The Truth About Factory Farming
When polled directly, More than 90% of American agree that animals raised for food deserve to live free and from abuse and cruelty. Yet the majority of the nearly 10 billion farm animals not lucky enough to grow up on the small privately owned farms—they suffer in conditions that consumers would not accept if they could see them. A large portion of our meat, milk and eggs come from industrial farms were dollars trump welfare. The animals pay the price, and we end up with a lower grade product as the end consumer to boot.
Far from the spacious pastures that are shown in advertisements for meat, milk and eggs, factory farms typically consist of large numbers of animals being raised in extreme confinement and exploited completely for profit. They are known for cages and overcrowding, painful mutilations, poor air quality and unhygienic living conditions, breeding and hormone use for fast growth. Not to mention, this process never allows the animals to engage in their natural behaviors of grazing, caring for their young, and just breathing fresh air.
Here are just a few facts regarding factory farming:
- Once chickens hatch, because male chicks will not grow up to lay eggs and, therefore, have little value to the egg industry, 260 million are killed each year upon hatching. Methods include being sucked through a series of pipes onto an electrified “kill plate,” or being dropped into a grinder.
- There were more than 6 million pigs used for breeding in the US, most of whom were confined to gestation crates, typically lined up row after row in large sheds. Gestation crate floors are usually made of slats, which allow manure to fall through, meaning that sows live directly above their own waste. This design exposes sows to high levels of ammonia, and respiratory disease is common in confined sows.
- A sheep’s wool production naturally declines with age. In the wool industry, sheep with decreased wool production are sent to slaughter. In Australia, the source of most of the world’s wool, these sheep are typically exported to Middle Eastern countries by sea, enduring grueling journeys of up to three weeks. The death by throat-slashing that awaits these sheep at their destination often occurs while they are fully conscious.
- Goats used for meat are slaughtered very young, at just a fraction of their natural lifespan. A kid is typically slaughtered when he is just 3 to 5 months old. Little care is given to proper nutrients and minerals, because their lifespan isn’t considered.
- Nearly all cows used for dairy in the U.S. are eventually slaughtered for human consumption. At an average of less than 5 years of age, exhausted cows are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter, and millions of them are eaten by Americans as hamburger. In a natural setting, a cow can live more than 20 years. Most milk sold in stores is produced by Holsteins. Holsteins typically produce 9 gallons of milk/day. A young calf only needs 1 gallon of milk per day. By design, there are 8 gallons remaining that could be used for our consumption if desired. Why can’t we share? Or if less is needed, the cow will naturally start to make less.
The Factory farming of raising so many animals in one location in such a confined space puts an enormous strain on the environment, polluting the ground, water and air of the locations where they reside. Studies have shown an increase in respiratory and neuro issues among residents in rural communities near a factory farm. In addition, meat produced by these factory farms can have an extreme effect on our overall health as well in consuming them. Per the CDC, animal products are the primary source of saturated fats in the American diet, leading to heart disease. The use of growth hormones and excessive amounts of antibiotics create a condition that allows bacteria to become resistant, and many bacterial infections have already become untreatable in humans due to this overuse. The hormones used in dairy cattle ultimately pass to us in beef, and has shown to increase the risk of breast, prostate and colon cancer in beef consumers.
So what can we do about it?
- Research—know what you are eating. Don’t assume “cage free” means what you picture in your head, as labels are misleading. Research the producers of the meat, dairy and eggs you buy at the grocery store so you can be aware of what you are putting in your body.
- Support local famers! Believe it or not, there are a lot of compassionate meat eaters out there who give their animals a great life even though they are still ultimately part of the meat or dairy industry. They believe in no hormones and supplying a grass-fed fresh air, grazing lifestyle for their animals. They take great care in the work they do, the animals they care for, and the product they produce for the consumer. Check out local farmer’s markets and farms in your area-many sell direct to consumer at reasonable rates for a fresher and superior product then what is filtered down to the grocery stores.
- Educate—pass the information on to others! If you know where to get local products from local farmers-share the info and talk it up!
- Consider a Vegetarian or Vegan Lifestyle. The way to save the most animals from this lifestyle is not to consume them at all! If you’re not ready to go all in, consider a Meatless Monday-take a day or two off each week from eating meat-it’s good for your heart and your wallet!
- Support Animal sanctuaries like Xanadu! We’re working hard to rescue those most exploited and thrown out as a waste product of the large scale farming industry. We can’t change how their journey started, but we can give them love and compassion and all the time in the world to heal. Our mission is simple-to save them all, one at a time.
For additional information, check out the “How We Treat the Animals We Eat” brochure compiled by our friends at Farm Sanctuary. And share what you’ve learned with others!