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Is It Really Cruel To Farm Animals?

Is it really cruel to farm animals or is this a false argument?

When people eat meat they generally don't think about where the meat came from, that it was an animal, a living creature. The public also buy into the marketing of the meat, dairy and egg industries, believing that the footage of chickens pecking at the ground, running around in the sun and pigs rolling in mud are a genuine representation of how animals are kept in the process of producing meat. Given that animal agriculture is not like that, animals are kept inside in cramped, overcrowded conditions, disease spreads like lightning requiring huge antibiotic use, that natural behaviour is not possible, is it cruel to farm animals, or is their use ok? And, if it is ok, why does the agriculture industry work so hard to keep the truth of farming, particularly factory farming, a secret?

cows on a farm
Given the choice they would not be there, is that not cruel?

What Are Factory Farms Really Like?

Modern farming practices involve overcrowding, lack of access to outdoor spaces, and the use of production methods like intensive confinement systems. The practice in place today is factory farming, also known as industrial agriculture, it is a method of mass-producing livestock using intensive methods. The exact process will vary by region and the type of animal used, but these are some common aspects of how factory farming is done:

  1. High Density Housing: Animals are confined in large, densely populated facilities such as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). These facilities aim to maximise space efficiency and minimise costs.

  2. Confinement: Animals are confined to small spaces for most of their lives, limiting their movement. This confinement causes stress and health issues for the animals.

  3. Selective Breeding: Animals are bred for specific traits that enhance productivity, such as rapid growth, high milk production, or increased egg laying. The animals produced by these means would never have existed in nature as they require human intervention, the provision of food, water and medication, to live. This leads to health problems and reduced genetic diversity within the animal populations.

  4. Use of Growth Hormones and Antibiotics: Growth hormones and antibiotics are commonly given to animals to promote rapid growth and prevent diseases that spreads quickly in crowded conditions.

  5. Feed: Animals are fed a diet designed to promote fast growth and maximise efficiency, not what animals would naturally eat. This often includes grain-based feed, which can be supplemented with additives and supplements. The food is not designed to be nutritious or tasty as the animals will not live long enough to need a strong and healthy body.

  6. Waste Management: Managing the large amounts of waste produced by factory farms is a massive challenge. The waste pollutes soil, water, and the air leading to environmental concerns and health risks, particularly for workers and those who live near to these operations.

  7. Mechanisation: Factory farming has to rely heavily on machinery and automation to feed, water, and manage the animals efficiently.

  8. Slaughter: Animals are typically slaughtered in large-scale facilities designed to process high volumes of animals quickly and efficiently. This can involve stunning, gassing or electrocuting animals, before they ultimately have their throats cut.

Critics of factory farming argue that these methods prioritise efficiency and profit over animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and food quality. Concerns about animal cruelty involve environmental degradation, and the potential health risks associated with consuming meat from animals raised in such conditions. On the other hand, people argue that factory farming allows for affordable food production to meet the demands of a growing global population and isn't actually as cruel as animal activists say it is.

The Disconnect

Most people who eat meat will never visit a factory farm or a slaughterhouse. In some parts of the world it is illegal to go to these places unless you have a good reason to be there, you can be arrested under terrorism laws. This means that the information that people are given involves a rose tinted version of the truth and a lot of editing of facts. But, at the same time, people aren't thinking about where their pork chop, hotdog or hamburger came from, who they used to be. People spending an extra 50p on half a dozen eggs may believe that they are paying for improved animal care and welfare standards, not knowing that the 50p is simply profit for the egg supplier. Those who don't see what goes on within the walls of the animal agriculture industry rely on the information made public by governments and the animal agriculture industry itself. Others argue that when done properly, with attention to animal welfare standards, farming can be humane and provide necessary resources such as food and clothing. This leads to the question of necessity, is it necessary to eat meat, to wear wool, leather, fur or feathers?


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