Factory Farming: Bad For The Animals, Humans, and The Environment
Everyone has got to eat. But do you know where your food comes from? The grocery store, of course. Well, yes. How about where it is before it gets to the grocery store? A farm of come sorts. Most people probably do not care where their food actually comes from, let alone how their food was raised before it ends up in their kitchen. Factory farms are where 99% of animals in the United States are raised. These farms are very bad for a number of different reasons. Animal cruelty, pollution, unsafe environments, just to name a few. Here, you will find out all the information on factory farming, what it involves, why it is horrible for not just animals, but for humans and our environment.
What is Factory Farming
Before you pick that package of ground beef up at the grocery store, it was once a cow. Odds are, it was raised in a factory farm. A factory farm is a large, industrial farm that raises huge numbers of animals for food. These farms focus on profit and efficiency over the well being of their animals. The result being horrible living conditions for the animals.
A standard factory farm cows, pigs and chickens live in cramped and insanitary conditions. This is all because “farmers” are trying to produce the the most amount of meat, dairy and eggs as possible, the most inexpensive way possible. The conditions that these animals live in would horrify most of the people. This kind of animal production is so far from traditional farming that the government renamed these operations. Now called “Animal Feeding Operations”, is described by the Environmental Protection Agency as “agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. They congregate animals, feed, manure, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area.”
Factory Farming Issues
Factory farming is the main source of animal cruelty in the food industry. Of course, PETA has a reputation for blowing things out of proportion and forcing a reaction from their audiences. However, it is not only them who have done research into factory farms and the conditions of these animals. Many news sources like the NY Times and even the World Health Organization have extensively looked into factory farming, trying to bring awareness to the issues surrounding them.
The practices of factory farms are intense and inhumane. A large Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, or CAFO, includes 1000 cattle, 700 dairy cows, 2500 pigs over 55 pounds each, or 125,000 chickens. A medium factory farm will have anywhere from 300 to 1000 cattle, 200 to 700 dairy cows, 750 to 2500 pigs of the same weight, and 37,500 to 125,000 chickens in addition to hens for laying eggs.
As for the condition of the animals, is it bad.
- More than 80% of pigs have pneumonia when they are killed. This is a result from living in small and dirty spaces. Huge amounts of gas from manure, which includes high levels of ammonia causes the pneumonia.
- Chickens in battery cages (metal mesh cages, housing system for animals, primarily egg-laying hens) have to live their whole lives in a space no larger than an iPad.
- Chickens, cows and pigs raised for meat, grow three times faster than they would naturally. This is due to selective breeding, growth hormones, and antibiotics in the feed. Chickens reach desired weight in just 35 days. Pigs are usually killed at six months old.
- Mothers are separated from their children at birth. Female animals are impregnated as soon as possible to increase the number of animals in the farm. Thus increasing production.
- Harsh conditions are not just the case for animals raised for meat. Dairy cows are also affected greatly. In fact, dairy cows are killed after just three lactation cycles.
- Often “debeak” chickens to avoid hurting other chickens or themselves as they are likely to get aggressive.
- Baby pigs’ teeth are clipped, tails cut and neutered. This is to prevent the pigs from, like the chickens, hurting themselves or other pigs as they are likely to get very agitated.
- A result from faster and heavier growing, the bodies of these animals can not cope with the new weight as it is mostly fat and not muscle. 90% of broiler chickens are unable to walk correctly because their legs can not deal with the excess weight of their bodies.
- Sick or injured animals are rarely given treatment. If an animal is sick, it is given antibiotics to limit the illness and keep it alive until it is slaughtered.
These are only a few examples of the animal treatment in these factory farms. There is even more that is very graphic and would surely turn anyone into a vegetarian.
The issues with factory farming do not stop with farm animal abuse. Mass farming is also responsible for a lot of pollution. Due to the sheer number of animals kept in these farms and the usage of drugs, not to mention where farmers get the food for feeding these animals.
- Meat production requires a lot of water. 2,400 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of meat. 25 gallons are used to produce one pound of wheat.
- EPA states that animal agriculture is the #1 cause of water pollution. All of the waste of the animals is spilled into water sources. This is not just from pure waste. This waste is also filled with drugs that affects the ecosystem.
- Factory farms also release vast amounts of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Actually more than the entire global auto industry.
- According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all man made greenhouse gas emissions. This includes 37% of methane emissions and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions. The methane released from these farms is 70 times more dangerous per ton to the atmosphere than the carbon dioxide emissions.
