AR-FAQ - #50

#50 But cattle can't be factory-farmed, so I can eat them, right?

At this time, cattle farming has not progressed to the extremes inflicted on some other animals--cows still have to graze. However, the proponents of factory farming are always considering the possibilities of extending their techniques, as the old-style small farm becomes a faded memory and farming becomes a larger and more complex industry, competing for finance from consumers and lenders. Cattle farming practices such as increasing cattle densities on feedlots, diet supplementation, and controlled breeding are already being implemented. Other developments will be introduced. However, as discussed in question #49, it is not only the method of farming that is of concern. Transport to the slaughterhouse, often a long journey in crowded conditions without access to food and water, and the wait at the slaughterhouse followed by the slaughtering process are themselves brutal and harmful. And the actual killing process is itself not necessarily clean or painless (see question #48). JK

We can challenge the claim that cattle cannot be factory-farmed; it just isn't true. We can also challenge the claim that if it were true, it would justify killing and eating cattle. A broad view of factory farming includes practices that force adaptations (often through breeding) that increase the "productivity" of animal farming. Such increases in productivity are invariably achieved at the expense of increased suffering of the animals concerned. This broader view definitely includes cattle, both that raised for meat and for dairy production. Veal production is paradigmatic factory farming. David Cowles-Hamar describes it as follows: "Veal calves are kept in isolation in 5'x2' crates in which they are unable even to turn around. They are kept in darkness much of the time. They are given no bedding (in case they try to eat it) and are fed only a liquid diet devoid of iron and fiber to keep their flesh anemic and pale. After 3-5 months they are slaughtered." Dairy farming also qualifies as factory-farming. Here are some salient facts:

  • Calves are taken away at 1-3 days causing terrible distress to both the cows and the calves; many calves go for veal production.
  • Over 170,000 calves die each year due to poor husbandry and appalling treatment at markets.
  • Cows are milked for 10 months and produce 10 times the milk a calf would take naturally. Mastitis (udder inflammation) frequently results.
  • Cows are fed a high-protein diet to increase yield; often even this is not enough and the cow is forced to break down body tissues, leading to acidosis and consequent lameness. About 25 percent of cows are afflicted.
  • At about 5 years of age, the cow is spent and exhausted and is slaughtered. The normal life span is about 20 years.

Finally, we cannot accept that even if it were not possible to factory-farm cattle, that therefore it is morally acceptable to kill and eat them. David Cowles-Hamar puts it this way: "The suggestion that animals should pay for their freedom with their lives is moral nonsense." DG

SEE ALSO: #14, #48-#49