By Mike Jaynes
I have recently been researching and publishing editorials on various
aspects of the Animal Rights movement. Our country was the first to pass
animal welfare laws to prevent cruelty to animals, and the active above
ground and direct action animal rights and welfare organizations are doing
amazing work. We have a long way to go before we are a humane country, but I
would like to offer a practical way you can help animals. While wishing
everyone would make the commitment to adopt a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle,
I realize the sociocultural normative traditions of most Americans
classifies this as extreme or even a little psychotic. I appreciate
individuality and wish very fervently to be acquainted with vegans and meat
eaters alike. However, I do offer all you carnivores a challenge. Please
look into what “mass confinement factory farming” means if you continue to
consume meat. Virtually all of the meat you buy at Wal-Mart and other large
chain stores is factory farmed.
Restaurants mostly offer factory farmed meat as well. The days of the kindly farmer raising pigs and chickens in natural conditions is mostly a thing of the past. Now it is “mass confinement factory farming,” and this is a sometimes a nightmare. There are few family farmers anymore who walk their land, care for their animal charges, and treat the Earth with respect: now there are only corporations, billion dollar corporations committed to making the most amount of money in the shortest and most efficient way. And money they do make; mass confinement factory farming operations bring in billions of dollars in profit annually while the vast majority of their customers have no idea what goes on behind their closed doors. Quickly, let me draw upon chapter six of Matthew Scully’s important book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy and tell you what mass confinement factory farming is.
Mass confinement "farming" practices of the corporate factory farms are responsible for slaughtering 130,000 cattle, 82,000 pigs, and 24 million chickens a day (conservative estimates). Mass confinement farming operations keep pigs and chickens in dimly lit cement and metal corrals their entire lives.
Pigs have been shown to be intelligent as a three year old human child and more so than the average dog. It has been reported that many factory farmed Pigs never leave the confines of the dim cement floored indoor pens in which they are crammed like trash. Chickens either. They never see the sun, never feel the grass, never raise their young. Their feet never touch earth. Often up to 250,000 animals are kept enclosed in one building.
Large factory farms have driven almost every family farm out of existence. Breeding sows are forced to live in metal stalls seven feet long by 22 inches wide. They weigh 400-500 pounds and break their legs trying to turn around. They live in their own filth and are denied the straw they use to make their beds in free range farms. However, they still paw the dank cement floor, slatted so that their excrement runs into vast waste tanks, trying to make piles they can lay upon.
They birth their young and nurse for a fraction of the time they do in the wild unable to turn and see their piglets. Then the piglets are taken away from them, an artificial insemination device is crammed inside them, and the cycle begins again. This is often the entirety of their brief and sad life. If a dog was confined this way his entire life, his guardian would be charged with a crime.
Chickens fare no better, and these pigs need socialization and care. In the wild, pigs never urinate or defecate within twenty feet of where they sleep, so one can imagine their revulsion at being forced to nurse their young in such conditions. Mass confinement factory farms treat them as economic items (“production units” is the industry euphemism) and it’s entirely legal for them to do so.
If you love dogs or cats and have them in your home, please consider these pigs that are just as loving and intelligent. So, I challenge you to look into the practices of factory farming and be educated as to what you are supporting. Animals depend on us to do the right thing; they trust us to provide for them. Scully also writes, “As industrial farming spreads, mankind has broken that trust.” If you are not ready to go vegetarian, you can still avoid supporting factory farms by growing from local farms with “free range” pigs, cows, and chickens. Yes, the animals are still butchered and deprived of the rights they deserve- you should know this- but they spend their lives in their natural habitats, rooting, playing, running, and raising their young in the manner in which they have evolved. This life may not seem like much to us, but as it has been pointed out before, it’s all they have. It’s everything to them and we should not take it from them.
Keep in mind you must research these free ranging farms because many of them are playing on consumer sympathy to make increased profits by labeling certain products as "Animal Friendly" "Environmentally conscious" or other terms while maintaining operations of cruelty not much different from the factory farms. In truth, family farms are still taking the animals’ rights to their flesh, their offspring, and their productions. You, the consumer, must be educated and vigilantly committed to significantly reducing cruelty to farm animals to make a difference with your purchasing power. After all, the only language many factory farms speak is economics. Common sense, sympathy for animals, and revulsion to inhumane treatment of animals has not and will not move them. The only way we have to battle them and help the animals is to choose wisely where we spend our money. And if you will not make the commitment to go vegetarian, I would rather you buy from a true free range family farm than a giant factory farm. And, in fairness, all factory farms are not equal. Some farmers have pointed out that large farms might be able to run ethical operations. This may be possible. However, buying meat from small local farms seems to have far less unknown elements involved.
There are four major pork producers in the U.S. These billion dollar companies are driving the smaller family free range farms into the ground. Most of us imagine kindly farmers raising pigs and chickens and cows on ranches with huge blue skies and old red barns. This is usually not true. I want to reemphasize: most people can’t even bear to witness the activities that happen inside these walls. Videos of slaughterhouses are available, but most people often avoid them. “I don’t want to know,” they tell me. They recoil from even the thought of seeing the truth. They can’t bear to witness this crushing cruelty and human induced suffering. Yet they consume and consume factory-farmed meats thereby causing the terror they can’t bear to see, or at least it could be argued. But you can avoid these farms if you will spend a little more become an educated consumer.
If you have any questions regarding going vegetarian or the sources used in this piece, please conduct independent research. Finally, please consider going vegetarian or vegan, and if you can’t, then please buy family owned free range farms and help us send the message to the mass confinement factory farms that we think this if wrong and even cruel in the worst cases. Pigs chickens cows and humans are all animals; we all feel pain, we all dream, and we all seek pleasure. Even though this short article focuses on the plight of pigs, I believe all animals deserve our mercy and compassion. Pigs, chickens, minks, foxes, skunks, elephants, chinchillas, birds, turkeys, and all animals look to us for protection and care. They all deserve better. We can do better.