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What is Factory Farming?

What is Factory Farming?

It’s National Farm Animals Awareness Week. I wanted to write a sweet post about going to a happy family farm and showing some farm animals a little love, but every time I write the words “farm animals” that brain of mine ambles right on over to the dark side. Words like “battery cages” and “gestation crates” pop up and I realize that frolicking farm animals are not the ones who need our awareness. So, for National Farm Animals Awareness Week I do hope you’ll go pet some rolling-in-the-mud pigs somewhere, but in truth, those aren’t the pigs that need our attention right now.

According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) nearly 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for food in the United States annually. That’s 10 thousand million animals. (Just for some perspective, 10 billion inches is equal to 157,830 miles.)

While there is increasing awareness and consumer demand for animals raised humanely, the sad truth is that most of those animals raised for food in the United States are routinely mistreated on industrialized factory farms. What’s a factory farm? As defined by Webster’s dictionary, it is a “a system of large-scale industrialized and intensive agriculture that is focused on profit with animals kept indoors and restricted in mobility.” At factory farms, profit is the focus and it is attained by intensively confining animals and breeding them for rapid growth; it isn’t pretty.

There are no federal laws to protect farm animals. And although every state has animal cruelty statutes, they are rarely applied to agricultural practices, no matter how cruel those practices are. And cruel they are. The three most common and barbaric practices are battery cages, veal crates and gestation crates.

Battery Cages
At any given time, according to the HSUS, nearly 280 million laying hens in the United States are confined in battery cages. These are cages so restrictive the birds can’t spread their wings. Imagine not being able to stretch your arms! Laying hens are unable to engage in any of their natural behaviors, including nesting, dust bathing, perching, and foraging. More animal-enlightened countries such as Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, and Austria have banned battery cages. The entire European Union is phasing them out by 2012.

Veal Crates
Did you know that the veal industry is a direct byproduct of the dairy industry? Veal is a famously cruel food. In order to produce veal, baby cows are taken from their moms (dairy cows) several hours to several days after they are born. They will be slaughtered at four months, and leading up to that they are typically tied by their necks into crates so small that they can neither turn around nor lay down comfortably. In the US, nearly one million calves are raised for veal. The European Union banned the use of veal crates in 2007.

Gestation Crates
Breeding sows (female pigs) are forced to spend their pregnancies confined in two-foot wide metal stalls. These gestation crates are so small that the animals cannot even turn around. (Like being pregnant isn’t uncomfortable enough.) Gestation crates can lead to crippling joint disorders and lameness, as well as tremendous emotional suffering–don’t forget that pigs are highly intelligent. The European Union banned gestation crates effective 2013. In the United States, the use of these crates remains customary practice.

How to Help: The 3 Rs
The first thing that comes to mind: Go vegan. But that isn’t necessarily an option for everyone. The HSUS offers these important pointers to help minimize the problem:

Reduce
Every hour in the United States, 1 million animals are killed for human consumption. If each one of us cuts back on our animal consumption by only 10 percent, approximately 1 billion animals would be spared a lifetime of suffering each year.

Refine
If you do continue to eat animal products, know that not all animal products are equal when it comes to animal welfare. Each industry has its own abusive practices, and some are much more cruel than others. For example, the chicken, egg, turkey, and pork industries tend to be far more abusive to animals than the beef industry. And a growing number of producers are raising animals without intensive confinement. Refining your diet by choosing cage-free animal products, instead of the conventional factory farm products that fill most supermarket shelves, will help to reduce animal suffering.

Replace
Each one of us can help prevent animals from suffering in factory farms simply by choosing vegetarian options. It’s never been easier to replace animal products with readily available vegetarian alternatives. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients.” The American Dietetic Association goes even further to state that vegetarian diets “provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.”

So I’m thinking the best way to celebrate Farm Animals Awareness Week is with a slew of vegan recipes. Here are some winners from the Care2 recipe archive:

Crabless Crab Cakes
Vegan Potato Leek Soup
Vegan Thumbprint Cookies and “Milk

Let the secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) know that supporting sustainable farms rather than factory farms is a win-win situation by signing this Care2 petition.

