By Valda Redfern
Last week, on a glorious autumn afternoon, I walked to my local farm shop - about three miles across the fields. As I ambled down the farm driveway, I took the opportunity to inspect the pigs and chickens.
The pig pen was a large area of bare soil, big enough for a small herd to run about in, with little pig huts in the middle. Some of the pigs were running - they seemed to be playing, making mad dashes at one another and then veering away at the last moment. As I watched, one snuffled the soil and then shoved his snout into it, digging and snorting with every appearance of enjoyment, rather like a dog unearthing a bone. All the pigs looked lean and agile.
A little further down the drive I came to the two chicken coops. As I gazed at the first, the whole flock ran to the fence to get a look at me, jostling and clucking. Maybe they were just hoping to be fed, but they seemed intensely inquisitive. The chickens in the next coop behaved in just the same way, so I took a photo of them. They were as spry as the pigs, feathers glossy, eyes bright.
This week I took a different route and surprised a bullock dining apart from the rest of the herd. He was wary of me, but I didn't put him off his feed for long, and he soon went back to chomping at a tussock of grass. He was clean, vigorous and alert - a healthy animal, no more stressed than he needed to be, free to graze and free to run.
The chickens might have been better off with a few trees in their environment, and I don't know exactly what either they or the pigs got to eat, or whether the bullock's grazing was supplemented with other feed; but all the animals I saw on my country walks behaved like healthy animals.
These animals exist to feed human beings. So do the listless animals on factory farms. Nowadays the only ones I care to eat are those raised in environments suited to their natures.