How do you like your eggs? Scrambled or Caged?

Australian farms raise a huge variety of livestock in lots of different settings. We rely on our farmers, and the animals they look after, for our meat, our eggs and our milk and dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt.

According to the National Farmer’s Federation, our farmers produce almost 93 percent of the food we eat each day in Australia and grow enough food to feed 600 people: 150 in Australia and 450 overseas. They also contribute $38 billion in export income to the economy and manage some 59 percent of Australia’s land.

Caged birdsSometimes the way farmers raise their animals is seen as unkind to the animals. Chickens and pigs, especially, might be raised in cages without much room to run around. This is sometimes called factory farming because the animals generally live in large factory-like sheds. While there once may have been good reasons for this, generally people believe animals are happier if they can roam around more freely.

Rather than being raised in cages, it is kinder to raise animals as “free range”.  Being free range means the animals live in open paddocks.  This lets them behave as they would normally.  For example, chickens love to scratch and peck looking for worms or shoots. Pigs like to wallow in mud and female pigs find grass and sticks to build a big nest to have their piglets in. They can do this in a paddock but not in a cage.

Farm freeMost farmers care passionately about their animals and their land. Often farming systems have developed because supermarkets want the food they buy from farmers, to always be the same. This is so that when you go to do your grocery shopping you know exactly what you are getting.

But making food this way means more and more control over how an animal is raised and less freedom for farmers and their animals to just do what comes naturally.

Free range animals and their produce are simply not as predictable as those raised in cages.

For example, free range eggs from chickens that have lots of room to forage in the paddock vary widely in shell colour and size.  But they are all delicious and if you choose an extra big egg you might even find a double yolker!

To help change how farmer’s raise their animals, we need to help them raise their animals outside of cages, while still making money. If the farmer’s can’t afford to produce our food then, maybe, there will be no food!

The best way to bring about change is at the supermarket. Supermarkets in Australia pretty much get to choose what we eat.  In turn, they tell the farmer what they will buy.  If growing an animal in a free range environment costs more, then we need to be prepared to pay that little extra.

eggsHere’s what you can do to help.

– Ask your teacher to dedicate some class time to teach others about it, or present to the class!

– Join a group which speak up for animals like Unleashed.

– Take action by joining a pledge like #makeitpossible.

– Ask your supermarkets where their food comes from and encourage them to stock the foods that come from farms that are kind to animals.

– talk to your local politicians who can change laws to protect farm animals.

Talking Animals

This month here at Cool To Be Kind To Animals we are delighted to have a guest blogger, Ondine Sherman. Ondine is the Co-Founder and Director of Voiceless, the animal protection institute.

Rosie and bottleLast year my daughter Jasmine and I found a tiny kitten abandoned in a box.

She was so little that she couldn’t yet meow, eat, or even wee alone. We fed her with a small bottle every few hours (imitating her mother’s teats), wiped her tiny furry bottom to help her urinate (a mother cat would use her tongue) and gave her a warm, soft place to sleep and grow. We named her Rosie and she followed us everywhere, watching our every move and learning about life. Rosie learnt that the sound of the fridge opening indicated dinner time; the creak of the front gate, a potential new play-mate and; quickly understood to avoid our dog when she had a bone.

Rosie was our first cat and we were amazed by how she could talk to us in her own language; with chirrups, purrs, growls, hisses, and meows. Her body language also told us what she was feeling: a flick of a tail or flattening ears spelled trouble and a likely bite (we called her ninja kitten); dilated pupils signaled an intention to play and; when her lids half closed over her gorgeous green eyes, we knew we would be honoured with a sweet cuddle.

Many of us know the pleasures of caring for our pets; especially dogs and cats. In fact, Australian’s own more companion animals, 8 million in total, than most other countries in the world. We experience just how smart, sensitive and communicative they are and how much they need the guidance of a loving guardian.

But what about other animals, like the ones that grow up, not snuggled in our cosy beds, but living in fields, barns or cages? They are also sentient.

Sentience is an important word to know. It is defined as “A being who has interests…who prefers, desires, or wants.”  These animals avoid suffering and seek positive experiences just as humans do. Not only that, but they too communicate with, care for and teach their young the ways of the world.

Did you know that mother pigs sing to her piglets whilst feeding them?  It helps them relax. And she builds them a nest made of grass and straw? That keeps them warm and safe. Pigs say ‘hi’ to each other by touching noses and grunting. And they are even smarter than dogs.

In factory farms, where piglets are denied the love and care of their mothers or even a human surrogate, like what Jasmine and I became for Rosie, it causes them to suffer. Just as it would a human baby, puppy or kitten.

Although animals can talk with a myriad of different sounds and gestures, many of us humans don’t learn their language or just don’t want to hear.

Together, we humans have to learn to listen, and become their voice, loud and clear.

Will you help be a voice for animals?

Ondine Sherman is happy to hear from you with ideas for blogs, or your thoughts and concerns at ondine@voiceless.org.au

Get involved with CTBK!

The Cool To Be Kind To Animals project is in its early stages and needs your help to grow into a successful animal care educational movement. Please share this article to raise awareness of the concept of viewing all animals as sentient beings and of the project.

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Take care – of all animals! The Cool To Be Kind to Animals team