Making kind choices in your everyday life.

Dairy

The getting of wisdom to make kind choices

Posted by on Feb 15, 2015 in Dairy, Environment, Factory Farming | 6 comments

“Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight” – Albert Schweitzer

I sincerely hope that my voice through my blog never comes across as preachy or holier than thou-ish. If it ever does, I humbly apologise as I certainly have no right to be this way. I have spent the majority of my life doing the very things which I rant against on this blog. Over my 40 something years on this earth, I have, without a second thought, gnawed on pigs trotters, ridden elephants and posed for photos with baby gibbons in Thailand, thrown bread to bears in a barren bear pit, enjoyed nights out at the greyhound track, bet on racehorses at “Royal Randwick”, used make up, shampoo etc by companies who test on animals and eaten a mountain of cheese and a ton of sausages. 9 out of 10 shoes I’ve ever bought have been made of leather, “lambs fry” and “lambs brains” (eek) were sometimes breakfast growing up.  I’ve dined on dozens of Peking duck pancakes, caught fish, probably inadvertently eaten hundreds of caged eggs, snuggled under duck down quilts, gawked at animals in too small enclosures in zoos and aquariums and am probably responsible for the death of an orangutan or two by consuming / lathering myself in products containing palm oil and the list of shame goes on. I am grateful to have never worn fur or eaten foie gras but still, my track record is far from worthy. I even kind of, (cringe), made fun of  a vegan family we knew whilst I was a teenager and found their rice cake eating,  meat abstaining ways completely “extreme” and weird. I have done all of these things whilst always being someone who passionately “loves animals”. I don’t feel that I am a kinder or more empathetic person these days than I was growing up – I have, however, made a conscientious effort to educate myself about these issues and, as a direct result, my ways of living and eating have changed.

I have met a few people recently who revealed that they did not know (or had never thought about the fact) that cows have to have a calf each year to produce milk (and then this calf will be taken from its grieving mum at around 5 days of age and, if male,  slaughtered – after legally not having to be fed or watered for 36 hours and so on). These are intelligent people but they have never learnt and, hence, thought about this fact. Educating ones self to all the travesties which are going on around us in our everyday lives is difficult. It  usually comes from a reading or viewing which is upsetting, it is not taught to us in school nor is it is rarely shown on TV as it tends to make people switch channels. The Easter Show where city kids are meant to learn about the country have straw filled pens bustling with happy piglets on display rather than the concrete floored, windowless sheds which are the reality of how the vast majority of pigs raised for food exist in Australia. Kind of the agricultural equivalent of Santa Clause. Big business and government will do everything it can to keep the grim reality hidden and advertising will be intentionally deceptive. There are sinister steps in Australia heading towards US style Ag-Gag Legislation (which aims to “gag” covertly obtained footage of animal cruelty and punish whistle blowers) and the government has refused to install CCTV footage in abattoirs to keep things even further from our view.

The unfortunate irony is that there are many people who love animals but will refuse to educate themselves about what really goes on because, understandably, they cannot tolerate seeing animals in pain or being mistreated.  So the very people who the animals of this world are relying on to forge a kinder path are sadly absent. They end up unintentionally contributing to and funding horrendous animal cruelty because they do not know enough about what goes on to be shaken into action and change because of their catch 22 situation of not wanting to be witness to suffering. These animal loving people need to be brave and challenge their own discomfort to balance out the ambivalent, those who do not care less and those who actively, greedily and mercilessly encourage and protect cruel industries such as intensive “factory” farms (I’m speaking to you Barnaby Joyce and Katrina Hodkingson!).

The former filet mignon, lobster eating investment banker, Phillip Wollen is perhaps, the best example of what an about face turn someone can take after educating themselves. In his case, it started with a business trip visit to a slaughterhouse and went on from there. Please take a minute to have a read about this incredible philanthropist and his Melbourne based Kindness House (where staff get in trouble if they DON’T bring their dogs to work !) which helps animals and disadvantaged people worldwide. He is a remarkable person.

