Public and environmental health is being severely threatened through the institution of animal factory farming, which pollutes our water, air, soil and even our bodies with harmful chemicals and pollutants. Corporations now have taken over the practice of family farming and have developed cost-saving mass-production strategies that are not only dangerous to public health, but are also cruel to the animals being processed.
Animal factories, also known as large confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs), go against traditional farming practices by treating the animal simply as a machine or production unit. These farms are more like an assembly line system of animal harvesting than anything resembling a genuine farm or ranch.
"Factory farming has taken the joy out of the lives of millions of calves and pigs, and billions of hens; it has driven countless family farmers off the land; it has polluted streams and rivers; it has injected massive amounts of antibiotics and other drugs into the public food supply resulting in serious health risks. It has lowered food quality," says Christine Stevens, author of the book Factory Farming, The Experiment That Failed.
Conditions inside animal factory farms
To understand the conditions present in these factory farms, you must first examine what the animals in these factory farms are eating. The factory farmer has redefined what constitutes animal feed in a 'bottom line' effort to save money. They seem to care little about the health or the happiness of the animal, and instead treat it like a product. The low quality standards placed on animal feed by these "farmers" prove that little consideration is being taken towards the animal or the consumer.
For example, some of the "ingredients" commonly used in animal factory feed include: (think hard about this list the next time you order a hamburger...)
- Excessive grains -- Abnormally high amounts can make the animals sick, especially natural grass eaters like cattle. Their bodies are not designed to handle a corn-rich diet; as a result, these animals can form liver abscesses and excessively acidic digestive systems.
- Plastics -- For the many animals whose digestive systems still need roughage to move food through, these factories have turned to the use of plastic pellets instead of plant-based roughage to compensate for a lack of natural fiber in the feed.
- Meat from members of the same species -- The factory farming industry is turning farm animals into cannibals. Scientific research has linked this practice to the spread of both mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE) and avian bird flu.
- Manure and animal waste -- This can include cattle manure, swine waste, and poultry waste. It can also contain wood, sand, rocks, dirt, sawdust and other non-food substances.
- Animal byproducts -- This is often categorized as "animal protein products" and may appear as rendered feathers, hair, skin, hooves, blood, internal organs, intestines, beaks and bones. These may also include dead horses, euthanized cats and dogs, and road kill.
- Drugs and chemicals (including dangerous antibiotics) -- Drugs are frequently implemented in order to fight disease, control parasites and reduce animals' stress from overcrowded living conditions. However, the antimicrobials used on some poultry promote the accumulation of arsenic inside their bodies. This is a highly carcinogenic chemical that can then contaminate the water supply near the farm, or emerge in the meat later eaten by consumers.
In fact, an estimated 13.5 million pounds of antibiotics are used on factory farm animals every year in the U.S. These antibiotics are grossly overused and are especially dangerous because they aid in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria -- an urgent health problem that costs the American taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
Factories of despair
Factory farm animals endure great suffering through the entire process of being housed, fed, transported and slaughtered. Approximately 95% of factory-raised animals are subject to deplorable conditions such as overcrowding, hunger, thirst and sometimes-fatal weather extremes. Many times, they are kept conscious or even skinned alive during the process of slaughtering.
The only significant law regarding the handling of factory animals is the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Although this law does require that slaughtered animals be rendered insensible to pain before the process begins, it is insufficient due to the actual wording of the law, which does not cover the handling of poultry. In addition, all other treatment of factory animals is condoned by default since it is not covered under the law. While many other industrialized nations have enacted restrictions on cruel factory farming practices, the U.S. lags behind other countries on the issue of animal cruelty. The torture of animals is well tolerated in the United States today. (And why not? The U.S. also tolerates the torture of war prisoners. This "civilized" nation has proven itself to be anything but civilized...)
