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Presentation by Compassion’s Louise van der Merwe at the EthicsXchange Event

This event was held at the Fugard Theatre in Cape Town on 5th November 2013, hosted by Futuregrowth Asset Management and the Asisa Academy.

In our mid-thirties, my husband and I decided to give our children a rural upbringing.


We bought a small-holding with a view to self-sufficiency and this included two nanny goats and some laying hens from a poultry farm in Paarl. It was when we unloaded the hens from the crates in which they were transported that I found to my utter dismay that they were debeaked.


I immediately phoned the SPCA to alert them to this shocking cruelty to hens – I mean, who would do such a thing? The grim reality, as I was to find out, is that ‘farming’ today is a place of torment and misery - of deprivations and mutilations...


A world of debeaking (so that if she pecks at the feathers or bare skin of her cage mates, in the barren confines of a battery cage, she won’t draw blood).

Remember that by nature, a hen is designed to scratch and peck and forage for most of every day. 

Debeaked hen


A world of detoeing...

So that when she scrambles over her cage mates to get to the food in front, she doesn’t tear out their back feathers in the process. 

Debeaked chick

Detoeing a chicken

A world of castration and tail docking without anaesthetic. 


Of tail-docking...

In the barren confines in their incarceration, the only thing that moves is the wiggling tail of the pig in front.

So they mouth the tail and can cause damage this way.


That’s why pigs no longer have curly tails.

They are cut off. Remember that by nature, a pig is designed to root around in the ground with his snout for much of his day.

Castration without anaesthetic

Tail-docked piglet

Tight living space pigs are faced with in factory farms

Entire life living space

Tight living space chcikens are faced with in factory farms

Painful grid floor

A world of impossibly tight living spaces (pictured in the above 4 images). This (an A4 sheet of paper) is the space allowance of a chicken in a battery cage.

We keep 26 million chickens like this in South Africa.  A world of squalor (pictured to the left), darkened sheds the stench of ammonia... a world  where animals exist in frustration and torment  - and then die – never  having felt the warmth of the sun, nor seen a blade of grass, nor felt the soil beneath their feet.  A world where the Animals Protection Act provides no protection.   


Out of sight and out of mind, we have excluded them from our moral and ethical consideration. We have diminished them to units of production and confined our focus to ways and means of increasing their yield and financial returns. We have swept their immense sentience and their horrible suffering under the carpet. Did you know that animal scientists have found that mice laugh? That hens have empathy (something we need to learn?) That cows have best friends?

A world of squalor chickens are faced with daily

Dark sheds that the chickens live their days out in

Bad treatment of a cow in a feedlot

Cattle pictured in feedlots

I am not about to ask you to learn to love lentils.  But I am here to say that as much as farmed animals lose out on lives worth living, we too lose out in the process. In the case of these cattle, we lose out on the health benefits of grass-fed beef – and the mountains of grain that goes to make them fat faster in these feedlots could have been directed to easing the hunger (and political unrest) of people in Eritrea, or Somalia – or right here in South Africa.

Every possible excuse is given as to why we cannot turn the tide against our savage treatment of farmed animals


– but the ostrich industry is proof that changes can be made if the incentive is great enough.


Ripping the feathers out of ostriches before slaughter was standard practice as not to soil the feathers

In 1994, every possible excuse was given as to why ostriches had to be plucked naked before  slaughter. Ripping the feathers out of ostriches before slaughter was standard practice to prevent soiling and spoiling of feathers for the multi-billion rand fashion industry. 


I sent these photographs to the press. They made the front pages of newspaper in the USA and the UK. Very intimidating registered letters arrived from the mighty ostrich industry’s lawyers.


And the unthinkable happened... (pictured to the left). Britain closed the door on further importation of ostrich meat because ‘live plucking was not acceptable to the UK’s Charter on Animal Welfare’.


Within an amazingly short period of time,  Compassion in World Farming was invited by the Klein Karoo Kooperasie to visit its new slaughter facilities in Oudtshoorn and we were even presented with a table lamp made out of an ostrich egg. 


New and humane slaughter procedures had been introduced which made live plucking unnecessary. The feather industry was thriving, trade deals were back on track and, today, if you want to eat humane, eat ostrich. They enjoy free range lives.


Why wait for a disaster to hurt our pockets before we do the right thing for all the farmed animals who live and die in our name? Last month, my son became very ill with tick bite fever. The bite was near his ankle and it was frightening to see the flesh on his leg turning black through necrosis. He survived thanks to our front-line antibiotic Tetracycline.


But we should not take the life-saving properties of Tetracycline for granted... Just 10 days ago, I took this photo of Professor of Food Microbiology Pieter Gouws, at the University of the Western Cape,  (pictured to the right).


