The Consequences of Factory Farming
The importance of agriculture has never been underestimated as far as the overall health and well being of the economy, and the country at large is concerned. It goes without saying that almost every other sector in the economy is dependent on agriculture. This is especially considering that agriculture determines how healthy people of a nation are, and only healthy people have the capacity to run other sectors of the economy. This explains why numerous governments all over the globe have not only been paying close attention to agriculture but also invested heavily to the sector, both in terms of finances and intellectual aptitude. The growing need for food sustainability, in many countries, has triggered tremendous research all in an effort to come up with methods and techniques that would allow for the production of enormous amounts of foods within a short period (Miller, 2010). It is well understood that resources are well limited, in which case people have been looking for techniques that would allow for total exploitation of every available space and resource in production of the highest amounts of foods so as to enhance sustainability. This is what have given rise to techniques such as genetic modification, as well as factory farming. Both of these techniques have been extremely controversial as to their efficacy, as well as their viability as far as their advantages and disadvantages are concerned (Miller, 2010). However, factory farming has been blowing more dust and attracting more controversy.
Factory farming refers to a technique of raising animals in enormous warehouses where large numbers of animals are confined in restrictive stalls, crowded cages and pens (Miller, 2010). The technique has been triggered by the increased competition amongst farmers and producers of farm products. These producers needed to produce cheap farm products such as eggs, dairy products and eggs and in large numbers. The sole aim of factory farming revolves around the production of these farm items at the highest numbers and minimum cost. It is worth noting that the functionality of the system is founded on the availability of high volumes of inexpensive animal feeds, as well as pesticides and antibiotics that would mitigate the spread of diseases that are exacerbated by the crammed living conditions.
In this technique of farming, the animals are confined in minute areas, and physically restrained so as to limit or restrict movement. The food is offered to these animals inside the small cages and is characterized by enormous levels of protein concentration. Obviously, these are not the best methods of bringing up these animals. In fact, they would lead to poor health of the animals and even fatality (Miller, 2010). However, factory farming incorporates the use of a number of techniques that maintain the health of animals including the use of antimicrobial agents and growth hormones. In most cases, these systems use breeding programs so as to produce more productive animals that are suited for confined conditions.
Factory farming dates back to the 1920s soon after vitamins A and D were discovered. The discovery of these vitamins eliminated the necessity for sunlight and exercise for animals to grow (Miller, 2010). This phenomenon allowed enormous numbers of animals of all types to be reared indoors throughout the year. The most troubling issue that faced the users of this technique in raising animals indoors was the prevalence and spread of ailments. This, however, was combated in the 40’s with the discovery and development of drugs and antibiotics. In essence, farmers had the capacity to increase their productivity, as well as reduce the running costs using assembly-line techniques and mechanization (Miller, 2010).
Recent times, nevertheless, have seen the emergence of concerns as to the efficacy and appropriateness of factory farming in meeting the food needs of nations. Needless to say, the technique allows individuals to produce enormous numbers of animals with the least resources especially on space, which is admirable (Miller, 2010). However, the concerns raised mainly revolve around the hidden costs of factory farming on various aspects such as human health, environment, as well as the health and rights of these animals. Questions have emerged as to whether the “hidden costs” of factory farming far outweigh the positives pertaining to increased production. It goes without saying that the technique fares poorly as far as these aspects are concerned.
One of the most negative consequences is the infringement of the animal welfare. A large number of farm animals in the United States are reared in battery cages through, sow crates, overcrowded shed, zero-grazing daily systems, veal crates and cattle feedlots. These animals are put under pressure to grow in a super fast manner, and pushed to their limits as the farmers thirst for more inexpensive eggs, milk and meat (Miller, 2010). Once the brief lives of these animals come to an end, millions of farm animals are packed in even smaller cages and transported over long distances and in terrible conditions for slaughter. It is worth noting that farm animals are conscious beings that incorporate the capacity to feel suffering and pain (Miller, 2010). This trend of mass production, unfortunately, has produced incredible suffering and pain for animals. Animals, in the food industry, are seen as food producing machines rather than conscious animals. They are restricted in small cages that have artificial or no lighting, as well as ammonia filled air (Miller, 2010).
