HISTORY OF FACTORY FARMING
We’ve all heard about factory farming, yet so many of us choose to turn a blind eye to the subject. Many Americans do not want to know where their food actually comes from.
Ignorance is bliss.
As Christians, we have been charged with the care of God’s creatures. It is unacceptable to simply claim ignorance when it comes to the origins of our food. The truth is that nearly all of the meat produced in America comes from factory farming.
A factory farm is a large industrialized farm on which large numbers of livestock are raised indoors, in conditions intended to maximize production at minimal cost.
This focus on profit and efficiency comes at the expense of the welfare of animals.
This type of farming began in America after WWII, when farmers needed to find a way to meet the demands of the ever-growing population.
Farmers discovered that some animals could be raised indoors, without sunlight and with the use of vitamins. They also discovered that the use of antibiotics prevented the spread of disease among large amounts of animals in small spaces.
Starting in the 1960’s, the US government began giving subsidies to farmers to increase production.
By supplementing the income of farmers and agricultural businesses, the government could then influence the cost and supply of their products.
These subsidies were originally intended to alleviate the poverty of farmers, but the majority of these subsidies now go to commercial farms worth millions of dollars. These commercial farms are owned by just a handful of companies.
According to the Organic Consumers Association:
Agribusiness has spent $751 million over the past 5 years on lobbying congress and another $480.5 million in direct campaign contributions over the past two decades.
Since 1995, taxpayers have provided $292.5 billion in direct agricultural subsidies, another $96 billion in crop insurance subsidies, and over $100 billion in subsidies to promote the growth of genetically engineered corn and soy.
The amount of money these mega meat companies use to lobby congress is a big reason why factory farm reform is so difficult.
These large companies contract smaller independent farms to provide them with animals at such a low rate, that many of them are forced into bankruptcy. It’s very much like the Wal-Mart effect.
Most large companies require contract farmers to provide the land and construction of the sheds at their own expense, costing them over $200,000.
Many independent American farms have lost out to large corporations:
From 1980 to 2011, the number of hog operations in the U.S. dropped from 666,000 to roughly 69,000, yet the number of hogs sold remains almost the same.
In 1970, there were about 900,000 farms in the United States; by 1997, there were only 139,000.
The original intent of factory farming was to supply meat products to Americans at a low price. Thanks to big corporations who have cornered the market and have powerful allies in the government, this is no longer the case.
You may have noticed that the price of eggs, meat, chicken and milk has been continually on the rise.
The disturbing fact is that despite the increase in prices, the quality of the products and treatment of the animals has remained the same or in many cases, become worse.
ENVIORONMENTAL IMPACT OF FACTORY FARMS
It is also important to be aware of the impact that factory farms have on the environment.
Factory farming is responsible for 37 percent of all methane emissions.
That is more than the combined methane emissions of every ship, plane, and car in the entire world.
The unnatural, low-quality grain diet of cows causes indigestion issues that contribute to high methane emissions. The breaking down process of manure creates a lot of methane as well.
The USDA reports that animals in the US meat industry produce 61 million tons of waste each year, which is 130 times the volume produced by humans.
The waste of factory farmed animals is mixed with water, and kept in "manure lagoons" until it can be sprayed onto nearby land. Several workers have died from drowning in manure lagoons; some just from inhaling their toxic gases.
These lagoons are supposed to be leak-proof, but they seep into our water systems, rivers and oceans.
In 2005 a manure lagoon collapsed, spilling 8 million gallons of farm animal waste into the Black River in New York.
The spill resulted in the death of an estimated 250,000 fish.
The cause was pfiesteria; a microorganism that thrives in farm animal waste. It is deadly to fish, and in humans it can cause: nausea, confusion, memory loss and learning difficulties.
This micro organism is 1,000 times more potent than cyanide and is classified as a level 3 biohazard; the same level as HIV, anthrax, and malaria.
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