As the U.S. Population began to explode in the 1950’s the American food production system had to evolve to keep pace. Food was then being supplied by small farms but the competitive nature to keep prices low brought in the birth of factory farming. The Meat industry soon realized the larger the operation, the lower the cost, the higher the profits. Over the decades this process has evolved into an integrated industrialized system focused on production and profit. While the family farm implied caring for the land, and nurturing the animals, the factory farm’s focus is on production at the demise of the land and animals.
This essay will examine the rights and wrongs of Factory Farming. Do we as individuals and a nation have moral responsibilities tied to our food? What are the consequences? And does it really matter? “The livestock and poultry [industries] account for over half of U.S. agricultural cash receipts, often exceeding $100 billion per year” (USDA). The beef industry alone exported in “2011: 2.788 billion pounds, $5.042 billion or 10.6% of that year’s total production” (USDA). Our current factory farming system, with the help of federal subsidizes has allowed every American family the luxury of meat and dairy with every meal. Americas food industries; grocery stores, fast food restaurants and dine in restaurants are structured on meat products. Our nation economically is tied to factory farming. “Although economically not a major global player, the livestock sector is socially and politically very significant. It accounts for 40 percent of agricultural gross domestic product(GDP). It employs 1.3 billion people and creates livelihoods for one billion of the world’s poor. Livestock products provide one-third of humanity’s protein intake.” (Food) The U.S. is emotionally married to their meat and dairy foods; hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, milk, ice cream, eggs and bacon. But we must wonder at what cost; to our health, to the animals, and to our planet?
Every aspect of factory farming has been built on immoral and inhumane practices. We will look at three areas that have affected our lives and the entire planet. Our health, the farm animals and the environmental impact. The foods we eat influence the state of our health. As the CDC numbers reflect food related diseases have killed most Americans each year for several decades. “Number of deaths for leading causes of death in 2011:
• Heart disease: 597,689
• Cancer: 574,743
• Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
• Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476” (CDC)
“Heart disease, stroke and many cancers are directly tied to consumption of meat and dairy. As vegetarian and vegan diets lower the risk of these diseases” (Craig). Obesity is at epidemic levels with a two out of three Americans overweight and a third of our citizens obese. “Women who consumed the most high-fat dairy products were more likely to die during a 12-year follow-up, compared with those who consumed the least, according to a new study published by the National Cancer Institute” (Kroenke).
The U.S. consumer has been duped by the food and medical industries. As the meat ads proclaim “Beef it’s what’s for dinner” the nutritionists agree by stating it’s a complete protein. Meanwhile the doctors are quick to prescribe the magic pills for high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and all the other food related diseases. As Americans face the worst health crisis since the “black death” they continue to buy from the industry that is killing them.
“Over the past several decades, the phrase “animal husbandry” has become more ironic than referential. The care and upkeep of animals raised for human consumption has devolved into an industrial operation focused on maximizing economic return while paying little or no heed to the needs of the “stock.” Though rife with practices that might otherwise invite governmental scrutiny and criticism, industrial agriculture in the United States operates in a regulatory environment that endorses and subsidizes its methods….Factory-farm conditions vary depending on the species and the desired product.
The common denominator, however, is an almost single-minded focus on economic yield. Chickens, for example, might be “broilers” or egg producers. The nature of their confinement and length of their life depends on their designated function. Egg producers must be female, so all male chicks are destroyed shortly after birth. The females are debeaked, toe-clipped, and housed in a “grow-out” facility until they reach egg-producing age. They are then moved to the laying facility and stacked in wire “battery” cages, three to ten birds to a cage, with each cage measuring less than two feet square. Often, several hundred thousand birds occupy one building, stacked in cages eight tiers high….Severely overcrowded conditions, wire floors, continuous confinement and the rigors of accelerated egg production cause the hens’ productivity to plummet after roughly a year. They are then destroyed.
If designated as broilers, chicks (both male and female) are debeaked and toe-clipped and then packed by the tens of thousands in enormous sheds. After roughly six weeks of intense, overcrowded conditions on floors coated with manure and urine, during which time they constantly inhale the by-products of their waste, the birds reach market weight of approximately four pounds. They are then packed into crates and sent to slaughter. Other animals raised for food face analogous conditions.
Pigs are confined in pens so small they cannot turn around or groom themselves. Soon after birth, their tails are amputated, their teeth clipped, their ears notched, and males are castrated–all without anesthesia. Upon reaching breeding age, females are inseminated and then confined for months at a time in “gestation crates” too small to permit foraging or nest building. Shortly before birthing, they are transferred to a “farrowing crate” designed to prevent all activity except eating, drinking, and keeping teats exposed to the piglets. When the piglets are forcibly weaned after roughly nineteen days (fifty-six days is the norm under non-factory conditions), the breeding cycle begins again for the sows. When the sows become too weak to gestate, they are killed for slaughter.
