New Farm Animal Survey
We conducted a startling survey of Europe’s multibillion pound meat industry, revealing how it has become a global hotspot for outsourced labor, hiring thousands of workers through subcontractors , agencies and bogus cooperatives with lower wages and salaries.
Journalists Ella McSweeney and Holly Young have spent the past six months interviewing workers and insiders across the UK and the EU. They report that thousands of workers in some countries – many of whom are migrants – are precariously employed, some being paid 40 to 50% less than workers in the same factories.
“The system is sick all over Europe. It’s based on low meat prices, on the exploitation of labor, ”Enrico Somaglia, Deputy Secretary General of the European Federation of Food, Agriculture and Tourism Trade Unions, told them.
The survey revealed how migrant workers are supporting Ireland’s € 4 billion (£ 3.4 billion) meat industry; explored the conditions of temporary staff in meat factories in the Netherlands – Europe’s largest meat exporter; and asked if other countries would follow the lead of Denmark, which has achieved decent wages and conditions in the sector.
News from around the world
An Italian farmer producing Grana Padano cheese has been fined nearly € 10,000 after an animal rights organization released a video that appeared to show “unimaginable conditions of neglect” allegedly taken at the dairy farm. The video prompted inspections by police and official vets who found several violations of animal welfare regulations. In a statement, the industry body, the Grana Padano Protection Consortium, said that while the law is not responsible for animal welfare, it has long insisted that dairies follow best practices. The consortium added that the case was not representative of Grana Padano’s production line.
At least 651,000 farm animal deaths have been linked to the “thermal dome” that raged across western Canada and the northwestern United States for five days in June – killing more than 500 people and contributing to forest fires. Although the weather event was unprecedented, animal welfare groups say more should have been done to protect the animals. Industry organizations and farmers say growers are bracing for episodes of extreme heat.
Consumers are encouraged to buy eggs of different sizes after a study of laying hens found a “huge animal welfare problem”. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen examined 4,800 hens and found that nearly 4,100 had fractured keel bones (part of a bird’s breastbone). They concluded that the fractures were due to the hens being bred to be smaller while producing larger eggs, and that this was a global problem encountered in almost all production systems, including in organic and outdoor birds.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has proposed to ban the consumption of dogs in the country, his office said. Meat has long been a part of South Korean cuisine, with around 1 million dogs reportedly eaten each year. But consumption has declined as more and more people are living with dogs as pets – including the president – and the practice is somewhat taboo among younger generations.
Farmers’ ownership of the word ‘meat’ has been challenged in an Australian Senate inquiry into food labeling. The inquiry, chaired by Senator and former butcher shop owner Susan McDonald, examines whether labeling should be changed to better identify plant-based products. McDonald’s said manufacturers of meat alternatives should not trade in long-established animal protein names and instead come up with their own terms.
The government has announced it will issue up to 10,500 temporary visas in the UK for truck drivers and poultry workers in a bid to alleviate the supply chain crisis. Pig farmers warn that supply chain problems could force them to ‘slaughter their own animals’ to get rid of it – there have already been reports of on-farm slaughter.
Felicity Lawrence argued that worsening conditions in supply chain jobs, such as slaughterhouses and meat factories, made UK shortages inevitable.
Changes to agricultural regulations that will allow field trials of genetically modified crops in England have been announced by the government. This will be followed by plans to allow greater use of gene editing in crops – and potentially also in animals – in the UK.
A single case of BSE has been confirmed on a farm in Somerset. The infected animal had died and had been removed from the farm, said the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which added that there had been five confirmed cases of BSE in the UK since 2014, all on animals not intended for humans. food chain and poses no risk to the public.
Eighteen celebrities – including musician Billie Eilish and actress Alicia Silverstone – signed a letter urging world leaders to address the impact of animal farming on the climate crisis at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow. Meanwhile, a Labor MP has claimed most farms will be phased out over the next 20 years due to the need to meet UK net zero targets. Britain’s meat industry has made progress on its ambitions to cut carbon emissions and food waste, according to a new report from the Wrap charity.
Share your stories and comments
Thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts on the series with us. Many readers responded to our survey of working conditions in meat processing plants in Europe, including Peter Dempsey, who said: “You are probably familiar with Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, written over a century ago. Nothing has changed.” While another reader said: “The title of the series could be ‘Raising People’ actually.”
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