farming practices. If we are aware of the way our food is produced we can make informed choices. If cost is our only criterion we are complicit in the cruelty to animals and environmental degradation inevitable with factory farming.
    Well done Coles for the hormone free meat! Please keep listening. Cheap milk may need to be reviewed.
    Martha Stewart then had Jonathan Safran Foer talking about his book – “Eating Animals” and ethical food choices.
    By placing the advertisement in the ‘Australian’ the drug companies and ‘expert’ veterinary scientists have shot themselves in the foot. I find the arrogance of Professor Lean’s stance quite shameful and will be interested to see his response.

  48. Jean 26 April 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    I think the treatment of animals is appalling. I have been a vegetarian for the last 20 years as I couldn’t condone the way animals are treated by eating them. I can’t imagine any reason to cage hens or pigs so they cannot move just to put them on the supermarket shelves more quickly.

  49. Sture Elmer 26 April 2011 at 12:23 pm #

    Hello Ruth,
    I think that your articles are really good and of great value. I don’t eat pork or chicken because of the disgusting treatment of these animals, treatment which is illegal in Scandinavia. I don’t do it because for both ethical and for health reasons. The use of antibiotics in animal production is the major cause of growing resistance to antibiotics both in humans and animals. We are losing our ability to treat many diseases because of it. I don’t think that “unethical” food that leads to more disease and suffering for both animals and humans is much of a step forward for mankind. More machines and more manipulation and cruelty will not save mankind. Love and wisdom are the only thing that can. Until we realize this, suffering will increase at all levels.

    Kind regards

  50. Jane 26 April 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Re your article on drug-free and/or compassionate foods:
    it is hard for me to be objective on this subject as I have been vegetarian for almost 25 years for ethical reasons. My feeling is, if we wouldn’t do it to a human, don’t do it to an animal. I realise that this way of thinking and living puts me firmly in the minority of the world’s population. However, most people have never seen or heard what is involved with livestock production for food – the meat they buy has already been bred, fed, slaughtered and packaged away from public scrutiny. There is a good reason for this – they would be appalled at what goes on in the name of commerce and our supposed”right” to abuse anything to sustain ourselves. I believe that most people, if fully aware of current farming practises, would choose meat from compassionate and drug-free sources if it was widely available and at a similar price. Sadly, it is in most cases the wallet which determines what people buy. I seems that conscience has a price tag attached that many people cannot afford despite their good intentions.

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