The rigors suffered by chickens and pigs are not specific to their respective species. Cattle, rabbits, sheep, and all other animals raised under industrial farming conditions face similar travails. The laws regulating the factory-farm industry offer little protection to the factory-farm products.” (Cassuto) The numbers themselves are mind numbing, 10 billion animals a year in the U.S alone are slaughtered. Chickens are the number one animal with over 700 million a month, pigs at nearly 10 million, and cattle at just under 3 million a month. Today’s industrial farming system has no consideration for the animal, they are simply a production unit that humanity will eat, and at what cost?
“The world is moving towards increasing problems of freshwater shortage, scarcity and depletion, with 64 percent of the world’s population expected to live in water-stressed basins by 2025. The livestock sector is a key player in increasing water use, accounting for over 8 percent of global human water use, mostly for the irrigation of feed-crops. It is probably the largest sectoral source of water pollution, contributing to eutrophication, “dead” zones in coastal areas, degradation of coral reefs, human health problems, emergence of antibiotic resistance and many others. The major sources of pollution are from animal wastes, antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed-crops, and sediments from eroded pastures.
Global figures are not available but in the United States, with the world’s fourth largest land area, livestock are responsible for an estimated 55 percent of erosion and sediment, 37 percent of pesticide use, 50 percent of antibiotic use, and a third of the loads of nitrogen and phosphorus into freshwater resources. Livestock also affect the replenishment of freshwater by compacting soil, reducing infiltration, degrading the banks of watercourses, drying up floodplains and lowering water tables. Livestock’s contribution to deforestation also increases runoff and reduces dry season flows.” (Food) “The animal waste problem is also a factory farming byproduct.
One chicken house can process 1.5 million birds a week, and release 1.6 million gallons of waste-water per day. In one month in 1996, the state of Missouri had more hog manure spills and resulting fish kills than had occurred from all farming operations in the state in the past 10 years. Wastes once stayed on the farm, where they were used as manure. But, says Fox, “industrial meat companies are not farms so they don’t recycle wastes. It ends up in the ecosystem, creating enormous problems.” The U.S. is not the only country with factory farm issues. “China’s farmed animals produce 2.7 billion tons of manure every year, nearly 3.5 times the solid waste generated by the nation’s industrial sector.”
Runoff from livestock operations has created a large “dead zone” in the South China Sea that is virtually devoid of marine life. In northern China, overgrazing and over-farming lead to the loss of some 400,000 hectares of grassland each year.” (Block) If the nations of the world continue down the factory farm road in just a few short years our water supplies will be depleted, all of the rivers and streams will be completely polluted as our air quality destroyed. We are essentially turning the globe into a giant cesspool directly linked to factory farming.
The “Factory Farming” system created by innovative American capitalists has many disturbing characteristics. This complex industrialized system has taken the farm out of farming and replaced it with a sterile, harsh production oriented environment. Gone are the days of caring for the animals and treating them as living beings with needs; now they are simply production units to supply the world with protein. A system designed to inflict pain and suffering at every stage of their lives and then end their lives in a degrading, cruel inhumane fashion, no care, respect to any degree. There is nothing to be proud of here, that is why its illegal to take pictures on these “farms”, you will be considered a terrorist , heaven forbid we expose this evil system. Factory farms are a parasite and plaque upon our lands with their environmental destruction, polluting our streams,rivers and oceans, the air we breathe and robbing us of our precious life sustaining resources.
If that is not enough, the irony is in its sole purpose, to provide nutritious healthy protein, turns out to be a lie. Fraught with deception of its “complete protein” and “milk it does the body good” the meat and dairy industries have sold us a faulty bill of goods. The standard American diet has been built around meat and dairy products for decades, resulting in the demise of our health. The factory farms are not only killing billions of animals every year but also killing us with food related diseases of CHD, diabetes, and cancers. As individuals, parents, community members, citizens of our respective countries, and as fellow living beings that share this planet with all the other life forms; we have a moral and ethical responsibility to become stewards of this planet. We can no longer allow this destruction, death and carnage to continue, we must stop factory farming now, our time to delay has run out.
There is a simple solution to this dilemma all we need to do is go vegan. A plant based diet will feed the entire world, including those today that we have neglected. A plant based diet will save our resources, stop the suffering and killing of billions of farm animals. The health of humanity will flourish and billions of dollars once spent on our inadequate health care system can be focused on helping those in need. Lets wake up America, we started this evil system now let us unite at the grass roots level and put an end to factory farming once and for all!
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