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Factory Farming on Display

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Factory Farming on Display

From National Humane Education Society (NHES)
February 2013

We hope that people looked carefully at this exhibit and weren’t dazzled by the fresh bedding and new technology. What was really on display was an unnatural, inhumane way of raising animals for slaughter. Factory farms strip animals of their social structures, natural behaviors, and physical freedoms. The best way to help these animals is to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet and gently encourage your friends and family to make the switch also.

At this year’s Pennsylvania Farm Show, the agriculture industry (nearly) bared all. PennAg Industries Association’s week long exhibit featured veal crates, battery cages, gestation crates, narrow diary pens, and more. For years, the industry’s cruel confinement practices were hidden away within private barns; only undercover investigators could bring back footage showing where meat and other animal products come from. And now they are putting these practices on display? What does this mean for an industry that is rightly facing backlash from consumers, restaurants, and food manufacturers?

Gestation crates and battery cages are rapidly falling out of favor as more people become aware of the suffering they cause animals. More and more companies are coming out with plans to phase out these methods of confinement. Due to concerns about animal welfare, vegetarianism and veganism are on the rise. As their consumer base demands change, farmers are discovering their methods of choice (tight, unhealthy confinement) are not popular.

Large agribusinesses, or factory farms, are faced with two choices if they want to continue making money off animals. First, they can change to a more humane way of raising and slaughtering animals. Treating animals in a more natural, humane way could, however, mean a cut in their profit margins. Second, they can continue their preferred way of doing business and try to get consumers back on their side. This exhibit shows that farmers do not want to treat their animals more humanely. In fact, by putting their farm practices on display, they are showing they think their way is perfectly okay—and we should think that way also.

NHES disagrees that these practices are acceptable in any way. The photos from the exhibit show cramped spaces and unnatural environments. The battery cages have 6-8 birds tightly packed on wire floored cages. There are no roosts and no dirt to scratch in. There is no space to avoid a bullying neighbor. The veal crates show a calf who cannot frolic in the grass, nuzzle his mother, or kick up his heels with the herd. The gestation crates show a sow who cannot move around to stretch her legs, sniff noses with her piglets, or root in the dirt. She cannot socialize with other sows or lead her piglets on adventures outside of the nest.

While the exhibit shows the undersized living spaces and unnatural ways of living, there is so much more that the exhibit fails to show. While at the farm show, the bedding is clean and metal fixtures gleam. This contrasts with a working factory farm where animals are expected to stand in wet, filthy bedding while their feet soften and fester. The metal bars and wire mesh quickly become rusty and caked with feces. While in the public’s eye, workers treat the animals with patience. In reality, workers’ treatment of the animals is, at best, rough and hurried. At worst? Workers go out of their way to violently take out frustrations on the animals or use electric prods and sharp tools to hurry animals along.

We hope that people looked carefully at this exhibit and weren’t dazzled by the fresh bedding and new technology. What was really on display was an unnatural, inhumane way of raising animals for slaughter. Factory farms strip animals of their social structures, natural behaviors, and physical freedoms. The best way to help these animals is to switch to a vegetarian or vegan diet and gently encourage your friends and family to make the switch also.