Monday, March 16, 2015

The Rise of the Factory Farm

The olden days of humane treatment of animals drawing to an end.
It is fascinating to see how polarized our treatment of animals has become as of late. On one hand, we have pets. We love them, cuddle them, take care of them, and mourn them when they die. It is not unheard of to see people treating their animal companions as if they were human kids. However, in those very societies where pets are made out to be gods, a very different reality is in store for those animals that are meant to be food. The horror that awaits them is factory farming.

Factory farming goes on by many names, including intensive animal farming and industrial livestock production. It involves industrial approach to producing meat and eggs, by combining machinery, low input/high output approach and high density of animal population for purposes of meeting market demand and increasing profit. Needless to say, the practice is extremely controversial and inhumane.

What gave rise to this practice? Simply put, consumerism. Large quantity of meat and eggs needs to be produced, and factory farms are more than willing to oblige. Have in mind that the old approach to farm animals wasn’t an emotional one. While a farmer may grow close to a certain animal, but in general, animals were seen as food. Dogs and cats were seen for their utilitarian value (for keeping out the intruders, for herding, for hunting vermin). But for all the lack of emotional connection, animals had a good diet and were, as far as the farmer could allow, keeping fit by taking them to grazing. 

In farm factories, things aren’t as picturesque. Animals are held at an extremely high density in order to increase the produce, whether in meat or eggs. This, of course, leads to questionable hygiene of the place and the subsequent quality of the products sold. Animals are typically deprived of sunlight and fresh air, not to mention all the stress and physical injuries caused by overcrowding. Since animals have difficulty developing in such conditions, they are administered antibiotics and growth hormones to promote their growth. Should an infection break out, the lack of proximity practically prevents any kind of pestilence prevention.

Chicken are usually factory farmed, due to them producing both meat and eggs. Hens are kept either in individual cages when they’re kept for eggs, or allowed to ‘roam’ the factory premises in large groups. In order to prevent injury, chicks that are intended for meat are debeaked – that is to say, their beaks are shortened without anesthetic in order to prevent pecking and aggression.

The movement of animals is a special problem of factory farms. At best, animals are allowed to roam the building in overcrowded conditions. At worst, they’re not allowed to move at all, bound in cages and crates. Movement is seen as undesirable as it makes meat more muscled and sinewy. However, despite ethical concerns this solution raises, it creates one additional sort of problem. Lack of movement, coupled with overcrowding, means that animals need to be administered antibiotics on regular basis in order to keep the infections in check.

The antibiotics used in animal farming are a special sort concern. Instead of giving animals antibiotics as the final approach in order to regulate disease, animals are administered antibiotics on regular basis, as a substitution for a normal mode of life (which includes chemical-free food, grazing, movement and sunlight). It is estimated that 70% of all antibacterial medicine obtained for animal use are intended for non-therapeutic use.
To make the matters worse, all that antibiotic residue clings within animal meat long after the animal has been slaughtered, entering human system. This has lead to a sharp increase in antibiotic-resistant microorganisms.

But all of this should come as no surprise. In today’s world where genetically modified food is increasing its market share, concerns about its health effects are starting to rise, not in the least because good deal of studies that assert that GMO food is healthy as much as organic one are financed by the GMO companies themselves.  

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