The changes in my life have not had the earth shattering momentum of Phillip Wollen but I am proud of the changes that I have made (despite some faltering and weaving along the way ! – and I still am a long way from living the kindest life I could) – I just wish I’d educated myself earlier. As with all things which involve substantial change, remember you don’t have to do it all at once – that can be overwhelming and counterproductive. Is there something you are “into” to start off with, which maybe you could learn a bit more about to help you make better informed and kinder choices ? Cheese ? Woolen yarn ? Ham sandwiches ? Chicken soup ? What goes on behind the scenes to produce these, at first glance, inoffensive products ?

With a bit of knowledge under your belt, you may find yourself asking “is it right for an intelligent animal to be virtually immobilised for weeks to months at a time (sows), is it OK to castrate an animal without anesthesia (steers, pigs), is there anything right about allowing an inquisitive bird to live on a sloped piece of A4 sized wire mesh so she cannot stretch her wings (egg layers), should water loving ducks be living without water in intensively raised sheds (ducks), can we justify 30 seconds of suffocating terror for some cost savings (gassing of pigs), is a pair of leather boots from the skin of an animal who has had his tail broken and chilli rubbed into his eyes to make his exhausted body walk to be slaughtered really worth it (leather), is it OK to take a sheep’s fleece in the middle of winter (wool) or have shearer’s beat them out of impatience, can we justify sending animals to a terrifying death overseas because it makes us money (live animal export), is farmed fish OK despite the fact that it will take a huge amount of wild fish to feed that fish, is it environmentally wise to continue to support the livestock industry when it is one of the biggest contributers to carbon emissions and global warming, is it OK to suffocate male chicks or mince them alive so we can have eggs (including free range) ?” And the list goes on. You will probably find yourself answering a resounding “no” to each of these questions. No, it is not right, nor kind, nor intelligent, nor logical.

These days we have the internet so everything you need to know is at your finger tips, for free. There are some great movies and books available too. Here are a few resources to get you started on your learning journey (or you may find what you are after in one of my previous posts ?).

I gain a lot of my knowledge from Voiceless and Animals Australia and love One Green Planet’s tips, recipes and wisdom which arrive in my in box a few times a week. There are also these great sources……which I’ve either read / watched or have been highly recommended.

Documentaries available on the internet

Lucent – set inside regular intensive piggeries around Australia

Earthlings –  narrated by Joaquin Phoenix with soundtrack by Moby

Books

The Ethics Of What We Eat – Peter Singer

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows – Melanie Joy

Farmageddon – Philip Lymberry (I am currently reading this intriguing book which reveals the true cost of cheap meat)

The Pig Who Sang to the Moon – Jeffrey Mason

Movies

Black Fish

Project Nim

Cowspiracy

This week’s post is dedicated to little Scully who, last week, was rescued from a factory farm but died a 4 days later from an illness related to her time on the intensive piggery. Thanks to the wonderful photography of Tamara Keneally who took this touching photo and has educated thousands through her simple, quiet images of farm animals at sale yards, on trucks etc where no words are needed to convey their message.

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My next quests are to learn more about how honey is produced and how to source medication which has not been tested on animals. There is so much I want to learn and, yes, my lifestyle habits will no doubt continually evolve as a result. I would love to hear what you have learnt about which has led to a change in your life or something you would like to learn about in order to live a kinder existence.

 

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All things Cheesey

Posted by on Sep 21, 2013 in Dairy | 2 comments

“The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That is the essence of inhumanity” – George Bernard Shaw

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Kite Hill vegan cheese

Cheese, or should I say, the absence thereof in it’s conventional form, is a tricky topic. The removal of dairy from ones diet due to ethical reasons has, at first glance, a whiff of hippy extremism about it. (“I can understand about the pigs in the cages but, not eating cheese, WHAT ?!? You have completely lost me on this one” – quote from my dad). That is, until you start researching the reasons why people choose to give it up. I do believe that if we all watched videos of mother cows running and bellowing after their calf being taken away on the back of a ute, viewed rows of immobile, miserable calves in veal crates or watched footage of baby cows who are barely able to walk being stunned and pushed down a shoot to be slaughtered just like rubbish into a bin, any compassionate person would or should question the origin of cheese (or any other dairy product).