According to interviews with slaughterhouse workers included in Gail Eisnitz's book Slaughterhouse
, the end of an animal's life is a torturous and abusive process. One employee elaborates on the abuse that animals endure by reporting, "On the farm where I work, they drag the live ones who can't stand up anymore out of the crate. They put a metal snare around her ear or foot and drag her the full length of the building. These animals are just screaming in pain. The slaughtering part doesn't bother me. It's the way they're treated when they're alive. Dying animals unable to walk are tossed into the 'downer pile,' and many suffer agonies until, after one or two days, they are finally killed." Animals such as cows, calves, pigs and chickens are made to live truly horrible lives, however short, while being housed in factory farms."
The routine torture of dairy cows
Milking cows are treated like machines; confined from all other animals including their calves, they are made to stand on concrete floors in their own waste. In order to manipulate genetics and produce more milk, farmers pump the cows full of chemicals, hormones and antibiotics, many of which may make their way into the milk we drink and the cheese we eat.
Just like beef cattle, many of these cows suffer from disease, reproductive problems and lameness due to the stress of the factory setting. They produce milk for about eight or nine years until they are no longer able, at which time they are slaughtered. One of the most frequently cited reasons for having to send a cow to slaughter, however, is mastitis -- an excruciating swelling and irritation of the mammary glands caused by bacteria.
It's not only the adult animals that are treated cruelly: taken away from their mothers shortly after birth, male calves are most often raised for veal from the day after they are born. For anywhere from three to 18 weeks, they are kept chained by the neck in dark, cramped stalls, unable to move in any direction. They are fed a diet consisting mainly of a milk substitute that promotes rapid weight gain but low enough in iron to cause anemia, thus keeping the flesh pale. Many of them suffer from lameness, pneumonia and diarrhea. White veal consistently has been found to contain residues of carcinogenic growth hormones. (Think twice nice time before you order veal. Consuming this is directly promoting the torture of these mammals.)
Beef cattle don't have it much better. Many are sent to live in overcrowded feedlots where they are given an average of 14 square feet to roam after being castrated, dehorned and branded.
Producing pork with yet more animal torture
Pregnant pigs, also known as sows, are confined to metal crates that are a mere two feet wide. This constriction renders them unable to satisfy their own basic psychological needs or engage in almost any natural behavior. This causes a great deal of stress and suffering for the animal, many times enabling her to do little more than stand up and lie down. The sow rarely even has the capacity to full extend her limbs or turn around.
This is a process that the sow must go through until she is unable to have children anymore, in which case she will most likely be slaughtered. These methods are inhumane and cause sows to experience frustration, fear, and physical ailments such as lameness, repetitive bar biting, soreness, head waving, sham chewing and crippling joint disorders.
"Forced to lie and live in their own urine and excrement, the sows chew frenziedly on bars and chains, as foraging animals will do when denied even straw to eat or sleep on, or else engage in stereotypical nest-building with straw that isn't there. Everywhere you see tumors, ulcers, cysts, lesions, torn ears -- these afflictions never examined by a vet, never even noticed anymore by the largely immigrant labor charged with their care. When the sows leave their iron crates after four months of pregnancy, it is only to be driven and dragged into other crates just as small to give birth," according to Matthew Scully, author of the book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy
. "Then it's back to the gestation crate for another four months, and so on, for about eight or nine pregnancies, until they expire from the sheer punishment of it, or are culled as too sick and weak to go on."
And guess what? All this negative energy goes right into the meat that consumers swallow
. Once consumed by a human, the energy of that meat is absorbed into that person's system, making them feel sick, angry or afraid, just like the emotions of the animal from which the flesh was taken. Is it any wonder that meat eaters are the most angry, violent and war-mongering individuals in society today?
Atrocious conditions for chickens
Like pigs, chickens grow up in a similar state of disarray, forced to live through nearly intolerable conditions. Approximately six billion "broiler" chickens are produced and sold each year by the factory farmer to sources like supermarkets and fast food chicken restaurants. As many as 60% of supermarket chickens are infected with Salmonella enteritis. Another pathogen that can be spread from chickens to humans is Campylobacter, which can cause infection, illness or death.