AR-FAQ - #49

#49 What is factory farming, and what is wrong with it?

Factory farming is an industrial process that applies the philosophy and practices of mass production to animal farming. Animals are considered not as individual sentient beings, but rather as a means to an end--eggs, meat, leather, etc. The objective is to maximize output and profit. The animals are manipulated through breeding, feeding, confinement, and chemicals to lay eggs faster, fatten more quickly, or make leaner meat. Costs are minimized by recycling carcasses through feed, minimizing unit space, not providing bedding (which gets soiled and needs cleaning), and other practices. Battery-hen egg production is perhaps the most publicized form. Hens are "maintained" in cages of minimal size, allowing for little or no movement and no expression of natural behavior patterns. Hens are painfully debeaked and sometimes declawed to protect others in the cramped cage. There are no floors to the cages, so that excrement can fall through onto a tray--the hens therefore are standing on wire. Cages are stacked on top of each other in long rows, and are kept inside a climate-controlled barn. The hens are then used as a mechanism for turning feed into eggs. After a short, miserable life they are processed as boiler chickens or recycled. Other typical factory farming techniques are used in pig production, where animals are kept in concrete pens with no straw or earth, unable to move more than a few inches, to ensure the "best" pork. When sows litter, piglets are kept so the only contact between the sow and piglets is access to the teats. The production of veal calves is a similar restraining process. The calves are kept in narrow crates which prevent them from turning; they can only stand or lie down. They are kept in the dark with no contact with other animals. Factory farming distresses people because of the treatment of the animals; they are kept in unnatural conditions in terms of space, possible behaviors, and interactions with other animals. Keeping animals in these circumstances is not only cruel to the animals, but diminishes the humanity of those involved, from production to consumption. In addition, the use of chemicals and hormones to maximize yields, reduce health problems in the animals, and speed production may also be harmful to human consumers. JK

SEE ALSO: #12, #14, #32, #48, #50