Factory farming is an intensive animal husbandry where livestock are kept in a small space under firm control mainly for commercial purposes. Factory farming is one of the most practiced methods of producing food around the world, thus, it has attracted both approvals and criticisms from different groups. In particular, the animal welfare groups believe that such practice exposes animals to cruelty. Economists have lauded the practice because it has helped in maximizing output, promoting local economy, and encouraging technology. Most philosophers oppose factory farming for human consumption due to the breach of animal rights. Although factory farming has contributed effectively in the production of and supply of cheap animal products, the model has equally interfered with animal welfare regulations, environment, social health, and overall food abundance.
Should Animals Be Kept In Factory Farms For Human Consumption?
It seems rational to keep a large number of animals in a small space purposely for human consumption. This practice enhances food security, considering that the demand for food is rising globally due to steady rise in population. Since animals are usually kept indoors, production of meat and other products are kept constant throughout the year, regardless of weather conditions (Lee, McAlexander and Banda 116). People’s appetite for meat has been rising at a high rate; hence, improving on the productivity of livestock through factory farming will help in meeting the high demand. According to a report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, more than 10 billion of land animals were butchered in the US in 2007 for human consumption (Pluhar 456). The Department of Agriculture s expecting this number to rise, as the American craving for flesh continue to grow. Therefore, the only way that the country can sustain meat consumption is through encouraging factory farming.
When animals are reared in a small space, it becomes easier to administer antibiotics and other disease-control medications. People can no longer rely on the traditional methods of farming, where animals are allowed to roam around with no protection. Allowing animals to roam freely makes it hard to monitor them; hence, increasing the chances of consuming unhealthy meat, especially when there is an outbreak of a certain disease. Factory farming has the capacity to supplement proteins at an affordable cost (Lee, McAlexander and Banda 117). Factory farming has contributed in the reduction of food prices, since animal products are readily available in the supermarkets and local butcheries. Factory farming has become a big business where farmers can practice economy of scale: the more animals they keep, the lower the cost of production.
Factory farms have contributed in the growth of most countries’ economies by creating jobs for the locals. Such farms attract both skilled and non-skilled workers from cities and local town, triggering the establishment of houses to host farm workers. When local governments realize that people are flocking particular areas for work, they offer to construct roads, hospitals, schools, and other social structures to improve the lives of workers. Well-managed factory farms also attract farmers, who visit such establishment to learn how they can replicate the practice in their regions. Small farmers usually buy animals from factory farms, which they rear to meet their subsistence needs.
Factory farms have encouraged technological development in terms of tools and equipment that farmers utilize to make production faster and efficient. The U.S. has moved from small farm system to intensive and industrialized system due to the expansion of technology. Connection to sensors, actuators, and other innovative gadgets to monitor the conditions of animals within their sheds has helped farmers to enhance their productivity. Improvement in technology has contributed in enhancing food security, as well as minimizing costs of production (Lee, McAlexander and Banda 117). Sometimes it may become hard to monitor thousands of animals within their confinements, thus, use of Internet has assisted in making faster response when animals are sick. Good breeding is vital for factory animals to enhance productivity even for the next generation of animals, thus, semen is collected from animals that have a tendency to produce high yields. Movement detectors are capable of showing whether an animal is ready for insemination.
Opponents of factory farming may argue that this technique restricts animals from enjoying fresh air and sunlight while in open space. However, animals raised in stress-free environment also encounter problems of diseases, predators, and harsh weather conditions (Pluhar 461). There is no assurance that a stress-free environment does not contribute to the spread of animal diseases. Confined animals also get essential nutrients from the type of food that they take, rather than getting them directly from the sunlight.
Conversely, factory farming should be banned because it exists purposely for commercial interests rather than taking care of animals. Factory farmers do not mind exposing animals to cruelty as they struggle for space. This practice treats animals as machines that are meant to produce, enhance production, and earn profit for the owner. The life of such animals is considered inconsequential, as they would eventually be sold or butchered for human consumption. Some farms create only small spaces where animals can turn, thus, restricting animals from exhibiting their natural behavior. For instance, most egg-laying hens are forced to stay in a small cage to avoid cannibalism while pigs are kept in a compressed sheds, which are usually filthy and dilapidated. Cows are compelled to sleep on their dung to save on space.
Providing factory animals with food and water is not enough, as animals need more space to sleep, to roam around and to breathe fresh air. No human being can imagine him/herself locked up in a lift the whole day, despite having food and water. Such confinement can only be compared to a death sentence. Just like human beings, animals are mindful feeling beings and what affect humans affect them too. Confining animals in an artificial environment restrict them from exhibiting their natural behaviors. They are compelled to tolerate painful procedures that are meant to curb their natural behaviors, such as castration and dehorning, as well as to identify them. Even though the products from factory animals may appear healthy for consumption, animals should not be exposed to harsh conditions.