On the same note, the conditions have a negative impact on the health of the animals. For example, broiler chickens are bred selectively and have their genetic makeup altered so as to produce larger breasts and thighs as these are the parts that are most preferred. The breeding creates birds that are so heavy that their weight cannot be supported by their bones, thereby making it difficult for them to stand (Kirby, 2010). Layer chickens, on the other hand, are raised in small rooms that have no room to act in a natural manner. In essence, they become extremely aggressive and cannibalistic. This forces the farmers to sear their beaks off while they are still young. Layer hens are usually subjected to persistent light so as to enhance egg production. Once they reach the end of their laying or production cycle, they may be forced to molt by food or water deprivation, which gets them into another cruel cycle. In most cases, the birds are depleted of minerals thanks to excessive production of eggs, in which case they either succumb to fatigue or are unable to produce eggs any more (Kirby, 2010). In most cases, animals such as pigs are raised in dusty and dirty areas that have toxic gases from their waste. The unsanitary environment creates an incredible environment for varied diseases and ailments such as cholera, trichinosis, dysentery and pneumonia. The confinement of these animals inhibits growth of muscles and renders these animals weak and unable to even stand. Such treatment brings incredible suffering and pain to the animals. Unfortunately, there are not many laws that effectively curb such methods of production (Kirby, 2010).
In addition, factory farming has extremely negative consequences on the health of human beings. Animals raised in confined areas have an ideal setting for the rapid spreading of disease and bacteria (Moby, 2008). Around the World War II period, antibiotics were developed and soon adapted into the system of farming. Research shows that, in the United Stated, close to 50% of antibiotics are given to farm animals (Moby, 2008). The antibiotics form a toxic residue on the animal tissue. It is worth noting that this is the same tissue that is eventually sold to consumers presumably at low prices. The risk that is posed to human health from factory or intensive farming has been well documented and considerably well-known especially in the developed world. Quite a large number of chronic diseases that a number of people have contracted are connected with the consumption of enormous amounts of the inappropriate category of foods, as well as diseases that are passed from animals to human beings (Moby, 2008). Every year, there is a reported increase in the cases pertaining to salmonella poisoning from contaminated products such as milk, eggs and meat. It is worth noting that the salmonella strains are incredibly difficult to treat as they are resistant to antibiotics. Nevertheless, this confirms the danger in which human beings put themselves through the production and consumption of animals bred in confined structures. Apart from the zoonoses, there are various lifestyle diseases that have been associated with the consumption of these animals (Moby, 2008). A typical American meal today is predominantly made up of animal products that are laden with hormones, cholesterol and saturated fats. It goes without saying that these are meals that are known to promote diseases such as diabetes, cancer, obesity and other chronic ailments that kill close to 2 million Americans per year. On the same note, the overuse of drugs and antibiotics on the farm animals is associated to the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that make it harder to eliminate ailments among both humans and animals (Moby, 2008).
In addition, factory farming has been seen as having negative effects on the environment. In fact, intensive animal agriculture such as the one practiced in factory farming has been shown to have more devastating effects on the natural environment that other human activities. In conventional farming, farm animals such as cows, chickens and pigs would be kept in considerably smaller groups than is the case in factory farms (Kirby, 2010). The animals would have sufficient space for moving around and had the capacity to express their fundamental and natural behaviors. Keeping animals together in unnaturally large numbers leads to the generation of high amounts of waste that turns into a health problem that has dangerous consequences on animals, as well as the people who are living close to the farms (Kirby, 2010). It is noteworthy that an enormous number of these farms do not have proper structures for managing manure appropriately, in which case the waste ends up polluting surface water, soils and ground water. In addition, research has underlined the relationship between animals and climate change. This is especially considering that their immense numbers produce enormous amounts of methane, which has been directly associated with global warming (Kirby, 2010). In fact, animal agriculture has been shown to emit or generate higher amounts of greenhouse gases than all vehicles combined. On the same note, the pollution of water sources is associated with loss of biodiversity in the water bodies and the soils. These are negative consequences that should not be allowed to remain unchallenged. It is worth noting that factory farming affects all people in more ways than it would be imaginable. In essence, it is imperative that measures are implemented to curb these negative effects (Kirby, 2010).
In conclusion, factory farming has been extremely popular in the recent times. This is because of the need to attain self sustainability as far as food production is concerned. However, the key driving force of factory farming is competition, which has made it necessary that people maximize their production and minimize their expenses or costs, at whatever cost. As much as factory farming may be quite desirable in enhancing food sustainability, it has various negative consequences that raise questions as to its efficacy. First, the animals are kept in intolerable conditions where their movement is restricted, sunlight and lighting reduced, and space for natural habits denied. In addition, they are not allowed to go through the natural processes of growth, rather, they are injected with hormones and antibiotics that curb ailments and fasten their growth (Kirby, 2010). This makes them physically weak that they cannot even stand. In addition, the improper breeding of these animals means that toxic residue of these antibiotics is deposited in the tissue, which is them sold to human beings. This has detrimental effects on the health of human beings. In addition, factory farming results in the pollution of the environment in varied ways including methane emission and indispensable manure.
Kirby, D. (2010). Animal factory: The looming threat of industrial pig, dairy, and poultry farms to humans and the environment. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Moby, M.P. (2008). 10 excellent reasons to think twice about meat. New York: New Press.
Miller, D. A. (2010). Factory farming. Detroit: Greenhaven Press.