The facts are basic. Cows need to give birth to a calf each year to produce milk which humans use for yogurt, milk, cheese etc. The calf is taken away from it’s mother at the tender age of around 5 days of age. Male calves are considered waste products of the industry and are killed. Our laws to protect them from suffering are woefully inadequate (for example, baby calves on their way to the abattoir can be legally denied food for up to 30 hours). Their mum’s are killed when their milk production wanes.

The silent suffering of these most vulnerable of animals – mothers and babies in the far away land of sale yards, dairy farms and abattoirs remains hidden from most of us. Which makes it very easy for us to forget about what really does happen out there.

I have room for improvement in my cheese eating habits. I still eat a bit of Barambah Fetta and Cheddar Cheese (see my  “kind dairies” post). I also sometimes come up with excuses to eat a bit of “ordinary” cheese now and again but I want to be stronger in my resolve. I want to think about where my food comes from and what animal has suffered for my greed, desires, laziness or lack of thought. I am trying to be a kinder, more thoughtful eater.

Thankfully, I am on the path of discovering the world of non diary cheese and, much to my surprise,  it is tasty learning curve.  Non dairy cheese can be made at home with recipes varying in their complexity. I have made a couple – see my ricotta recipe here. I have many more waiting in the wings.

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Botanical Cuisine vegan cheese

Non dairy cheese can also be bought with relative ease. I have made some recent delectable discoveries, some of which I even prefer to “normal” cheese. Botanical Cuisine’s range is out of this world – the Lemon and Dill is blissful. Also it is Australian which is appealing. Most other non dairy cheese on the market is made overseas.

Here’s a few brands which I would recommend to Buy :

Tofutti – regular or sour cream is a good replacement for cream / sour cream cheese and can be found in supermarkets and health food shops. Affordable and can always be found in our fridge. Was not so keen on their “better than ricotta” and much preferred my home made version !

Vegusto No-Moo cheese – expensive – around $10 for 200g but so convincingly “cheese like” that I will continue to buy it. I also like the fact that it is palm oil free which seems a rarity. I found it at Dr Earth in Newtown but it can be bought online too (including Cruelty Free Shop and Vegan on line). I spied it on the weekend too for sale in my favourite Blue Mountains bakery / café – Rubyfruit (which, by the way, has the best pies and cupcakes I have ever tasted – all completely free of animal products).

Redwood Cheezly. Great variety of types such as “Blue Style” and “Melting Mozzarella”. Can be found at the Cruelty Free Shop and Vegan On line. Affordable and dependable.

Sheese – have spied these cream and hard cheeses in a few places like Harris Farm and Thomas Dux. Great to mix through pastas. Have the “Smoked Cheddar Style” waiting for me in our fridge (I bought it at Dr Earth in Newtown).

If only Dr Cow and Kite Hill (see top photo) would make their way to Australia. Kite Hill does the full on, aged camemberts and the like with such authenticity and rave reviews that I am having the worst of kind of vegan cheese envy possible.

Learn to make your own dairy free cheese

Here are a few recipes to get you tantalised !

Parmesan made With Cashews

Almond “feta cheese’ spread with herb oil

Another Feta Cheese version (thanks Bed and Broccoli for this one)

Vegan cheese – good for on crackers 

Non-dairy Baked Nut Cheese

Dairy Free Brie

Cashew Cream Cheese

Soft Cheese Platter

Marscapone

Rustic Pumpkin Cheese ravioli

Macaroni Cheese

The health issues surrounding the consumption of dairy are beyond the scope of this little post but I have read as many articles denouncing the health benefits of dairy as those promoting it so the jury is out. Calcium does not only come from dairy products but is found, in high doses, in the following foods – soy, nuts, seeds (especially sesame seeds), sardines, tinned salmon with edible soft bones, legumes, dried figs, whole grains and broccoli and kale.

A few suggestions on how to make some kinder choices

Say no to dairy cheese. Buy or make a vegan cheese and be baffled by how convincingly cheese like they can taste (not all of them, mind you !)

