Factory Farming: What are we turning a blind eye to?
“Factory farming, like comparable evils throughout history, depends for its existence upon concealment. It depends on people either not noticing or willfully averting their gaze.” -Matthew Scully
Factory farms began with the poultry industry in the 1920s with a vision of abundance. The pig and cow industry followed suit in the 1970s. Converting small scale farms to these industrial giants allowed for higher production rates, larger profits, and cheaper market prices. With an ever growing population, the idea of factory farms was food for everyone. ‘Roughly 94% of all animals farmed for human consumption are raised from factory farms’(Library). So what could possibly be wrong with this method of food production? When mass production is the main goal, ethics become only an idea rather than part of these practices. Factory farms not only turn a blind eye to the treatment of their animals, but also their consumers, and the environments that surround them.
In recent years, exposure of the factory farms treatment of animals has been at the forefront of farm topics. With no laws set in place to protect these animals, they are left to sit in over-crowded, unsanitary, dark warehouses, until they meet their inevitable end. “Egg-laying hens are sometimes starved for up to 14 days, exposed to changing light patterns, and given no water to shock bodies into egg production.”(Dosomething) Then there are the chickens raised for meat, ‘the chickens that are produced for human consumption today have 220% more fat than they did in the 1950s, due to their high-fat gmo corn, wheat, soy diets (Petpedia). The list goes on in the way these animals are inhumanely raised and managed. With movies like Okja (2017), and documentaries like Frankensteer (2005), Cowspiracy (2014) and Meet Your Meat (2007); exposure of the heart of these farms, and their problems have become a never ending battle with these large profit giants.
Another hidden aspect in this method of food production, is what it is actually doing to human health. With poor quality diets and inhumane living quarters, the meat we are often acquiring is that of cancerous and ill animals. With animal illness being a major part of this practice, antibiotic use also becomes a must. That in turn is sold to us, the consumer for consumption. Factory farms also have poor sanitation and waste laws set in place, leading to high numbers of E. Coli and salmonella outbreaks (farmsanctuary). Between the unnatural feeds, hormones, and excessive quantities of antibiotics used put the human population at risk for chronic disease, obesity, and drug-resistant bacteria, and pose the threat of major zoonotic disease outbreaks (farmsantuary).
Last we touch on the issue of these poor practices, and their effects on our environment and communities. Nearly 40% of U.S emissions is sourced from factory farm practices (Petpedia). This level of air pollution affects the communities that directly surround these warehouses with high levels of lung disease seen in its neighbors. The waste and runoff is also affecting the integrity of waterways, causing massive fish deaths, and leaving us with toxic waters unusable to any life form. Factory farms are also a major contributor to deforestation, clearing millions of acres for field crops, and production sites.
In conclusion, with food abundance being the only upside to this form of food production, it’s up to us, the consumer, to invest in our honest, small-scale, local farms. It's up to us to not turn the blind on the factory farm practices for the sake of our human health, environmental health, and the health of our farm animals. It’s important when purchasing meats, poultry, and produce to find the farms that consciously practice regenerative farming, sustainability, free-range and pasture raised; and farms that keep your food free of GMOs, added antibiotics, steroids, and growth hormones. Together, if we all buy with this goal in mind we can starve the giant corporations that are harming the food systems.