Help the pigs and help society
On paper, you might imagine that Tracy, Marchioness of Worcester, would be deeply embedded into "the establishment".
After all, she is married to a marquess. Her father-in-law is the Duke of Beaufort, and she's raised her family of little lords and ladies in their home on the Badminton Estate in Gloucestershire – complete with all the trappings of aristocratic privilege to which she was well accustomed during her own childhood on the family's grand estate at Cornwell, in Oxfordshire.
But when she arrives in the kitchen and drops a couple of tea bags into mugs, there is nothing to suggest that her great- grandfather, the Earl of Dudley, was the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland and Governor General of Australia.
Indeed, to see her multi-coloured knitted jumper, complete with protest movement- style pin badge emblazoned with "Campaign for Honest Money", you could be forgiven for thinking she might look more at home chained to a tree with Swampy.
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It's been 20 years since the former actress and model began working with Friends of the Earth.
Ever since, she has been active in green politics as patron of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, a trustee of the Gaia Foundation, the Schumacher Society and the Bath Environment Centre, patron of the Soil Association, and a member of the advisory board of The Ecologist magazine and of the International Forum on Globalisation.
Despite being born into the nobility, she is far from embedded in the establishment. In fact, to a great extent, she's spent the past two decades railing against it.
But Tracy, who celebrated her 50th birthday just before Christmas, is preparing for her biggest challenge yet – taking on what she perceives as cruelty and maltreatment in the international pig farming industry.
She has spent the past four years producing a revelatory documentary, Pig Business, which looks set to kick up a stink in pig sties across the world when it's broadcast on More4 next month.
"I've done public speaking on farming issues for years, but you reach a point where you're trying to address so many issues that it's rather like trying to shift chairs on the Titanic," Tracy explains as she leads the way upstairs into her office.
"So I decided to focus in on the root cause – namely the corporate takeover of farming – and reclaiming our food quality and security by buying local. But to me, the single most emotive issue is the way pigs are treated in industrial-scale farms.
"I'm convinced that if consumers knew about it, they simply wouldn't buy these cheap pork products that are imported into the country."
The documentary, which was well-received at its unveiling at the Royal Society of Arts in November, highlights some of the practices on these farms – which are largely in Poland.
"The film shows footage of pigs living for months in steel crates too small even to lie down in while they are pregnant, and reveals how pig waste pollutes drinking water and makes beautiful lakes unsafe to swim in," she says.
"We also show how the routine use of antibiotics to prevent diseases spreading throughout the crowded barns increases the danger of MRSA and e.coli entering the food chain.
"If shoppers would only look behind the label in the ways my film describes, they will see that by exercising their consumer power, they can buy humanely-produced pork, and at the same time they can protect our independent farmers," she adds.
"Our farmers would then be able to improve their standards to produce human, animal and environment-friendly pork.
"The fact is, pigs are more intelligent than dogs, and we all worship our pet dogs – so how can we sit back and allow pigs to chew each others' tails off through sheer boredom and despair in their dark pens? We shouldn't torture them before we eat them."
Tracy says she doesn't necessarily blame consumers for buying cheap pork in the middle of the current recession. She doesn't even blame the farmers who maintain these practices.
"I blame the system, and in particular the all-powerful banks and global corporations that rule over every element of our lives," she says.
"Today, the Western world is based entirely around a corporate establishment that continually undermines our lives and our democracy.
"Banks and big business run everything, and they're so powerful, to speak out against them lands you in the type of legal hassles I have faced for the past seven months while preparing the film for broadcast.
"We've had to be so careful with what we can and cannot say in the film, because big companies are so excessively powerful these days. If what we want to tell consumers undermines their ability to sell their products, the law favours them rather than free speech.
"The legal implications are so horrendous that most filmmakers only tackle the corporate takeover with actors so they can't be sued.
"Everybody thinks they're too big to take on. And unfortunately, the first priority of big corporations is to their shareholders and the banks – long before their customers and the animals in their care.
"Did God actually dictate that everything should be controlled by a group of faceless corporate beasts?" Tracy asks, hissing with her distaste for big business.
"Unfortunately, the banks have everyone living in the stranglehold of debt – debt is unjust, stressful and enslaving.
"Some people look at big estates like this and say how good it is that we've moved on from the times when a few families had control over everyone.
"But to be honest, I think people were happier in feudal England than they are under the new regime of corporate feudalism," she says, pausing to acknowledge the fact that with her aristocratic genes, she is perhaps not in the strongest position to make an argument for the return of feudalism.
"But I do think we should try to return to a simpler way of life," Tracy continues passionately. "There's absolutely no reason why we couldn't all live more happily without the accumulation of material wealth being the driving force in our lives.
"The bottom line is: the planet cannot sustain our continuing plundering of her resources.
"For most of our needs, we could exchange and barter with our neighbours quite happily, learning from the past and present rural communities, as opposed to the current situation where we have been herded into cities to work for big faceless corporations each day. Is this really progress?
"Actually, I think success is about being self-sufficient, and often that means being as freelance and independent as possible – no matter what you do for a living."
Tracy admits she's lucky to have had her privileged background.
"That's the only thing that's allowed me to spend four years producing an informative, but financially draining, television documentary. If you're not already rich, how else could you afford to spend so much time doing something without financial reward?
"That's exactly my point," she adds. "People are unable to do the things in life they really enjoy – like growing, cooking, building, creating and caring for their family and community.
"Everything depends on earning to pay the mortgage, the car, the supermarket product, which all too often means a dull, stressful and meaningless job. We have plenty of psychiatrists and anti-depressant pills, but perhaps we should be looking at the life we are being forced to lead.
"If you go to the supposedly impoverished Third World, you begin to realise that they may not have money, but they do still have a great deal of self-sufficiency, supportive rural communities, strong family structures and a tremendous amount of day-to-day happiness."
Tracy stops to catch her breath and takes a glance out of the window across the gentle landscape of the Badminton Estate, before she continues.
"I've already decided what my next documentary will be about," she says. "I'm going to look at families living with debt, and how debt has become so central to Western life when banks dictate the rules of the game. And most importantly, how we can avoid it.
"As you can probably tell," she laughs, "it's another subject I feel very passionately about."
Pig Business is broadcast on More4 on Tuesday, February 3, as part of Channel 4's Great British Food Fight season.