If you want to continue to eat conventional dairy cheese, try and buy from the “kind dairies“. These dairies treat their cows and environment better than conventional ones. Usual story, yes, it is usually more expensive but just eat less or it and / or try a vegan cheese here and there. Remember too that most cheese contains rennet which is an enzyme derived from the stomach of baby cows. Become a label stalker and ensure that  “non animal rennet” is listed as an ingredient.

Instead of cheese, try a delicious diary free dip / spread on sandwiches, pasta etc. I made this delicious pesto yesterday. Hummus is always a great, protein rich option too.

Sponsor a bobby calf at Edgars Mission, Brightside or one of the other wonderful sanctuaries around the country.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Non Dairy Milk

Posted by on Apr 14, 2013 in Dairy | 2 comments

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Ghandi

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My quest to discover a kinder way to live has led to the dairy products in my diet undergoing a gigantic revamp. Have a read of my “dairy” post to find out what has caused my shift away from dairy. I do want to continue to supp0rt the “kinder dairies” though so am not doing away with dairy for good but I am consuming a lot less of it and am enjoying discovering the multitude of alternatives out there.IMGP6094

I will continue on all things dairy for the next few weeks and give you some delightful alternatives to cheese, milk, yogurt, icecream, cream, butter and so on so there is no deprivation involved – only some doors opening into a brand new, kinder culinary world.

You only need to cruise the long life milk section of the supermarket to find the plethora of milk aternatives on display. The photo above shows the variety of “milks” or whatever you wish to refer to them as, lurking in my kitchen cupboard but my chosen few are :

* Bonsoy. At around $4.50 for 500ml it is not cheap but I only use it in coffee so a carton lasts me for the week. I now understand the uproar a few years ago when it was banned from our supermarket shelves for a short time. Good cafes use it as it wins hands down as a milk substitute for your coffee. I now even prefer it to regular milk. It takes a couple of practice runs to get the heating issue just right. It will congeal if you put hot water into it cold so you need to heat it first. I fill a third of the cup I am using to have my coffee in and heat it for 45 secs on med high in the microwave.

* Regular So Good Soy milk is my “milk” of choice for cooking creamy sauces if you’re not after  a coconuty flavour (for Asian dishes, coconut milk is the best – why did I neglect to include this delightful substance from my photo ?!?!). Soy milk is very affordable to buy and easy to find.

* Almond milk is my favourite of the milks for smoothies, porridge and cereals. The So Good Almond Milk is sweetish and great tasting. Again, pretty affordable these days. If you are very enthusiastic, you can even make your own almond milk which I am very keen to try….less packaging and cheaper.

* For travel, the little soy creamers are handy. I bought mine from The Cruelty Free Shop who, along with Vegan Online, sell some delicious looking coffee creamers which I intend to stock up on for my impending trip overseas.

So, get cracking with some dairy free cooking. My recipe of the week, a moussaka-esque dish but better,  uses soy for it’s creamy sauce and it was divine. If I may say so myself.

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Kind Dairies

Posted by on Mar 8, 2013 in Dairy | 4 comments

“I’m only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I will not refuse to do the something I can do” – Helen Keller

Moving on from the sad truth behind the conventional dairy farm onto some posts about what you CAN do to make some kinder choices when it comes to dairy products.

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I am working through all the dilemmas which come with making kinder food choices and have reached the point where I am still consuming a small amount of dairy (predominantly feta cheese and Greek yogurt) but it is only at home and only from one producer – “Baramah Organics” (and the yogurt containers are good for food storage, hence nutty container collection in photo !).

I plan to gradually eliminate dairy from my diet – due to the similarities to the “humane meat” oxymoron….despite the fact that these cows appear to lead good lives (and I am referring to the lucky few who live on the “kind” dairies) and that their farmers should be supported for the care they give to their land and animals, I personally do not feel comfortable with any animal being forced to go through the ordeal of becoming pregnant and giving birth every year just so her milk, meant for her baby, can be consumed by humans. And, after she can no longer give us any milk, she still ends up facing an undignified and premature end at the abattoir which does not seem fair. No other adult animal does this (steals milk from another species) and it is undeniably exploitative of us greedy humans to force an animal to produce milk year after year just because it tastes nice and we can.

