Text # 48 Killing Fields: The True Cost of Europe's Cheap Meat

Andrew Wesley 13th October, 2009 the Ecologist

Much of the cheap meat and dairy produce sold in supermarkets across Europe is arriving as a result of serious human rights abuses and environmental damage in one of Latin America's most impoverished countries, according to a new film launched in conjunction with the Ecologist Film Unit.

An investigation in Paraguay has discovered that vast plantations of soy, principally grown for use in intensively-farmed animal feed, are responsible for a catalogue of social and ecological problems, including the forced eviction of rural communities, poverty, and excessive use of pesticides, deforestation and rising food insecurity.

Protein king

Soy is prized for use in animal feed as it provides a cheap source of protein for poultry, pigs and other animals that require fast growth in order to produce large meat, egg and milk yields. The EU ban on the use of bone meal and other animal by-products in agricultural feed has driven demand for soy as a principal feedstuff. Globally it has been estimated that as much as 97 per cent of soy meal produced is now used for animal feed.

Attracted by cheap land prices, poor environmental monitoring and low taxation on agricultural export products, Paraguay is viewed as an ideal country in which to do business. In recent decades increasing chunks of rural land have been bought up and turned over to export-orientated soy cultivation.

Paraguay is now the world's sixth largest producer of soy, and the fourth largest exporter. Vast quantities are exported to neighboring Argentina, from where much of the crop is shipped to China to supply the country's growing demand for animal feed.

The EU is the second largest importer of Paraguayan soy, with Germany, Italy and the Netherlands among the biggest customers.

Food supplies shrink

The arrival of export-orientated soy production in Paraguay has led to forest destruction to make way for crops, according to critics, threatening biodiversity and depleting resources vital for many rural communities.

In testimonies collected by investigators from villages adjacent to soy plantations, local people complain that there is no longer an abundance of food and other produce.

'We indigenous people used to live from the forests, animals, fruits... now we cannot do that any more because we are surrounded by ranches,' Jose Dolores Berraro says. 'It's an invasion because instead of reforesting they come to deplete natural resources and these forests.'

Chemical use

Industrial scale soy production, particularly for genetically modified (GM) crops – some 90 per cent of Paraguay's soy is now thought to be GM – is dependent on the use of powerful pesticides which lead to environmental degradation and a negative health impacts on people living near to soy farms.

Crop spraying has polluted important water sources in many rural regions, say campaigners, poisoning both domestic and wild animals, threatening plant life, and resulting in a number of health problems in people, including genetic malformations, headaches, loss of sight and even death. Statistics compiled by pressure groups suggest that as much as 23 million liters of pesticides and herbicides are sprayed in Paraguay each year, including several that have been classified by the World Health Organization as being 'extremely hazardous'.

Armed response

Paraguay has a long history of land conflict, and the arrival of large scale soy farming has been met with significant resistance from many rural communities. Peasant and indigenous organizations have repeatedly organized protests and blockades to prevent pesticide spraying.

But the response from soy farmers, often backed up by police and the authorities, has been with violent evictions, frequent shootings and beatings – resulting in numerous injuries and deaths – as well as arbitrary detentions and frequent disappearances.

In one of the worst incidents to date, during the forced eviction of the peasant community at Tekojaja, in Caaguaza, soy farmers – reportedly under the protection of police and soldiers – forcibly removed some 270 people from the village, including children, arrested 130, set fire to crops and bulldozed houses, before shooting dead two inhabitants, Angel Cristaldo and Leopoldo Torres.

Such cases are far from unique – peasant organizations have compiled a detailed dossier of violent repression linked to the soy industry in Paraguay – and pressure groups are keen to highlight this seldom-reported human cost of intensive farming.

Since the beginning of the soy boom in Paraguay in 1990, it has been estimated that as many as 100,000 small-scale farmers have been forced to migrate to cities – with about 9000 rural families evicted because of soy production annually. Upon arrival in urban areas, many families are forced into slums and struggle to adapt. With few employment opportunities and little state assistance, many face a life of poverty.



 Comprehension Questions:

1. In general – what do you know about the situation with soy growing abroad?

2. What is the soy mainly grown for?

3. What is the situation with soy fields in Paraguay?

4. Why is soy prized for use in animal feed?

5. Why is Paraguay viewed as an ideal country to do agricultural business in?

6. Why does soy farming lead to food supplies shrink in Paraguay?

7. What consequences do chemicals produce on the surrounding nature and people?

8. Are people content with the situation around their villages? What steps do they take?

9. How do the authorities response to local people’s protests?

10. What do local people do when they are forced to leave their native land and go to the city?



Text #49 Reality Television

Reality television is a genre of television programming which, it is claimed, presents unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and features ordinary people rather than professional actors. It could be described as a form of artificial or "heightened" documentary. Although the genre has existed in some form or another since the early years of television, the current explosion of popularity dates from around 2000.