Meatpacking industry has proliferated due to expansion of factory farms, which offer a constant supply of animals for processing and packaging. However, the benefits of factory farming do not trickle down to the communities who live near the factory farms, as people are complaining of the spread of chronic diseases due to poor hygiene. A massive hog operation has propagated in the rural Carolina, where hogs are confined in metal barns, similar to prison cells (Kemmerer 241). The hogs produce millions of liters of waste each day, which is stored in pits to be used as a raw material in fertilizer factories. According to Kemmerer, such pits have become a health hazard to the people living near hog farms. Due to the stench that comes from the pits, residents are complaining of rising cases of asthma and other respiratory ailments. Besides, cases of psychological stress, depression, fatigue, and anger, have gone up among people living near hog factories. It is not surprising that hog factories are expanding in areas where people lack political power due to poverty and racism.
Meat production through factory farming has affected people who work in such farms and industries through emotional effects. Employees have been brutalized and harassed in order to meet their daily targets, yet they are not paid handsomely. Their physical health has continued to deteriorate due to poor working conditions and increased pollution. Everyone in the community, including the vegetarians, is at risk of contracting pathogens released by immune-compromised non-human food animals (Pluhar 456). Animal feeds are filled with nontherapeutic doses of antibiotics, which have become harmful to humans through the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which stagnates recovery from ailments.
Keeping animals in cages and sheds for the purpose of consumption is not only risky for the animals, but also for human beings. Consuming too much of animal products contributes significantly in the spread of chronic diseases that include cancer, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes (Rossi and Garner 485). The affordability of factory farm animal products comes with a high cost; as animal products contribute to the obesogenic environment (Lee, McAlexander and Banda 117). The residual chemicals that remain in the animal body may influence faster growth and weight gain among humans.
Factory farming should be discouraged because it exposes animals into hazardous living conditions. Majority of factory farm animals have spent their whole life in cages and shed, with no space to turn around. Egg-laying hens cannot draw out their wings, as their cages are too tiny and too packed in a limited space. In addition, animals are administered with antibiotics and hormones to encourage faster growth and productivity. For instance, broiler chickens are purposely altered with genetics to increase weight, and to avoid infection, such chickens are offered growth hormones that create food product that is unhealthy for human consumption (Lee, McAlexander and Banda 116). Some of the genetically bred chickens become extraordinarily large that they cannot move, hence, they may end up dying due to dehydration and starvation, since they cannot reach their food troughs. Factory farming has become a large contributor of human infectious diseases. The residual chemicals in animal products are likely to expose humans to faster growth, just like animals. The extensive use of antibiotics in factory animal industry has led to the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which is a threat to human health.
Factory farming has contributed in wasting precious resources. While the Earth does not have adequate resources, factory farming has continued to squander the available resources to feed the animals. Owners of factory farming have encroached into forests and water resources as they endeavor to produce enough food to feed their animas. More land is required to produce dairy products that it would be required to cultivate cereals, vegetables, and fruits while much of the water used in agriculture is directed to animal production. The system has exerted force on the environment through extension of land and provision of other animal needs, such as water, electricity, and labor force. A lot of money has been invested in the manufacturing of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which are critical for the production of livestock feed. Such investments could be directed towards the production of plant-based food, which could feed more people than they could in farm animals. Animal products are not the only source of protein, as plants are also vital source of protein.
Factory farming has destroyed some people’s culture, as well as the quality of meat. A family farm had been an American icon for a long time, but the emergence of factory farms has led to the destruction of family farm, as factory farm owners have managed to reap huge benefits from a small space. They have kept the production costs relatively low, thus, keeping out small farmers who were their competitors. Small-scale farmers who rely on animals are forced to look for other alternatives of earning a living, as their expenditures continue to rise through the maintenance of infrastructure that is destroyed by activities in factory farms. Large factory farms seldom care about space or comfort for the livestock, as long as they are getting the benefits with minimum costs.
Researchers have indicated that the current practice of factory farming for human consumption is unacceptable because of its effects on humans, animals, as well as the environment. A study carried out by the Pew Commission in 2008 concerning Industrial Farm Animal Production recommended for a termination of some intensive production methods that included battery cages, gestation crates, as well as force-feeding birds to yield fatty livers, which were harmful to the animals (Pluhar 455). Factory farming consumes a lot of fresh water, which could be directed for other uses. Disposal of animal waste entails pumping of water into the pits that store such waste. Some water that is contaminated with chemicals may leak from the pits and join the local waterways, leading to the spread of toxic chemicals that destroy aquatic animals and other organisms. The support for factory farming has also encouraged monocultures, which are a threat to food security. Single-crops farms have taken much of the agricultural land, yet much of the crops are fed to livestock.
