Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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Factory farming and the RSPCA

May 29, 2007

When it comes to enforcing the rights of farm animals, it seems that the RSPCA is charged with a difficult task.  After all, the organisation only has prosecutory powers within the limits of existing law.  And, at present, it is perfectly legal to keep hens in battery cages and to keep sows in stalls and farrowing crates.  In fact, it is the industry norm.

In my last blog entry, I questioned whether the RSPCA’s endorsement of certain meat and egg products (from companies who raise both free-range and caged animals) is somehow reinforcing that norm, by appearing to condone the actions of these companies in general. It’s a valid question, and not a new one – read the transcript of this Four Corners report for both sides of the debate.

Jane Speechley, the RSPCA’s public relations officer, replied with a pertinent point.  Organisations like the RSPCA need money.  And corporations have money.  Do you take it and use it to further your efforts, effectively ‘working within the system’.  Or do you refuse to ‘sell out’ and accept that you may have a smaller reach? 

It’s certainly not a problem that is exclusive to the RSPCA.  I recently worked on the production of an environmental education program that was funded by grants from government and industry – few of the industry partners had perfect environmental records, but without the money there was no program.   

I think that the issue some people have with the RSPCA’s affiliation with companies like Pace Farm is that the RSPCA has always been considered quite a progressive and proactive organisation – and perhaps it seems like a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ kind of approach. 

I appreciate your response Jane, and I’m afraid I don’t have an answer to your question – that’s why I raised this topic in the first place!  But I think that the more we talk about these issues, the better it is.  Food production seems to have become something of a sacred cow in today’s society.  Many meat-eaters express a vague uneasiness about the way that factory-farmed meat is produced, but find it more palatable to just not think about it, than to have to confront their consciences and question their moral choices.   

Bringing factory farming methods into the public realm for discussion and debate is vital, and is one of the reasons that I am writing – and hopefully you are reading – this blog! 

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A good egg?

May 29, 2007

I was talking to a vegan acquaintance the other day who’d just come back from protesting the RSPCA’s Million Paws Walk in Melbourne.  Her beef (pardon the pun) with the RSPCA is their apparent hypocrisy in supporting one of Australia’s largest producers of cage-eggs, Pace Farm. 

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Roof food is local food is good food

May 28, 2007

Still thinking about green roofs.  Particularly the use of urban roof space for food production.  

The Urban Agriculture Network recently reported that Brisbane has become “the first city in the world to include both urban agriculture and green roofs in an action plan to meet predicted global climate change challenges”.

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Urban agriculture and green roofs

May 21, 2007

I am currently in the midst of creating an online documentary about a group called the Urban Orchard, a community-based urban agriculture project in Melbourne’s inner northern suburbs.  

The Urban Orchard was initially formed to allow people with backyard fruit trees to get together with others in their local area and swap surplus produce that would otherwise go to waste.  So someone with a plum tree, for example, could swap their excess plums for some other fruit that they didn’t have – apricots, say, or lemons or figs.  Quickly, though, the project expanded to include vegetables, herbs, seeds and plants, and even home-made jams.  Members now meet once a week at the CERES market in Brunswick East, where they swap produce, as well as gardening advice, recipes and general neighbourly chit-chat.   

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Monbiot’s feeding frenzy

May 18, 2007

Since we’re on the topic of sustainable seafood, this recent post by George Monbiot is a powerful and recommended read.  He questions the apparent double standards that have us protecting endangered terrestrial species, whilst devouring endangered marine species at ever increasing rates.

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Fishy business: choosing sustainable seafood

May 17, 2007

You’re standing at the fish counter in the market, staring at a dazzling array of unfamiliar fish with unfamiliar names, with a queue of eager shoppers jostling behind you.  If you’re anything like me, you panic.  You know that Orange Roughy is a no-no.  But what about Perch? Is it the same thing? Who knows?  You’re sure Flathead is ok… or is it? 

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SOS: is ethical dining the new black?

May 9, 2007

A recent birthday celebration was deemed occasion enough to make a visit to SOS, Melbourne’s first and only self-proclaimed ‘veg-aquatic restaurant’.  Opened less than a year ago, SOS is the brain-child of Paul Mathis, food entrepreneur and founder of a long list of trend-setting dining establishments in Melbourne (Taxi/Transit Lounge, Upper and Lower House, Chocolate Buddha).  With this parentage, one can’t help (rather cynically) regarding the restaurant’s ‘sustainable food’ philosophy as simply a savvy marketing ploy. 

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Animal ethics becomes a laughing matter

April 18, 2007

Last Thursday night saw the second show in a two-night run of ‘Dolly Goes Down on the Farm’ at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.   

Dolly Putin is the on-stage persona of Tasmanian comedian with a conscience, Naomi Edwards.  Dolly describes herself as a right-wing shock jockette (“an Andrew-Bolt kinda gal”).  Dressed in a cow-hide bodice and a slapper-from-the-suburbs combination of knee-high uggs and micro-skirt, she entered the stage devouring a Big Mac and lamenting the downsides of veganism (“youse can’t eat meat”).   

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Are cookbooks really the panacea for a food-illiterate society?

March 30, 2007

The most recent post from The Age’s food and lifestyle journo/blogger Paula Goodyer, “Who’s got control of your food?”, raises some interesting questions about the role of food manufacturers and food retailers in determining Australians’ eating habits.

‘Low food literacy’, she says, is the cause of our unhealthy food choices.  Our supermarket trolleys are laden with overpriced and highly processed convenience foods, rather than the fresh and nutritious ingredients needed to prepare meals ‘from scratch’.  True.  This phenomenon however, is reflective, and indeed symptomatic, of a general lack of knowledge surrounding the entire food chain – not just the pointy end where we buy and ingest our food. 

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the first thought…

March 15, 2007

This blog is about food: what we eat; where it comes from; and how we assimilate it into our bodies and lives.  

It is a celebration of the infinite and ingenious ways that human cultures have learned to turn bundles of carbohydrates and protein into nourishment for the body and soul.

But I hope it to also be a discussion on the social and environmental implications of our appetites. 

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