'In the UK, 39 per cent of our wheat, 51 per cent of our barley,
and 75 per cent of our total agricultural land is used to feed
'Worldwide, one-third of grain production is used for animal
The United Nations, the Worldwatch Institute (5) and even
veterinarians writing for the European meat industry (6) have
all recently issued extremely serious warnings about the impact
of livestock production on the global environment and world
food supplies. Of the six major environmental catastrophes
identified by the UN, four are entirely due to the production
of animal protein, while this factor plays a major part in
the other two.
Against this background, Cherry Valley's boasts about its
duck production are nothing more than myths - and dangerous
ones at that.
The company says it is confident that the duck plays its part
in combating world hunger: '...they can make a valuable contribution
to alleviating the world's shortage of protein - the rapid
growth of Cherry Valley ducklings can allow an annual output,
given good husbandry and nutrition, approaching 100 kilograms
of valuable protein per sqm of floor space...The duck can also
play its part in helping to conserve the world's diminishing
resources, for virtually everything from the feathers to the
feet can be turned into profit. The liver, the tongue and even
the feet all find a ready market, while the world demand for
feathers is increasing so rapidly that the net return from
this by-product is alone sufficient to pay the labour costs
of a processing plant. So nothing about a Cherry Valley duckling
is unsaleable - not even the quack.' (The World of Cherry Valley.)
Globally, and especially in third world countries, meat production
has a negative effect on world hunger. Factory, or intensive,
farming is the worst culprit since it encourages escalating
meat consumption among those who can afford it at the expense
of those who cannot - the poor. Furthermore, it provides minimal
In most parts of the world, animal protein was traditionally
eaten only in modest quantities. Since the discovery of antibiotics
and the subsequent birth of factory farming and its relentless
promotion by Western companies, the consumption of meat of
all kinds has risen dramatically. Lester Brown, as President
of the Worldwatch Institute, pointed out that two kilograms
of additional grain are needed for each kilogram of poultry.
He added that the growing trend towards a Western lifestyle
is putting unbearable strains on China's natural resources
The same argument applies across the world. It is only the
more affluent who can afford meat products. The need to feed
ever-increasing numbers of animals reduces the amount of life-sustaining
grains and other plant proteins for direct human consumption
while driving up the price. Alongside this, the problem of
pollution gets ever worse.
Livestock production is a major contributor to most of the
world's environmental problems, including acid rain. Ammonia
gas from manure and slurry combine with oxides of sulphur and
nitrogen in the atmosphere, produced by burning fossil fuels,
to produce sulphuric and nitric acid. These acidify the ground
or rivers and can dissolve out metals, particularly aluminium,
from the soil, washing them into rivers where they poison fish.
Meanwhile, plants are damaged by being deprived of the metal
ions in the soil that they need for growth (3).
Water is consumed in unnatural quantities by intensively-kept
animals, since temperatures in the units are often artificially
high. Fodder grown on irrigated land also demands large quantities
as do meat processing plants. Effluent from poultry farms and
processing plants is frequently discharged into rivers, adding
to the burden of pollution.
Factory farming methods promote disease in the stock, necessitating
the reckless overuse of antibiotics to counteract disease.
This in turn endangers public health, when harmful bacteria
become resistant to life-saving drugs (4). Often meat from
intensive farming methods is contaminated with pathogens that
cause food poisoning in humans, for example salmonella, listeria,
campylobacter and E. coli.
Cherry Valley's boast that every bit of the duck is used cannot
disguise the fact that the intensive duck industry is no different
from other similar industries, greedily using up food and water
resources needed by human populations. Intensive duck farming
causes serious levels of pollution, while forcing billions
of living creatures into lives of man-made deprivation.