Animal rights activists consider factory farming as morally wrong, as it exposes animals into abuse. Animal welfare advocates do not restrain people from rearing animals for human purposes, but rather prevent people from mistreating animals by confining them in small cages and pens that resemble prisons. According to Warren, modern farming that involves confining animals in pens is inhumane, and that eating animal products is unhealthy (69). Humans are supposed to offer appropriate care to animals by allowing them to roam around freely, protect them from harsh weather, and treat them when they fall sick.
Some proponents of factory farming may argue that keeping animals in a small space help in production of healthier animals than practicing intensive farming. Most farm animals are confined in barns, or roofed houses to protect them from harsh weather and to enhance their health (Warren 69). Most farmers assert that they cannot benefit from this practice unless they maintain the health of their animals. However, factory farming has contributed to rigorous physiological and behavioral problems, in addition to the spread of various animal diseases. The purpose of enhancing food security could be surpassed by millions of people using much of their earnings to seek treatment of preventable diseases.
No moral theory can authorize the extension of factory farming for the sake of enhancing food security. For instance, feminist theory, which emphasizes on the relationships among beings, as well as the emotional significance of relationships, does not approve for industrialized meat production for the sake of consumption. When there are choices to make concerning what to eat, women take the responsibility because they are quite sensitive in terms of food value. By focusing on morality, eating meat entails knowing how the animal was being treated before it was turned into meat. This implies that people should only eat meat that comes from animals that are raised in a sustainable environment.
Moral vegetarians are individuals who oppose eating of meat not because of its health implications, but rather on ethical grounds. Vegetarians argued that raising animals in factory farms for meat and other products is to sacrifice the most essential and basic interests of animals (Shaw 270). They insist that the extra pleasure that individuals get from meat can hardly meet the price that animals have to pay. The biblical notion of man’s dominion over animals is what many people believe in when it comes to animal care, but the Judeo-Christian faith is against inhumane treatment of animals, as a righteous man should not be cruel to animals.
Utilitarianism is against factory farming because it holds that the ultimate objective of morality is to capitalize on happiness. Treating animals meant for human consumption well would generate more pleasure, but treating such animals badly inflicts pain on them. Some philosophers assert that it is acceptable to raise animals for food, but such animals should be raised humanely, and not in a confined area (Shaw 270). Utilitarianism usually focuses on the results, thus, if factory farming is detrimental for both animals and humans, it should be discouraged.
Stopping Factory Farming
Animal rights activists emphasize that animals have rights, just as humans, and any exploitation of animals by humans implies that animals are inferior to humans. Although many people would like to take healthy meals in their homes and in restaurants, they seem to forget that they have the power to do so. Individuals can contribute in discouraging factory farming by turning to alternatives for animal products, or purchasing animal products from farmers who practice free-range and traditional intensive animal farming.
People can opt to abandon meat and turn to vegetables and fruits for protein. Becoming a vegetarian will not only discourage factory farming, but also enhance individuals’ health by avoiding animal products. There is a hope that human attitudes concerning animals is changing, as some states, such as Arizona, California, Florida, and Oregon, have passed laws to prohibit the confinement of pigs that are pregnant, or raising calves for veal in small pens (Shaw 270). Many laws are only passed when people push for a change, thus, it may take long before farmers can accept that there is a problem.
The debate on whether factory farming should be encouraged for human consumption purposes has been going on in most communities, as people strive to understand economical, social and ethical approach of such practice. While economists and farmers support factory farming for enhancing food security and creation of jobs, animal welfare activists oppose the practice due to exposure of animals to cruelty and sufferings. Confining animals for human consumption should be discouraged, as animal products from such farms contribute in the emergency of chronic illnesses among humans, in addition to the destruction of environment. Most philosophers believe that inflicting unnecessary pain and distress to animals by confining them in sheds is morally wrong. Although it is extremely hard to turn all people into vegetarians, people should insist on eating meat that comes from animals raised in a stress-free environment.
Kemmerer, Lisa. Animals and the Environment: Advocacy, Activism, and the Quest for Common Ground. , 2015. Internet resource.
Lee, Rebecca E, Kristen McAlexander, and Jorge Banda. Reversing the Obesogenic Environment. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2011. Print.
Pluhar, Evelyn. “Meat And Morality: Alternatives To Factory Farming.” Journal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 23.5 (2010): 455-468. Business Source Complete. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.
Rossi, John, and Samual Garner. “Industrial Farm Animal Production: A Comprehensive Moral Critique.” Journal Of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics 27.3 (2014): 479-522. Business Source Complete. Web. 15 Sept. 2016.
Shaw, William H. Business Ethics. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.
Warren, Dean M. Small Animal Care & Management. Albany, NY: Delmar/Thomson Learning, 2016. Print.