Additionally, the health claims associated with dairy food are some what dubious….after all, the Japanese, one of the lowest consumers of dairy in the world, consistently achieve the greatest longevity. More and more people are becoming lactose intolerant and I have learnt that calcium can be easily gleaned from plant based sources and the delicious recipes using dairy alternatives are endless – I am  learning to cook without cheese, cream etc and am loving it (as is my waist line – let’s face it, cheese makes you fat !).

In the meantime, however, I have a partner who has no desire to say farewell to dairy so….we’ll do the best we can in our little household to keep us all happy.

The run down on the kind dairies that have caught my eye in Australia is as follows  (I have fixated on the bobby calf issue as this is the aspect of dairy farming which I find the most confronting). These farms are all superior to conventional dairies (ie the industrialised ones which produce the cheap milk and cheese found everywhere) in respect of how they look after their animals and land and their cheeses contain non animal rennet (regular cheese contains rennet which is sourced from the stomach of calves). The milk, cheese and yogurts from these dairies are significantly more expensive than your standard supermarket milk / cheese but, at least by spending a bit more, you are less likely to over consume and contribute to the world’s insatiable demand for cheap dairy products. Plus, you can be satisfied that the farmers who are going out of their way to do the right thing are being paid for their efforts (as opposed to the ridiculously cheap milk being sold by Woolies and Coles – what better way to bankrupt Australian farmers and create sad, unhealthy animals hey ?). Plus, they taste so much better than your average milk and cheese.

Barambah Organics

This dairy is located in Queensland. To quote from their website “At Barambah Organics all the calves that are born on our property stay within our care. Our calves are not considered by us to be waste products.

At the age of 6 months we take the females to another one of our properties which is 20kms from the dairy farm. There they have 1,300 acres to roam, and we take the males to our 1,000 acre property at Murgon. No Barambah calves are sent to the abattoir.”

They produce unbelievably delicious yogurt, milk, labna and cheeses and they are getting easier to find at the shops , Australia wide.

Elgaar Farm

Another dairy which obviously cares deeply for it’s animals. I find their products a bit harder to source in Sydney (although their products – milk, cheeses, yogurts, cream and butter – are sold at Dr Earth, Newtown). Like Barambah, the calves are not separated from their mothers until they are much older and the cows are retired on the property when they have outlived their milking days rather than being sold to the abattoir. They offer a cash incentive to return the containers. Read more about this kind Tasmanian dairy here.

B-d Farm Paris Creek

This dairy is in South Australia and it’s products are readily found in health food shops and some smaller supermarkets. Their calves spend a few days with their mother before being placed in a group of calves and their mother still feeds them before she is sent for milking. The dairy tries to sell the male calves to local farms but sends to nearby abattoir after several months if there are too many. They have a good range of yogurt and cheeses including Bries and Camemberts.

Mungalli Creek Dairy

Another Queensland dairy doing the right thing. I wrote an email to them and received a very comprehensive reply detailing the care they take in respect of their land and animals. The calves are kept with their mothers until old enough to be removed into a group of calves. The male calves are usually given to neighbouring farms and if there is a surplus, they are humanely euthanased and buried on the property. (Still sad but so preferable than what happens on the conventional dairy farm).

The Mindful Foodie, one of my favourite blogs, has written a similar article about the dairy dilemma and has also included information on 2 kind sounding goat dairies (which face the same issues as cow dairies in terms of the unwanted male offspring) – Hindmarsh Valley and Holy Goat in Victoria. Goat cheese from Nimbin Valley in NSW appears worthy of note too, from an animal welfare perspective.

Best practice is to have an inquiring mind and ask questions – particularly at Farmers Markets where cheeses etc from smaller dairies are often sold. Or, send an email to the company – from my experience, most appear pretty obliging and are happy to answer questions.

