Ireland exported a staggering 160,000 live male calves to Europe in 2018
The Guardian reports on the secret filming of unweaned male calves (cows) being treated with cruelty and disdain as they were transported from Ireland to the Netherlands for slaughter as veal. The mistreatment of animals in Europe’s factory farming model, and the horrendous practises of the dairy industry are truths that we prefer to ignore as we drink our cow’s lactation (designed for calves, not humans!) and chomp down on a burger that’s probably made from the flesh of a dozen animals, not all of them cows. The whole system is actually horrendous, when you think about.
EU factory farm subsidies – the horror!
41% of the EU’s €137 billion annual budget (2017) is given to farmers as handouts. So Europe funds the cruel live animal trade, while propping up the dairy sector that produces all those unwanted male calves, in a subsidy system that favours industrial-scale farming. Besides the justified ethical concern that we as Europeans are subsidising cruelty in factory farms across the EU, we are also helping industrial farming be a major contributor to climate change, greenhouse gases and plastic waste. Ireland’s agriculture sector contributes over a third of the country’s GHG emissions, and there is no hope of EU reduction targets being met in 2020. Or even 2030. Our track record is abysmal.
Top 3 ways the EU can fix agriculture, improve animal welfare and cut GHG emissions
- Short of banning live exports, which would be ideal, there should be a distance limit, say 200km. Livestock producers should be encouraged (maybe with those infamous subsidies?) to slaughter animals locally, adding value to the local economy, then exporting finished meat products. Or, better still, sell the meat locally also.
- Consider the impact that Europe’s huge herds of cows, pigs and sheep have on our greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture should be carbon-neutral and if that means shifting our tastes away from animal meat, so be it.
- Live animal exports to countries outside the EU should be banned completely and immediately. If EU-based companies treat animals with such cruelty as we have witnessed, what chance of welfare do animals have in places like Saudi Arabia, where even humans are treated with contempt? No chance.
Top 3 ways you can help end live export cruelty and agriculture’s impact on climate change
- When buying meat, always try to identify its source. If it came from another country – let alone another continent – refuse to buy it. Old-school butcher shops often rear and process their animals nearby, treating them better than any factory farm, and you can taste the difference.
- Lobby your MEP, especially with the upcoming elections front of mind. See if you can turn even one MEP against live exports (email a link to this article!). That could make a real difference.
- Meat-free alternatives are actually fab. There’s a lot of product development going into animal-free ‘meat’ that tastes as good as the real thing, with less saturated fat, growth hormones, antibiotics etc. Also, do you still drink cow’s milk? If so, you need to stop immediately. It’s just too weird. Hemp milk is awesome and there are some absolutely gorgeous oat and coconut/almond milks available widely. Take your breakfast cereal to the next level!
Learn more about EU agriculture, live export cruelty and GHG emissions from livestock…
Cow photo, creative commons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bovine_somatotropin