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Tracy Worcester

Tracy Worcester's groundbreaking film Pig Business is a shocking expose of industrial pig farming practices

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CAMPAIGN HERO: Tracy Worcester, producer of Pig Business film

Matilda Lee

1st February, 2011

Her shocking film alerted unsuspecting consumers to the hidden costs of factory farmed pork. She talks to the Ecologist ahead of a special screening of Pig Business at the European Parliament

What has been your most successful campaign to date?

The Head of the Animal Welfare Unit at the European Commission attended the House of Commons event that Zac Goldsmith MP and I held in January 2010 and invited us to repeat the event at the European Parliament on 9th February 2011.


What has been your least successful campaign to date?

If no MEPs turn up to our EU Parliament event on the 9th of February, I will have failed to get any MEPs to pledge our ‘6 Big Asks':

1. Recognise that the profitability of factory farming depends on externalising its true costs onto the broader community
2. Ensure the Common Agricultural Policy post 2013 moves European agriculture away from industrial livestock production to sustainable, humane and autonomous forms of animal husbandry
3. Ensure better enforcement and strengthening of the existing EU Directive on the welfare of pigs
4. Introduce mandatory methods of production labelling
5. Introduce a ban on routine prophylactic use of antibiotics
6. Ensure national and EU public bodies only locally or nationally produced high welfare pork.

What gets you out of bed when you're at your lowest?

Usually it is the urgency of having to sort out a thousand things that I was unqualified to have taken on in the first place. Also, I only have to think of the 2 billion pigs that are presently incarcerated in tiny barren concrete and metal crates or how farmers across the world, (who know how to look after our animals, health and local economies), are going bankrupt, to get the energy to keep up the fight.

Corporations: work with them or against them?

In the food industry particularly, I work against them. Big is ugly, in a small company people and animals are valued.

What is the best way to motivate people?

The best modifier is when someone owns and runs their own business/ farm/ campaign and so they are determined to make it work. It is not necessary to pay people a huge salary - personal pride is a strong incentive. Small scale family businesses should be protected as the most effective way to produce quality products and give highest number of people dignified work.

What is the best way of reaching politicians?

The best way is via a coalition of NGOs who can call on their members to magnify the Ask. A coalition of EU NGOs are supporting our EU Parliament event including Compassion in World Farming, Via Campesina, Friends of the Earth, Food and Water Watch, IFOAM, Soil Association, Greenpeace, Corporate Euro Observatory and WSPA.

The film and event are being used by hundreds more NGOs throughout the EU to influence four major groups: consumers, industry insiders, banks which support intensive farming, and MEPs/policymakers.

Through messages on their website or blog and e-mailings, NGOs are urging their members to watch the film and so change their consumer choices to avoid factory farmed pork, also to hold local screenings, to lobby their MEPs to attend the EU event and legislate for change.

What is the most important thing to avoid when campaigning?

Avoid thinking that someone else will do the campaigning for you. We all have to play our part and help campaigners. I wish more people would take up campaigning against what they abhor. Plenty of people have enough money and could start to give [some of it] back to break the back of the [current] economic system.

The gap between the rich and the poor is growing larger daily. The rich think that they can give a pittance to some charity and mend the destruction they cause in their every day decisions. This ain't going to work. Anyone who has the time is qualified and would achieve tremendous satisfaction from campaigning to change this damaging global trade.

Most important thing government could do this year?

They could do what David Cameron advocated pre winning the election: 'just as we don't accept cars that aren't meeting our emission standards so we shouldn't accept food that doesn't meet our welfare standards.'

In the UK our pig farmers are not allowed to use sow stalls, ie the mother pig is not kept in a cage her entire pregnancy like on the continent. The labour government banned this practice and the cruelty simply went abroad as the supermarkets just switched to buying cheap low welfare pork from the continent. Big business rules our food choices and bankrupts our small farmers.

In PIG BUSINESS there is a scene of my daughter and I in a supermarket looking at pork labels to see exactly what consumers are being told. The answer is very little, and we are definitely not supposed to know whether the pork was raised in a factory farm. Although there is nothing in the picture to identify which supermarket we are in, every single shot had to be removed. Why? Because, as every publisher or broadcaster will tell you, if you criticise Tesco they will sue for libel using their legions of lawyers who not only help them find the best avenue to avoid paying tax, but also to defend their ‘you shop we drop' brand. It's time our government broke up the supermarket power and returned our high streets and food production to our rural communities.

Most important thing individuals could do this year?

Buy only outdoor, free range or organic high welfare pork, always.

Look on our pig business website and watch the film. Everyone who has seen it says that they had no idea how people and animals suffer from factory pig farming and so will never buy factory farmed pork again. Our website also has a page describing how you can write to your MEP to urge him or her to attend our EU Parliament event on the 9th of February.

Three MEPs who share a desire to see farming returned to farmers have sponsored the event to influence those MEPs who presently think that their constituents only want cheap meat. Jose Bove said that Pig Business was the best film in showing the myriad hidden costs and would help him to persuade MEPs to vote for the amendments to the Common Agriculture Policy that he and his colleagues are advocating.

What makes a good campaigner?

They have to be articulate, have experience, a vision, balls and sheer bloody mindedness.

What (other) campaign has caught your attention recently?

After my EU Parliament and US Congress Events, I will give more attention to life outside of Pig Business.

Who is your campaign hero (past or present)?

Julian Assange is a hero as he has put his freedom on the line to expose the lies and rhetoric uttered by our corporate stooge politicians and peddled through our equally corporate led media. Julian is only doing what a truly free press would do.

The film Pig Business is available to watch on the website in the following languages:

Chinese (Cantonese); Danish; Dutch; French; German; Italian; Polish; Portuguese; Romanian; Slovenian; Spanish; Ukrainian & English

US & Canadian versions of the film are also available.

Online Resources:

Celebrity trailer of the film Pig Business
Act as a consumer, buy local and sustainable
Screening toolkit and other resources
20 facts on the true cost of factory farming
The latest expose on the cruelty inside Smithfield's sow factories in America
The latest libel threat from industry to silence objections to a new UK pig factory
Help the Soil Association's 'Not in my Banger' Campaign

 

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Tracy Worcester’s ‘Pig Business’, a groundbreaking expose of US industrial pig farming conglomerate Smithfield Foods, has met with repeated attempts at censorship by the company’s lawyers. Here, she explains how England’s libel laws have helped stall the film’s general release, and stopped the world learning more about the environmental realities of intensive livestock rearing
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