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Happy Pigs

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Farms Not Factories is a non-profit organisation that has been campaigning against factory farming since 2009 when their widely acclaimed documentary Pig Business was broadcast on Channel 4. Using the films they have made worldwide about local campaigns against new factory farms, and short celebrity-led videos, Farms Not Factories publicises the damage caused by factory farming to the animals, human health, the environment and local economies. The campaign has featured celebrities and high profile figures including Dominic West, and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood.

Olia Hercules is the latest high-profile chef to take part. She teamed up with Hampton Gay farm in Kidlington for a recent episode of the YouTube series of short films, Rooting for Real Farms. The series has had hundreds of thousands of viewers and features some of the UK’s leading foodies, including chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Clodagh McKenna, Gill Meller, Liz Earle and others. In her video Olia cooks Ukrainian style pork dumplings, which uses pork sourced from an organic farm where the pigs are fed ripe apples in the autumn and can forage outside all year on healthy, well-nourished soils. Because they are free to roam they are healthy and rarely need antibiotics, in contrast with factory farms where pigs are routinely fed antibiotics to keep them alive in the unhealthy stressful conditions.

Olia says “In Ukraine pork is one of the most used meats and the pig is a revered animal. A lot of people in Ukraine have smallholdings, my grandma had pigs and goats which just lived in the backyard. The way I grew up and the way I have seen animals being treated, it was normal that they would roam around, you’d find them by a shop door, running around in the fields or in the hills. When I came here, I didn’t even realise what the difference was; pregnant pigs rammed into a tiny enclosure without being able to move, it’s making me want to cry. If you know that an animal has been treated that way I don’t know how you can enjoy eating it. I want these animals to be free to roam around so they can lead a good life which is also important for the health of the soil and wider ecosystem, everything is so connected. I would never buy factory farmed meat because I don’t want that system to exist. I turn my nose up to factory farming.”

Olia regularly appears on cooking programmes such as Saturday Kitchen and Sunday Brunch, and recently launched #CookForUkraine, a fundraiser for people forced to flee their homes in the conflict. Her grandmother was the inspiration for her 2015 bestseller Mamushka, an extraordinary melting pot of food styles from Siberia, Russia, Armenia, Uzbekistan, Moldova, where her mother’s family are from, and Ukraine where the family settled in Kakhovka near the border with Crimea.

Mamushka was followed by two more books, Kaukasis and Summer Kitchens, that brilliantly reflect her skills in food growing, preparation and fermentation. Her latest, Home Food; Recipes to Comfort and Connect, came out in July this year, and draws together Olia’s unique storytelling with her distinctive, flavourful yet simple recipes.

The launch of the series comes at a pivotal moment in UK food and farming history. The UK is in the process of signing new Trade Deals which could lead to an influx of cheap lower quality factory farmed meat produced to standards that would be illegal in the UK, putting local farmers at an unfair disadvantage for having higher standards and thereby incentivising a race to the bottom. The ‘Rooting for Real Farms’ campaign is urging legislators to unleash the full powers vested in parliament from leaving the European Union to make sure future trade deals prevent the import of meat from substandard farms to not only sustain but improve our animal welfare, food and farming standards. In the immediate, people can use the power of their purses to boycott factory farm imports and only buy from high welfare UK farms.

Hampton Gay Farm Manager Tim Thompson comments: ‘We want what is best for our animals. Our pigs are fed the highest quality, organic feed and live outdoors, foraging, rooting and wallowing to their hearts' content. We don’t rush the rearing of animals at Hampton Gay Farm. We like to be less intensive so the animals have less stress. Growing the animals slowly means the meat matures and has a better flavour. Normally on an intensive factory farm, pigs can be slaughtered as early as five months old, we feel that really it’s better for the pigs’ welfare to leave them longer so they can enjoy a normal, natural, happy life with a varied diet. Our pigs are super friendly, they’re not stressed and they love people. We spend lots of time with them!”.

For more information on the campaign, visit farmsnotfactories.org

Hampton Gay Farm in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, delivers their organic, 100% pasture fed meat to addresses within a 10 miles radius of the farm. They are perhaps best known for their Old English Longhorn Beef but their pork is also highly recommended. Meat Boxes, including both pork and beef can be viewed on their website hamptongay.com

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