It's a pig's life

| 2nd February 2009
Its-a-pigs-life_MAIN.jpg
Tracy Worcester's film <i>Pig Business</i> exposes the abuses of factory farming and challenges consumers to make a stand. Phil Moore meets a woman on a mission.
A powerful indictment of industrial farming, Pig Business gives many reasons to get angry, but it won't leave it there. It promises to act as the driving force behind those seeking to resist the perils of industrial farming.

Checking the labels on supermarket packets of pork at the beginning of her documentary, Pig Business, Tracy Worcester is clearly frustrated.

"If shoppers would only look behind the label in ways my documentary describes, they will see that by exercising their consumer power they can protect our independent farmers. Our farmers would then improve their standards to produce human, animal and environmentally friendly pork."

The recent recalling of contaminated pork from the Irish republic exemplifies the problems of mass produced meat, where one mistake can mean that millions of tonnes of pork has to be thrown away. Such scenes remind us of the dangers of factory farming and the burning of cattle in the BSE crisis.

Tracy Louise Ward, Marchioness of Worcester, has been campaigning on environmental issues since 1989. From her early days of sealing envelopes for Friends of the Earth, to an active role in the environmental movement as a public speaker and associate director of the International Society for Ecology and Culture and trustee of the Gaia foundation, Tracy has most recently been putting her energies into film making.

Pig Business, is a powerful critique of intensive farming; the animal cruelty, environmental degradation and the dangers posed to human health and livelihood.

Focusing her sights on Smithfield Foods of America, the world’s largest pork producers, her documentary reveals the dark side of the intensive pig farming regime that puts cheap pork on our tables.

Four years in the making, Pig Business brings together important issues in the environmental movement as well as themes central to the campaigner’s own life: ‘I’ve been in the ecologist movement for 20 years and if we deal with each separate issue it’s like shifting all the chairs on the Titanic. What are the root causes? And I wondered what would appeal to the general public in communicating the work I had been doing.’

Tracy first learnt of Smithfield's invasion of Poland’s pork industry in 2002, having met Tom Garret, consultant for rural affairs, for the US based Animal Welfare Institute and long standing campaigner against intensive livestock production.

Smithfield's first acquisition in Poland was the former state-owned farm Animex, followed by 21 other state-owned farms. As Smithfield’s operations grow, farmers who use traditional feed and natural rearing methods without the use of additives become uncompetitive and are forced out of farming.

‘The story of Smithfield encapsulated so many areas of interest: corporate takeover, EU bureaucracy and subsidies, the threat to small-scale farmers, the dignity of work and the quality of food.’

Smithfield 'processes’ 27 million pigs a year, operates in 15 countries and has annual sales of almost $12bn dollars. The late 1990s saw the introduction of Smithfield into Poland, along with its approach to intensive hog farming.

The dangers of dumped and untreated pig faeces to ecosystems, the hazards to workers’ health and those living near to Smithfield’s farms are vividly recounted in the film.

Being an advocate of small-scale farming provided a strong motivation for Tracy to follow the story: ‘Farming and seeing it being destroyed in every country I go to is so upsetting. I thought here is an extraordinary story, where my taxpaying money, through the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBDR), is going to fund the industrialisation of farming destroying the farmers of Poland and England.’

A powerful indictment of industrial farming, Pig Business gives many reasons to get angry, but it won't leave it there. Working with a host of campaigns, NGOs and other groups, Pig Business promises to act as the driving force behind those seeking to resist the perils of industrial farming.

 


 

Phil Moore is the Ecologist’s newsletter editor.

Join the campaign

Pig Business is more than a film, it’s a campaign and Tracy Worcester wants everyone to use their consumer power to push for change.

Here’s how to have an affect:

// AVOID factory farmed pork

// BUY from farmers markets or buy British – preferably organic – in the supermarket

// CAMPAIGN against cruel farming methods

// DEMAND action against imports of pig meat raised below UK welfare standards

// EAT less meat, but of better quality

The campaign is supported by the Gaia foundation and many more organisations After its TV broadcast, the film will be screened in small venues across the country with Tracy attending as many as possible for Q&A sessions. For more details, log onto the Pig Business campaign website

This article first appeared in the Ecologist February 2009

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