- Factory farming, though not directly, is responsible for deforestation and draining of wetlands.
- With factory farming also comes industrial agriculture. During the mass farming of crops like wheat and soy, pesticides and insecticides are heavily used. These chemicals end up in the soil and water, as well as in the animals and ultimately, us.
- 260 million acres of forests in the United States have been cleared to create cropland to grow food to feed animals in factory farms.
- In 2012, factory farms produced 369 million tons of manure, almost 13 times more than all of the people in the United States. This manure is kept in lagoons and is then spread, untreated, to the farm fields as fertilizer.
As if animal cruelty and environmental concerns were not enough, industrial farming also affects human health. From the spread of disease to unhealthy chemicals in the meat, factory farming is not good for humans.
- The unsanitary conditions in which these animals live in, numerous diseases like Salmonella and E. coli can pop up and be spread to humans through contaminated meat.
- Evolving bacteria adapt to the excess antibiotics. This creates drug resistant bacteria gets spread to humans.
- Because animals are forced to grow more quickly, there is more fat in the meat. This, in turn, makes humans gain more weight from eating it.
- The hormones used in the animals to promote their growth, end up in our systems.
- Animals living in these conditions become very scared and constantly stressed. There is a lot of speculation into the negative health effects that stressed animal meat has on humans.
- Poor quality, hormone filled meat has many negative health effects of fatigue, malaise, impotence, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and diseases that affect the digestive tract.
How to Help End Factory Farming
Mass farming animals and crops is undoubtedly bad. Not just for the animals that are slaughtered for our meals, but also for our environment and our health in general. There are many things that you can do to help end animal suffering and protect our environment. At a government level and at a personal level, you can take steps to ensure that the effects of factory farming stop.
Pay attention to your government. There are not many laws that protect these animals which allows the factory farms to get away with a lot. Press congress to restore sensible farm programs that do not prioritize the production of cheap livestock over fair prices to crop farmers. In addition, the EPA should heavily enforce appropriate environmental rules to help prevent the increase of pollution that is coming from these farms. Another government agency that needs awareness brought to it is the Food and Drug Administration. They need to reverse the approval of non-therapeutic antibiotic and other drugs for livestock that facilitate factory farming at the harm of public health. The last government agency that needs to be held responsible is the United States Department of Agriculture. They need to enforce regulations that allow independent livestock producers fair access to markets. These being local farmers and smaller farms that produce organic meat.
If you are not a big government activist, that is fine. Besides going vegetarian or vegan, there are still things that you can do in your everyday life that can help stop factory farming. Many local farms that produce meat do so without the harsh and inhumane conditions that mass farming does. In addition, their meat is also fresher and organic. Many do not use antibiotics or growth hormones on their livestock. Another advantage of buying from local farms is that it promotes those small businesses, which is always a great thing to do. Ways to do this are go to your local market for your meats and dairy products. The Amish are also a great source of organic meat, dairy and vegetables as they do not use any chemicals of any kind in their production.
Another thing you can do if you are still buying from big grocery stores is read the labels on your food. Many producers have stopped using hormones and antibiotics in their animals and they will promote that on the labels. “Made without antibiotics” for example. Easiest thing you can do is to buy organic. Organic foods do not use pesticides, insecticides, growth hormones, or drugs of any kind. Many big grocery stores sell a lot of organic foods because not only is it much better for human health, it is one of the fastest growing food trends happening right now.
When buying meats, pay attention to where the meat is coming from. Many meats that are imported from another country will not have any regulations regarding animal condition or health when raising them. Buying food from the United States is always the safer thing to do. Unless, of course, it is an foreign food you are actually looking for.
Confined Animal Feeding Operations, or factory farms, are an epidemic all over the world. More so in the United States. The conditions that these farms are forcing these animals to live in are horrid. Hundreds of animals crammed into a extremely small space, force fed food spiked with hormones and drugs meant to make them grow faster and bigger, and poor waste treatment lead to contaminated food, excess pollution, and problems for human health.
Vegans and vegetarians get a bad rep for coming off “holier than thou” but they have very good intentions and are doing what they can to bring awareness to this pressing issue that many people all over the world are still not awake to. Plus vegetarian and vegan food is not that bad, if anything it forces creativity. The main issue is that factory farming is not just bad for the animals that are forced to go through hell, but is it also harmful to our health. Even if you do not care about animals much, care about yourself a little.