Ban factory farms

I just finished reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer (it has a website here) and, although I sort of knew much of what’s in the book, it really did embarrass me. Factory farming is one of the worst industries in the history of the world and yet it dominates the meat industry in the US and in the world:

CAFOs now account for 72 percent of poultry production, 43 percent of egg production, and 55 percent of pork production worldwide.

Eating Animals estimates that 98% of meat in the US comes from factory farms. Why is that a problem? Here’s the shorthand:

CAFOs produce high levels of waste, use huge amounts of water and land for feed production, contribute to the spread of human and animal diseases, and play a role in biodiversity loss. Farm animal production also contributes to climate change: the industry accounts for an estimated 18 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, including 9 percent of the  carbon dioxide, nearly 40 percent of the methane (a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide), and 65 percent of the nitrous oxide (300 times more potent as carbon dioxide).

Meat in general is worse for the environment, but meat from factory farms is much worse. Oh in case you think that fish is better, it’s not (bold added):

Most of the animals raised and killed for food (more than 99 percent, to be precise) come from unsustainable and cruel factory farms or, in the case of sea animals, other industrial operations. We are aware of no seafood producer that humanely kills fish. And even in the case of an animal like shrimp, where their ability to suffer is uncertain, so many other animals (sharks, birds, seahorses, turtles, and many others) are killed in the process of obtaining the shrimp that the suffering of the shrimp themselves is by no means the only consideration. Current methods for capturing shrimp have “bycatch” rates as high as 98 percent:5 This means that for every 2 pounds of shrimp taken to market, 98 pounds of other sea animals are dumped back, dead, into the ocean.

If you want a more comprehensive list of the problems go here. Here’s their conclusion (IFAP stands for factory farms):

1. Ban the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animal production to reduce the risk of antimicrobial resistance to medically important antibiotics and other microbials.
2. Implement a disease monitoring program for food animals to allow 48-hour trace-back of those animals through aspects of their production, in a fully integrated and robust national database.
3. Treat IFAP as an industrial operation and implement a new system to deal with farm waste to replace the inflexible and broken system that exists today, to protect Americans from the adverse environmental and human health hazards of improperly handled IFAP waste.
4. Phase out the most intensive and inhumane production practices within a decade to reduce the risk of IFAP to public health and improve animal wellbeing (i.e., gestation crates and battery cages).
5. Federal and state laws need to be amended and enforced to provide a level playing field for producers when entering contracts with integrators.
6. Increase funding for, expand and reform, animal agriculture research.

Factory farms are bad for the environment (local and global), bad for our health (because of the waste and antibiotics), bad for most farmers and their communities, bad for the workers, and horrendous for the animals (it’s no stretch to conclude that animals have never been treated so badly systematically in the history of the world). This of course means that Steve King has introduced an amendment in the Farm bill to help out factory farmers. It’s telling when the Humane Society is held out as a radical organization because they are for the humane treatment of farm animals.

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