Opinion – Ending the cruelty toward farm animals

Rachel Brokenshire, Correspondent

When we think of farm animals, we may picture a scene from a children’s book—a farmer and his family taking care of the animals; the cows in the field eating grass with their calves; the pigs happily lying about in mud puddles; chickens flapping their wings and eating feed and bugs from the ground. The reality, however, is quite the opposite, as I learned while preparing my social justice project for Mr. Lane’s religion class. The cruel and barbaric ways the animals are treated on factory farms not only condemns them to a life of misery until they are slaughtered, but it also damages our health when we eat the meat, ruins the environment, and affects the quality of life for people who live near (or downwind) of factory farms. Although it is very disturbing to learn how farm animals are treated on factory farms, I think it is important to be educated so you can make the best choices for creating a compassionate world.

First of all, you may ask, what is a factory farm and how are the animals treated on them? The ASPCA website defines factory farms as, “a large, industrial operation that raises large numbers of animals for food. Over 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, which focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of animal welfare” (ASPCA website). On factory farms:

  • Pigs– confined in “windowless enclosures without fresh air, sunlight or outdoor access” (ASPCA website) where they cannot practice natural behaviors. Pregnant female pigs (sows) are confined to metal crates where they cannot even get up to turn around. In frustration, they bit the tails and ears off of other pigs.
  • Chickens– “raised indoors in large sheds containing 20,000 chickens or more. The chickens live crammed together on the shed floor. Because they live in their own waste, high ammonia levels irritate and burn their eyes, throats and skin” (ASPCA website).
  • Cattle– packed into large, overcrowded pens, about the size of a hockey rink, at a young age. Corn, which is not meant to be in their diets, is fed to them along with antibiotics. Corn fattens them up quickly. The unnatural diet of corn would cause their livers to explode, except they are sent to slaughterhouses before that happens. “Without pasture and often without shelter, the cattle must stand in mud, ice, and their own waste” (ASPCA website).

Consuming the meat provided from factory farms can negatively affect our health. Eighty percent of the antibiotics sold in this country are given to farm animals as a preventative measure because of the filthy conditions in which they live. When we eat the meat from these animals, we are ingesting these antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics has created “superbugs”- harmful bacteria that cannot be destroyed with the current antibiotics. Meat of cattle fed with corn has Omega 6 fatty acids, which are bad for your heart. Steroids, growth hormones, and a drug called Ractopamine (which has been banned in many other countries) are also being fed to farm animals. Sickness and death are caused by E.coli infections which can be found in undercooked ground beef.  The beef is contaminated in unsanitary slaughterhouses.

Factory farming affects the environment in the following ways:

  • Air pollution– over 37% of methane emissions are a result of factory farming. “Methane has a global warming potential twenty times higher than carbon dioxide” (onegreenplanet.org).
  • Deforestation– all over the world, forests are being cleared to make room for cattle ranches and to grow crops for animal feed.
  • Water pollution– “Water polluted with agricultural runoff can destroy whole ecosystems and be toxic, if not lethal to humans and animals alike” (onegreenplanet.org). Factory farms contain massive cesspools that store animal waste.

There are many ways to help with this social injustice. The most drastic change you can make would be to become a vegetarian or a vegan. If you are not prepared to take these steps, there are other smaller steps you can take. You can try to eliminate meat from your diet at least once or twice a week, at the store buy meat and eggs that are marked as pasture raised, or buy meat and eggs directly from a family run farm that treats their animals humanly. You can also make your family and community aware of this social injustice. Finally, you can write to your Congressman and tell them that you want factory farming to stop.