Keep an open mind about trying some dairy substitutes which will be my next dairy related blog topic………..whilst on the topic, I am off to whip up a vegetarian lasagna with cashew cream “cheese” for tonight’s dinner…if it is presentable to the public eye  (some of my creations are far from it) I will even share it with you ! X

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Dairy – the sad truth

Posted by on Feb 22, 2013 in Dairy | 10 comments

“I became a vegan the day I watched a calf being born on a factory farm. The baby was dragged away from his mother before he hit the ground. The helpless calf strained its head backwards to find its mother. The mother bolted after her son and exploded into a rage when the rancher slammed the gate on her. She wailed the saddest noise I’d ever heard an animal make, and then thrashed and dug into the ground burying her face in the muddy placenta. I had no idea what was happening respecting brain chemistry, animal instinct or whatever. I just knew that this was deeply wrong. I just knew that such suffering could never be worth the taste of milk and veal. I empathised with the cow and the calf and, in doing so, my life changed” – James McWilliam.

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Like the majority of people, I have grown up eating and loving dairy products – milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, cream and all those other delicious concoctions. Up until recently, I thought that milk was just a by product of a happy animal and was pleased that I was eating healthily and keeping my bones strong . Plus, I loved the taste.

It has only been over the last 18 months or so that I have been educating myself on what goes on behind the scenes in the dairy industry that I have had my light bulb moment in realising that the dairy industry is not the kind, wholesome and healthy one I believed it to be. Once again, consumer demand for cheap and abundant milk has led to the demise of the small, family run dairy farm – to be replaced by the equivalent of factory farms to deliver the $1 litre milk and cheap cheese we are used to seeing in the supermarkets.

So, to begin with, some facts and figures about the dairy industry in Australia today :

* The typical Australian dairy cow is inseminated each year so she can have a calf each year so she will produce milk. Her calf is taken from her usually within the first 24 hours of it’s birth so her milk can be used for human consumption. She is inseminated again and the cycle continues. This video from Animals Australia shows it how it is.

* The separation process of the mother and calf is deeply distressing for both. Cows are doting mothers and they will mourn the loss of their baby. There is endless footage on the internet clearly showing the confusion and saddness of the mother when her baby is taken away.

* The average dairy cow is sent to slaughter at 5 years of age, when her milk supplies dwindle and her body succumbs to illness. She would otherwise live to 20-25 years.

* 700,000 male calves (bobby “worth a bob” calves) are sent to slaughter, usually around 5 days of age. They are considered waste products of the industry. The female calves are destined for a life identical to their mothers.

* A calf will suckle about 5 times per day if left with his mother but it is legal in Australia for the calf to be denied any food or water (known as Time Off Feed) for 30 hours prior to it’s slaughter.

* Many dairy cows suffer from painful and untreated lameness and mastitis and their bodies are pushed beyond their limits to produce the maximum amount of milk possible.

* Australia imports an enormous amount of cheese so it is worth considering the even less fortunate life of a dairy cow overseas. In Europe, normal practice is for the cows to be permanently tethered indoors – some without even being allowed the natural urge to lie down. And, veal crates are abundant. By buying imported cheeses, you are unwittingly supporting these dreadful practices.

* The handling of the fragile calves during transport and at the abattoir is often rough and violent and they are not protected by CCTV footage. Undercover footage at the Riverside Meats abattoir in Echuca, Victoria, revealed its workers cruelly treating the calves. This was shown in ABC’s Lateline a few weeks ago and can be viewed here.

* This article shared by Voiceless eloquently discusses the whimsical yet skewed view a lot of us hold about the dairy industry.

* If, as a result of learning about the plight of the dairy cows and their calves, you are seeking to reduce or eliminate dairy from your diet, my following posts will cover some delicious dairy free substitutes and recipes and who to contact to voice your concern about how the dairy industry is allowed to operate.

* If you would still like to keep dairy in your diet but want to source your products from kinder dairies, I will be discussing that too so…….stay tuned !  X

There is an enormous amount of information out there and the following, factual articles are ones worth reading should you want to learn more.

* Dairy Cows Fact Sheet thanks to Animals Australia

* A life of quiet suffering – the dairy cow thanks to Voiceless

* Dairy Cows courtesy of Compassion in World Farming

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