ACompassion in World Farming South Africa committee is investigating the development of an Animal Welfare Act that will regulate the treatment of livestock in South Africa.
This problem can, to some extent, be dealt with by the Animals Protection Act, No 71 of 1962, but new laws to deal with the systems currently in place at factory farms are needed, says Compassion in World Farming’s South African representative Tozie Zokufa.
“An increase in the demand for humanely produced animal products as well as organic produce is an emerging trend in the South African food industry and is mostly evident among middle-income citizens who can afford free-range products, while most lower-income citizens buy factory-farmed products, as they are more affordable.”
More than 99% of the eggs and 60% of the pork on the South African market are produced from hens and sows that are factory farmed. Cattle and chickens are also routinely given antibiotics to bulk up, he notes.
Animals are treated as if they are not sentient beings, says Zokufa, adding that factory farming is, contrary to popular belief, not more affordable than free-range farming. This is particularly evident when considering the costs to human health, owing to a decrease in nutrients when consuming factory-farmed livestock and the damage to the environment, such as groundwater pollution and deforestation.
“The majority of meat eaters in South Africa are not aware of factory farming and the extent to which these animals are mistreated,” Zokufa points out.
Factory-farmed eggs are produced from hens that have their toenails clipped, and are unable to dust bath or use their beaks because of restricted confinement.
Meanwhile, factory-farmed bacon and ham products come from sows that are kept in metal crates, unable to turn around or move backwards and forwards.
In addition, chickens are injected with brine solutions to enhance the flavour and texture of the meat, which sometimes contain porcine peptides and, in many cases, thousands of animals are slaughtered at abattoirs without being properly stunned, he reveals.
Government should play a proactive role in dealing with factory farming through stricter regulations and enforcement and consumers should aim to buy free-range products and source meat products from smallholder farmers and butcheries, Zokufa urges.
Labelling products is crucial in creating awareness and learners should be educated to become informed consumers, he adds.
Dairy producer Fair Cape Dairies CEO Melt Loubser agrees that improvement is needed with regard to the humane treatment of livestock in South Africa. “These are living creatures that live for the benefit of the human race and should not suffer in doing so.”
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals does its best to enforce animal welfare regulations, but lacks the resources to adequately enforce the regulations that exist and, as a result, horrific animal cruelty prevails, he says.
“Fair Cape realises the importance of a healthy, comfortable animal to ensure the success and profitability of its business. Creating a comfortable environment for cows is a strategic objective for the business, and information systems and infrastructure technology are used to achieve this objective,” Loubser notes.
The information system is capable of predicting certain health conditions before they manifest into traditional symptoms and on-site veterinary treatment is available 365 days a year for those cows that require treatment.
Data on the animals’ weight, milk production, milk-content ratios and animal activity are recorded three times a day and processed in real time to ensure that animals requiring veterinary attention are separated from the rest of the herd, Loubser states.
In addition to health care, the living conditions of the animals are designed to keep them as comfortable as possible. Nutrition, bedding, manure handling, temperature and ventilation, as well as further stimulation, are all aspects that influence the comfort of cows and are carefully managed at Fair Cape’s milk production unit. “A happy cow is a productive cow,” he stresses.
“Fair Cape manufactures dairy products from its own milk production, which enables the company to control the total value chain and improve its offering to the consumer,” says Loubser, highlighting that the dairy producer manufactures the only preservative-free yoghurt in South Africa, which it markets under the Woolworths brand, and is the only dairy company that displays its carbon footprint on its milk packaging.