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An interview with Philip Lymbery — CEO, Compassion in World Farming

Philip Lymbery is the Global Chief Executive of the leading farm animal welfare charity, Compassion in World Farming.He regularly speaks at international events and commentates in the media about the global effects of industrial agriculture (factory farming), including its impact on animal welfare, wildlife, soil and natural resources, biodiversity and climate change, as well as the need for more balanced, regenerative agriculture and sustainable food systems. In March 2021, he was appointed as a United Nations (UN) Food Systems Champion for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

As well as being a strong advocate for ending factory farming on a global scale he has also authored two books on the topic — Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat and Dead Zone: Where the Wild Things Were and he is currently writing his third book, 60 Harvests Left.

Whilst gathering some inspiration for his next book at the farm (naturally), Ember Biltong co-founder Jack was able to get some one-on-one time with him and they had a lovely chat about their shared mission and passion of ending factory farming.

What is Factory Farming?

Essentially factory farming, the intensive rearing of animals in cages, crammed in confinement is not only the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet, it’s also a major driver of declines of wildlife, and the very thing which is taking away our ability to grow food for future generations.

You speak about the true cost of factory farmed meat. Can you tell us a bit more about what you mean by that?

What people don't realize is that globally we pay for cheap meat three times. First time at the checkout, the second through our tax subsidies in agriculture essentially driving intensification, and thirdly through the clean-up cost in terms of health and the environment. So actually cheap meat is expensive and what it is also doing is it is squandering our future.

So what’s the solution?

Move away from factory farmed meat and go for pasture fed, regenerative meat sources. Keeping cattle and sheep on pasture is so important because that’s what nature has built them for, grazing on grasses the very essence of ruminants. 

But it doesn't end there because what it also does is in harmony with nature so you get biodiversity, birds, bats, and other wildlife flooding back into the system and also quite crucially you rebuild the soil and that is so important because if we carry on with the intensive farming we’ve been doing for so long we’ve got just decades left before the soil runs out, before it’s gone. So that is why keeping cattle on pasture is so important, bring soil back, bring the wildlife back, also bring the goodness back into the farming system.

And what can we say to consumers? How can they help in their day to day lives?

I think tell people what the solution is, what good looks like but also help them to understand, to look behind the label of products that are normally in supermarkets. The food industry in general are not telling people that the majority of the meat and dairy that they’re now consuming may well have come from a factory farm so telling that story is a great way to get people you know switched on to a better food future.

Tell us a bit about the United Nations Food Systems Summit and why it's important?

We need to seize the opportunity of this year’s UN Food Systems Summit to move towards a global agreement to end factory farming. To reset our food system. To regenerative, restorative farming, with nature, not against her.

The Summit has been convened by UN Secretary-General Antoìnio Guterres, as part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

For the animal protection community globally, the Summit offers a major opportunity to awaken the world to the need to transform the food system to one that is truly humane and sustainable. Based on welfare-friendly, nature-friendly forms of regenerative farming and much reduced consumption of meat and other animal products.

I am honoured to have been appointed a ‘Champion’ of the UN Food Systems Network to represent animal welfare.   I hope others passionate about animal welfare and protection globally , will join me in engaging with the UN Food Systems Summit to encourage the systemic change so urgently needed in our food system. To move away from inherently cruel and nature-destroying forms of food production to ones that truly respect animals as sentient beings.

Can you give us a sneak peek into the topic of your next book, 60 Harvests Left?

The next book is all about solutions, what can we do about impending farmageddon, we’ll get animals back out on the land, have them in regenerative food systems, out on pastures, pasture fed, free range, organic, this is the way forward to feed the planet in a nature friendly, animal friendly way.

And finally, how do you think Ember fits into all this?

Well, what I would say is hats off to ember, you have a great vision, a great understanding of what makes for decent food that is planet friendly and animal friendly and you know - keep it up, ensuring that all of your products come from animals that are kept as nature intended, out roaming the pastures.

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