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From 6 June 2004 Issue

Free Range Meat and the Factory Farm
By Will Peavy - wpeavy@mail.usf.edu

I’ve often come across environmentalists and animal advocates, of varying degrees, who are thoroughly opposed to the practice of factory farming – and thus oppose this practice by boycotting industrialized animal production and instead consuming meat from organic and free range family farms. While I applaud their decision to become more conscientious consumers; I’d like to ask – where does making the switch to consuming organic and free range family farmed meat lead us?

Imagine if all of the factory farms were left in ruins, yet we were still a society comprised primarily of animal product consumers who obtained our meat from organic and free range family farms. Intensive animal agriculture, or factory farming, makes animal flesh so inexpensive to the consumer, that, in the U.S., we can put “a chicken in every pot” – but without factory farms, we could only put chicken in the pots of those who could afford it. Imagine our society raising chickens, by the billions, in organic free-range farms. The locus of power in the animal agriculture industry would be shifted; and the former rural production plant managers of corporations like Smithfield and Tyson would likely become self employed family farmers - with the same exploited migrant workforce doing the least pleasant labor. Imagine billions
of food animals being raised, now for only those who could afford to eat them – animal flesh would become an even more desirable commodity than it already is and its consumption would revert to being a symbol of financial success. People would say, “that family can really put meat on the table.” Imagine billions of animals on free range and organic farms, taking up more precious land than they did under the factory farming system, yet still producing just as much excrement that ends up getting washed into the water supply. Imagine family farmers now playing by the rules of organics and the free range, yet still putting animal welfare on the backburner in order to compete in a market that demands inexpensive animal flesh. If we were to become a society of animal flesh consumers who obtained our meat from organic free range family farms – where would it lead us? Would the Earth, humans, or other animals be any better off than we were with the system of factory farming? I think not.

It is not our culture’s lack of concern for the health of the Earth or of the welfare of animals that has created the factory farm - instead it is the desire to consume animal flesh that makes intensive farming methods the inevitable outcome. Therefore, if we are opposed to factory farms, then the only way that we will abolish them is for us to eliminate the culturally constructed desire to use chickens, pigs, and cows as human food sources - by going vegan!

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