Factory farms are a huge part of our food production, but are factory farms really that bad?
Factory farming, or intensive animal farming as it is otherwise known, is a way of, you guessed it, intensely farming animals.
Factory farming is conducted essentially to maximize the output of products while keeping the actual production costs low to maximise profit margins.
The animals concerned are stereotypically packed into spaces that barely scrape the minimum condition requirements set by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 to enable the maximum amount of “units” available to the processor.
Although the farms involved in this area of food production must follow the regulations that have been set out in law and are rigorously investigated for their compliance, we still question whether factory farms are really that bad?
How Bad is Factory Farming?
With almost 1,700 factory farms in operation in the UK, the owners and workers in such places are bound by the Animal Welfare Act 2006, which states, amongst many other regulations, that animals should be:
- Kept in satisfactory conditions
- Allowed the freedom to conduct normal behaviour
- Fed and watered adequately
- Slaughtered humanely
Now, we all know that the food we consume from animals has to come from somewhere, but to have it come from a place that has such a heavily regulated process, begs the question of is this really the right way to fill our plates?
Factory farming animals for the mass production of their meat and associated byproducts only really compliments the “Stack it high, sell it cheap” mentality that is really only upheld in those outlets that sell it that way.
Is Factory Farming Cruel to Animals?
In all honesty, the factory farming industry has legal impositions on its operations, stating that animal cruelty will not be accepted in law.
However, cruelty to animals holds many different meanings for different people with no definitive definition, so the question of cruelty in intensive animal farming situations is subjective.
When asking the following questions concerning factory farms, we can glean some insight into the industry and how animal cruelty can be perceived here.
Are the Animals Fed and Watered Optimally?
Yes, they are.
However, if the animals are farmed indoors, as they often are for control, they will be fed en masse at specific times, with food chosen on their behalf.
They do not have the choice of free-roaming to choose the food they want or an option of when they eat.
Their food will be measured out per head and often put out all at once, causing a scramble and a fight for dominance, meaning some animals may not get their quota.
Do the Animals Have Enough Space to be Comfortable?
Laws state that animals should have a prescribed amount of space per head (this varies for different types of animals), so it could be declared they have enough space, just!
However, when asking if they have enough space to be comfortable can be questionable.
The “pack them into the upper legal limit” means the animals have space, but sometimes not the free-roaming space that you may afford your own animals.
The common cramped conditions may lead animals to be stressed and behave uncharacteristically, which isn’t ideal.
Do the Animals Have Ideal Living Conditions?
No. Of course, they don’t.
Their ideal living conditions would mimic their living conditions in the wild. So anywhere the animals would live naturally is their ideal conditions, and factory farms cannot manipulate this to match any of the conditions they provide because it’s not their natural habitat.
Of course, intensive animal farming has developed a great deal over previous decades where battery conditions were commonplace, for example.
But are the conditions the animals are kept in the best they can be for their inhabitants?
Not really, they could be so much better, but that would obviously impact heavily on the producers’ profit margins.
Are Factory Farms Dirty?
Are they dirty is a great question and can only be answered with ease when you liken it to having 1,000 children with a tummy bug together in 1 classroom!
If you imagine this awful situation, you can appreciate having the exact equivalent of animals in one shed who often toilet themselves on the floor (again, a totally natural process for them!) It can be challenging to maintain cleanliness consistently.
Although the farms must have rigorous cleaning and sanitation schedules, it’s definitely not the easiest to keep pristine all the time; therefore, it will get dirty.
If we are talking dirty in a broader sense, there will be other “non-clean” considerations that pop up for questioning, such as:
- Air Pollution – Mass production always creates more pollutants into the atmosphere than domestic sources.
- Odour Pollution – Factory farming often can be located by smell, simply due to many animals in one place doing the thing they do naturally (see classroom analogy!)
- Chemical Pollution – Factory farming often uses chemical processes to ward off disease and illness in animals. When this is done en masse, it could mean the surrounding area is affected too.
The unclean list can also move towards concerns of local water pollution and contamination of land and highlight they are potential breeding grounds for animal-specific diseases such as avian flu and foot and mouth disease.
So when we are looking at the initial question of “Are Factory Farms Really That Bad?” it would be irresponsible to the animals and the end consumer to say, “no, they’re not that bad.”
The evidence clearly points to “it could be and should be better.”
When looking at an ethical and sustainable food chain, factory farms clearly have their place, but that place is not the best it could be for the welfare of the animals and the end consumer.
When you have a choice to eat chicken (or any other animal, we don’t discriminate!) that has been factory farmed, potentially under duress with no way to behave in an instinctual and healthy way, versus a free-roaming animal who has lived its life calmly, doing the things it wants to when it wants to do them, which one would you now choose?
Yes, we agree.
Calm and free all the way!