Read more: Food, Green Kitchen Tips, News & Issues, , ,

By Melissa Breyer, Senior Editor, Green and Healthy Living

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

52 comments

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5:53PM PDT on Jul 18, 2013

YOU SHOULD ALL KNOW ONE OF THE WORST ABUSERS OF FOWL IS A MAN NAMED DECOSTA, WHO ACTUALLY PROVIDES EGGS TO SO MANY PROVIDERS TO STORES THAT YOU ALL NEED TO START LOOKING TO BUY EGGS LOCALLY FROM LOCAL PRODUCERS. THIS DECOSTA MAN IS NOT SHAMEFULL THAT HE LETS HIS MEN TAKE A POOR HALF DEAD CHICKEN AND BASH ITS HEAD AGAINST THE WALL. THIS IS INHUMAN. PLEASE DO NOT EAT AN EGG UNLESS IT IS FROM YOUR OWN STATE FROM CHICKENS GROWN THERE. WE ARE PAYING THIS MAN EVERY DAY TO BE CRUEL TO A HELPLESS CHICKEN. DONT EAT THE EGGS. I AM NOT VEGAN BUT I WILL MAKE A 100 PERCENT EFFORT TO EAT EGGS THAT I KNOW NEVER CAME FROM HIS KILLING FIELDS. ALSO, EVERYONE SHOULD BE AWARE THAT A STUDY DONE ON SUPERMARKET CHICKEN PROVED THERE WAS ECOLI ON SUPERMARKET CHICKEN THAT ACTUALLY WAS GIVEN WOMEN ECOLI URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS........

4:59AM PDT on May 28, 2012

Thanks for posting!

1:37AM PST on Jan 9, 2012

Just horrible!

11:41PM PST on Jan 8, 2012

If we 'choose' to eat animals for food, there needs to be laws that govern and implement the healthy and humane raising of these animals, and humane killing as well. If we can't do this, then we're eating far too much meat of any kind. Food choices based on cruelty kill the body and the soul.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/10-billion-farm-animals-killed-in-2010.html#ixzz1iwcLCVLx

8:52AM PST on Jan 6, 2012

all animal slums have produced and continue to produce our health symptoms look at the history. the pebble, it seems so small but it has effects that are far reaching. it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy fuelled by false emotions distorted memory and conditioned beliefs.. the illusion of our exhausted resources is just that. we have sustainable resources we just tend to use that good stuff last after all the pollution has made a market in water, and food, air we are consumers because we say we are..we are what we eat, is a slogan and the mental aspect of food on the mind and the cells and thus our reality. when animals are slaughtered, fear, confusion, pain, aggression emotional enzymes are shot into their cells and in turn organs, a ticking emotional bomb waiting to go off and those same enzymes, which are molecularly very similar to those found in humans go to work and what do you suppose happens to our body/thoughts.sick animals made into food make sick people.
knowledge is not power its empowering lets be empowered to change
life has value beyond measure
Peace and Love

8:35AM PST on Jan 6, 2012

local meat is just as cruel

what is factory farming? it's an agriculture production method that became increasingly popular after World War 2 that is so cruel some survivors of Nazi concentration camps compared it to what they just experienced.

7:08AM PST on Jan 4, 2012

We as consumers should make an effort to buy local. Support your neighbor farmers.

7:35AM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

http://www.organicconsumers.org/toxic/factoryfarm082902.cfm

I am on my way to a vegan lifestyle.

5:58PM PDT on Mar 29, 2011

This is insane...
In Iowa and Florida, laws are being passed that would make it a felony to take videos or pictures of factory farms "without the owners permission".
You get that? Torturing animals, they won't do anything about. But they'll send you to jail if you expose the people who torture animals.
http://redgreenandblue.org/2011/03/29/bad-publicity-from-animal-cruelty-ban-publicity/

6:32PM PDT on Nov 3, 2010

European's get it, what is our problem?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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