Reality television covers a wide range of television programming formats, from game or quiz shows which resemble the frantic, often demeaning programmes produced in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s (a modern example is Gaki no tsukai), to surveillance- or voyeurism- focused productions such as Big Brother.

Critics say that the term "reality television" is somewhat of a misnomer and that such shows frequently portray a modified and highly influenced form of reality, with participants put in exotic locations or abnormal situations, sometimes coached to act in certain ways by off-screen handlers, and with events on screen manipulated through editing and other post-production techniques.

Part of reality television's appeal is due to its ability to place ordinary people in extraordinary situations. For example, on the ABC show, The Bachelor, an eligible male dates a dozen women simultaneously, travelling on extraordinary dates to scenic locales. Reality television also has the potential to turn its participants into national celebrities, outwardly in talent and performance programs such as Pop Idol, though frequently Survivor and Big Brother participants also reach some degree of celebrity.

Some commentators have said that the name "reality television" is an inaccurate description for several styles of program included in the genre. In competition-based programs such as Big Brother and Survivor, and other special-living-environment shows like The Real World, the producers design the format of the show and control the day-to-day activities and the environment, creating a completely fabricated world in which the competition plays out. Producers specifically select the participants, and use carefully designed scenarios, challenges, events, and settings to encourage particular behaviours and conflicts. Mark Burnett, creator of Survivor and other reality shows, has agreed with this assessment, and avoids the word "reality" to describe his shows; he has said, "I tell good stories. It really is not reality TV. It really is unscripted drama."

 True/ False

1. Reality TV features only ordinary people.

2. This kind of television is defined as a form of artificial documentary.

3. Reality television reached its highest point of popularity in 2005.

4. Participants are put in exotic locations and abnormal situations.

5. Off-screen handlers sometimes coach the participants to act in certain ways.

6. This kind of TV has no potential to turn its candidates into celebrities.

7. The following shows are mentioned in the text: the ABC show, The Bachelor, Pop Idol, Survivor, Big Brother and Great British Hairdresser.

8. Big Brother and Survival are both competition-based and entertaining programs.

9. Usually the producers design the format of the show and control the day-to-day activities and the environment, creating a completely fabricated world in which competition plays out.

10.Mark Burnett avoids the word “reality” to describe his show.        

Multiple choice questions :

1. In the first line, the writer says 'it is claimed' because

a/ they agree with the statement.

b/ everyone agrees with the statement.

c/ no one agrees with the statement.

d/ they want to distance themselves from the statement.

2. Reality television has              

a/ always been this popular.

b/ has been popular since well before 2000.

c/ has only been popular since 2000.

d/ has been popular since approximately 2000.

3. Japan

a/ is the only place to produce demeaning TV shows.

b/ has produced demeaning TV shows copied elsewhere.

c/ produced Big Brother.

d/ invented surveillance focused productions.

4. People have criticised reality television because

a/ it is demeaning

b/ it uses exotic locations

c/ the name is inaccurate.

d/ it shows reality

5. Reality TV appeals to some because

a/ it shows eligible males dating women.

b/ it uses exotic locations.

c/ it shows average people in exceptional circumstances

d/ it can turn ordinary people into celebrities.

6. Pop Idol

a/ turns all its participants into celebrities

b/ is more likely to turn its particiapants into celebrities than Big Brother

c/ is less likely to turn its particiapants into celebrities than Big Brother.

d/ is a dating show

7. The term 'reality television' is inaccurate

a/ for all programs.

b/ just for Big Brother and Survivor.

c/ for talent and performance programs.

d/ for special-living-environment programs.

8. Producers choose the participants

a/ on the ground of talent.

b/ only for special-living-environment shows.

c/ to create conflict among other things

d/ to make a fabricated world.

9. Mark Burnett

a/ was a participant on Survivor.

b/ is a critic of reality TV

c/ thinks the term 'reality television' is inaccurate

d/ writes the script for Survivor.

10. Shows like Survivor

a/ are definitely reality TV.

b/ are scripted

c/ have good narratives.

d/ are theatre.



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