"The skyscraper of pigs in China? Let's free animals and eat less of them"

"The skyscraper of pigs in China? Let's free animals and eat less of them"

"There is no time to lose". Because - listen, listen - there may only be sixty crops left before the Earth's soils are so depleted as to lead to a worldwide and definitive famine. The thick eyebrows frown and the tone becomes serious: Philip Lymbery he doesn't like half terms. Executive director of Compassion in World Farminginternational organization for the welfare of animals bred for food, and president of the Eurogroup for animals based in Brussels, has been in bookstores in Italy since 17 March with Only sixty crops remain. How to achieve a future in harmony with nature (480 pages, 20 euros), published by Nutrimenti for the Igloo series (translation by Dora Di Marco).

An apocalyptic title, but inside there is a recipe to reverse the trend. Restoring our planet for a future that respects Nature. And together with the disturbing focus on the global food chain, on mega-farms, on the abandonment of the countryside and on chemicals, the stories of those who fight to bring rural landscapes back to life make their way. Or rethink new methods of agriculture and farming. Born in 1965, visiting professor at the University of Winchester, passionate ornithologist, Lymbery tells a Green&Blue because the last word has not yet been said. Perhaps.


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He suggests the 'three Rs' approach: regeneration in agriculture, reduction of food of animal origin and rewilding of the soil. At what point is public awareness of the need to adopt this paradigm? And is politics really willing to invest in this cultural revolution?

"If awareness of the urgency of fighting climate change has grown enormously, the same cannot be said for the need to move the food system away from intensive agriculture. Unfortunately, the truth is that if we do not move away from intensive agriculture - with its heavy reliance on pesticides, chemical fertilizers and animal cages - it will be hard to deal with climate change or environmental degradation.

For this reason I am convinced that our only certainty for the years to come is that radical change is inevitable. Intensive agriculture is one of the main causes of the disappearance of what is indispensable for the production of most of the food in the world: the soil. The land is deteriorating at such a rapid rate that it risks becoming unusable or lost entirely within the time of a human lifetime. According to the United Nations, if we continue like this, the world may have only sixty harvests left. And then? No soil, no food, game over. The disappearance of the soil, the suffering of animals and the future of the new generations are interconnected: this is why we must put an end to the industrialization of the countryside, intensive agriculture and intensive breeding".

He wrote, in the margins of his travels in rural Italy, that the prevailing image is that of a land now completely devoid of grazing animals. Animals taken from the earth to be raised indoors. How could this happen in your opinion?
"In the days when I crossed the fields, valleys and plains of the rich Italian countryside, in the Po Valley, I did not see a single free-range animal. It is a paradox that has stuck with me ever since. I discovered that the Farmers in Italy's richest agricultural region had forgotten how to keep animals outdoors. They just had a gap. They couldn't understand why it wasn't right to keep them indoors all day, every day. They couldn't see the paradox of doing grow and cut the grass, and then feed it to the cows locked up in the stables. They had lost sight of the fact that pigs and chickens like to feel the fresh air and the sun just like we do. And you know what it is most paradoxical of all?"


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Tell us: which one?

"They could not understand how this compromised the quality of the food itself. It is a situation that in recent decades has been aggravated by the spread of US-style intensive agriculture in the Italian and European countryside, where animals that should graze have been taken away from the fields and confined indoors. Stripped of their natural diets of grass and forage, they are fed cereals grown on huge tracts of land using chemicals that have destroyed much of the countryside's wildlife. If we want a sustainable food system we need to bring animals back to the land, on rotational farms, left free to feed on pasture as Nature intended and interspersed with crops.This, together with a reduction in the overall amount of meat and dairy products that are consumed, is essential to prevent our food system becomes the cause of the downfall of our society . All this reminds me of a phrase uttered by Giorgio Locatelli, the world-renowned Italian chef: 'It is better to eat excellent meat once a week than to fill up every day with poor quality meat from animals reared without care. We have to get used to quality, not quantity."

In Italy there is a lot of talk about the opening of the market to 'novel food' made up of insects, which meets the resistance of a very traditionalist part of the country. You also raise some concerns about the sustainability of insect farms. Why don't you think it's the right path to more ethical protein consumption?
“The main reason given for insect farming is the need to feed a growing population, a bogus argument as enough food is already grown in the world to feed twice the current human population. One of the main causes leading people going hungry globally is that the food that could feed four billion people is being fed to farmed animals, whether it be chickens, cows or crickets.Like other intensively farmed animals, insects are commonly fed on grains and soy.Insect farming, whether for human or animal food, consumes more food than it produces.Insect farming on an industrial scale therefore undermines our ability to produce enough food for everyone, today and in the future".


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The chapter dedicated to the oceans is very interesting. In Italy, the protection of artisanal fishing, which is sustainable by nature, is a crucial issue. How can it be competitive, in your opinion, with industrial fishing?

"It is essential that political decision-makers in government quickly realize the need to support sustainable practices, and not those that damage the planet. For this, subsidies and incentives must be guaranteed for truly sustainable practices and removed from those that threaten our ability to feed us in the future. A sustainable approach to our seas is just as crucial as sustainable farming. Both are essential if we are to secure a future for our children."

Among the possible solutions he cites the use of cultured meat, as long as prices are brought down and production is increased. What prospects are there?
“Cultured meat is shaping up to disrupt the global meat market. It is produced from stem cells harvested harmlessly from live animals, then grown in a blend of nutrients in a bioreactor. No animal components are needed. A replica of the nature, but without slaughter. It is an idea that for a long time remained in the world of science fiction, apparently imaginative and impossible to achieve. Now it has become a large industry that researches, cultivates and already puts products on the table to paying customers It has gone beyond the bounds of imagination and has attracted the attention of politicians, as evidenced by last year's green light in a US government executive order According to the latest forecasts, cultured meat could secure 10% of the meat market by 2030 and even 35% by 2040".

A large chapter concerns the pandemic: what do you think is the main lesson that we should make our own?
"Perhaps one of the greatest lessons we can learn from the Covid-19 crisis is that if we don't end factory farming, the next pandemic could be on our plate. It has shown us that the well-being of people, animals and the planet are interconnected. Protecting people also means protecting animals. While COVID-19 is thought to have originated from animal abuse and the illegal wildlife trade, it has strong similarities to other viruses that originated on factory farms. Both l swine flu and bird flu - which originate in pigs and chickens - have been devastating. The 2009 swine flu pandemic is estimated to have killed about half a million people worldwide. The next pandemic could come from a pig or a chicken confined in confined spaces, animals treated as merchandise and fed on the fruits of deforestation".

Tight spaces, indeed. The opening in China of a 26-story skyscraper with over 600,000 pigs is making headlines these days. Have we not understood the lesson?
“The move to so-called multi-storey pig farms is a particularly worrying development. China's goal is to raise more pigs on a single site than anyone else in the world – about ten times the size of a typical American pig facility. Something like more than two million pigs a year.The impetus to create these mega-farms came in response to a massive epidemic: African swine fever, which wiped out about half of China's pig industry output. animals confined in increasing numbers only risk exacerbating the threat of disease.Rather than repeating the mistakes of factory farming, a far better way forward is to reconnect food production to nature, embracing regenerative agriculture and agroecological agriculture that respects nature in which animals, as sentient beings, can move freely without suffering, and experience the joy of being alive."

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