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Open letter: “I congratulate you for looking at yourself and realizing the U.K. has serious animal welfare issues”

Open letter in response to Zoe Nosworthy

Dear Zoe,

With respect, I congratulate you for looking at yourself and realizing the U.K. has serious animal welfare issues, and concluding the only path that will bring you closer to your goals is one that omits denigrating the Faroese society and her people. But please let me share my experiences from farming in Denmark with you.

I attended Kalø and worked for a couple years on a pig farm. The pigs are brought to the stables and grown for slaughter. They are kept in indoor pens, to prevent the devaluation of property due to the smell, and to protect the stock from disease so serious, a single case on the west coast will bring production on the east coast to a halt within an hour of the suspicion being announced. The tools of the trade include wood boards to heard pigs down an aisle, tasers and bolt pistols. This is considered to be a high standard in animal welfare.

I also worked on a farm that kept sows. The sow is kept in a small cage just large enough to lay down in, to prevent her from eating the piglets. The male piglets are castrated by the farmer, in conditions marginally cleaner than the stalls the pigs are kept for a few months prior to slaughter. I myself have had to castrate piglets, and I will not spare you those graphic details, but the paper is welcome to redact this section if it so chooses.

The correct method is to lay the piglet on its back between your knees, and you use a scalpel to make two incisions in the scrotum, and a finger plunges into the wound and scoops out the testis. The organs are thrown over the shoulder for the cat to eat. The common method is to hold the piglet under the arm and secure the testes between two fingers, while you cut the skin with a dirty clipper, similar to a wire cutter. The testes pop out and they are ripped from the piglet, before being thrown over the shoulder for the cat to eat.

Prior to either, the tail was cut in half with said clippers, and post castration, a straw is forced down the throat to feed the piglet a spray of cola. A needle is jabbed into the side of the neck with a dose of medication. The training for these procedures are not done at a university, but on the job, and if the animal suffers or comes to undue harm because the straw was pushed too far in, or because the castration took too long, or the needle also dissects tissue due to lateral movement… so what? That is the mentality behind your bacon, sausage, gelatin candies. That level of welfare is not just the norm, but considered pretty damned good, and the U.K. is no different from Denmark in how pigs are raised.

I no longer work in agriculture, and I have little desire to return. But I still remember the smell, the cries, the methods used. And comparing that to how a whale is raised, and killed, whales have it pretty damned good. They are truly free ranged, and know nothing about pens, feeds, tasers or castrations. They are hunted by a predator, and can avoid the danger presented, if their instincts tell them to stay away from these islands. They will eventually fall prey to old age, disease, or perhaps another predator. But their lives follow a completely natural process.

Compare the two, and ask yourself, if you could buy meat that comes from a traditional pig farm, or meat from hunted game that lead a free life, which meat would you buy?

Best regards,
Peter Smedskjaer-Stenland


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