He is trying to establish the origin of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the food chain. And he’s looking at chickens for the cause. Broiler chickens – the ones we use for meat – are fed antibiotics routinely. It makes them grow faster. 


UWC has already established that Tetracycline is in the breast meat of these chickens. When our front-line antibiotics like Tetracycline lose their potency, we need to be very worried.


Professor of Food Microbiology Pieter Gouws, at the University of the Western Cape

Sunlight sanitizes - yet there is not a ray of sunlight, figuratively or otherwise in the darkened hell-holes of the factory farms that feed us – and our families.


The public is not allowed onto the factory farms so we buy food blind at supermarkets – the products of animals who experienced violence, terror and abuse every day of their miserable lives.


We buy food that all too often is contaminated by hormones and antibiotics. The poor are presented with food that is teeming with bacteria. Diseased feet like this one are a staple food in our impoverished townships, sold to the poorest of the poor at R2 a foot. (pictured to the left).


What you see here is an ammonia burn from standing on filthy litter. One of the excuses for factory farming is that we need to feed the poor cheaply. Poor people don’t know what these blackened open wounds are. The chickens to whom these feet belong experience agony in every step they manage to take.


The late anti-apartheid activist, editor and author Brian Bunting said: ‘Appalling crimes are committed... and are tolerated because, after all, ‘they are not the same as us’.

We know now that ‘not the same as us’ can never be a justification... can never be an excuse.


In brutalising animals, we brutalise ourselves.


With sufficient incentive we can turn the tide for farmed animals so that they can exercise their natural behaviours and enjoy life’s basic gifts. In giving them lives worth living, we give ourselves dignity and humanity – and provide the vital foundation upon which this EthicsXchange can grow strong and bring about the kind of society we so much want to see.


The video footage is now available, to view click here.

The poor are presented with food that is teeming with bacteria.

Caring Classrooms

To create a generation of informed consumers who can make a difference to the lives of animals, we need to build awareness in today’s learners.


To download Humane Educations’s catalogue of resources, please click here.  

To download Humane Educations’s catalogue of resources, PRICE LIST please click here.  


Special prices are available for bulk orders.

Please tell egg industry not to look to India for activism against battery cages - it's right here in South Africa!

Animal Voice - December 2013

Dear Animal Friend,

The latest issue of Poultry Bulletin gives us an opportunity to speak out for the 24 million laying hens trapped in battery cages in South Africa!


In this in-house magazine, South African egg farmers are advised that “it is important to note” that battery cages for laying hens are under fire – and not just in wealthy countries but in developing countries like India too!


The article points out that barren battery cages have been legislated against throughout Europe and several states in the USA and it then adds: “In developing countries, a similar trend is emerging, with animal welfare activists in India urging the government to bring in timelines aimed at phasing out the use of barren battery cages.”


Please speak out for our own 24 million laying hens trapped in battery cages, by writing to Kevin Lovell, CEO of the South African Poultry Association, (email: ), advising him as follows:

Dear Kevin Lovell,

With reference to the latest issue of your Poultry Bulletin (December 2013 issue, Page 26), there is no need to look to India to see the trend in developing countries against battery cages for laying hens.  As you are well aware, the trend is right here in South Africa, under your very nose on your own home ground.

As animal activists for Compassion in World Farming, we urge you, yet again, please urgently to give us a timeline for the phase-out of the barbaric battery cage!




(If he replies to you, please send it to me, Louise ( Many thanks in advance for your help.)



Our Humane Education Teacher’s Guide is out!

Dear Friends of Animal Voice, Compassion in Word Farming (SA) and Humane Education,

I am pleased to tell you that our Humane Education Teacher’s Guide is out!

This guide is curriculum compliant and includes activities and lesson plans that can be used by Life Skills and Life


Orientation teachers in Grades R – 7 to fulfil specific topics as set out in the curriculum.


Although additional resources can always be ordered from Humane Education, the Teacher’s Guide is sufficiently comprehensive to stand on its own.


Price: R850.00 including VAT and postage.

To order your copy, please find below our banking details:


Account: The Humane Education TrustAccount Number: 9094070046ABSA Bank, Somerset WestBranch No.: 632005Type of Account: SavingsReference: Teacher's Guide/Your name


Once payment has been made, please send proof of payment and your postal address to

Additionally, please view our video (left):


- To see learners at Forest Heights Primary School singing a tribute to animals in factory farms, and


- To see what Mr Joey Sitzer, DCES Life Skills and Life Orientation, Western Cape Education Department, says about humane education.


Animal Voice will be out in 10 days – and there is progress for farmed animals.

In the meantime, please join us on Face Book by clicking here...

Warm regards,


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Intl: +27 21 852 8160  .  Tel: 021 852 8160  .  Fax: 021 4131297



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