Issues > Food & Drink > Animals > Factory Farming
Factory farming is a system of animal agriculture that involves an extreme level of control over animals' lives to maximise meat production while minimising cost. Unfortunately, the approaches taken in factory farming significantly reduce the quality of life for the animals involved. It also causes a number of environmental, social, and health-related issues. Despite this, there has been little effort from governments or businesses to reduce its prevalence or negative impacts.
Exactly what factory farming involves will vary for different kinds of animals. There are a few overarching themes, however. The biggest one is the treatment of animals as commodities rather than living beings. This leads to money being valued more highly than the animals' welfare and basic needs. Related to this is a focus on large-scale production and efficiency. This often leads to a large number of animals being confined to small living spaces, including indoor sheds, cages, crates, or pens. Hormones and breeding practices are often used to distort these animals' bodies in the name of greater meat production at the expense of their welfare. One example is selective breeding to make chickens reach slaughter weight three times faster, causing several skeletal and cardiovascular issues.
What you can do:
Factory farming places a significant toll on the environment. The amount of water, fossil fuels, and land used in these farms is significant and unsustainable. Animal waste and the pesticides used in the animal feed contaminate waterways to the point that some become dead zones unable to support life! Due to long hours, exposure to disease, and simply the nature of the work itself, workers at factory farms are more likely to suffer from physical and psychological problems. Further, these environmental and health impacts more greatly affect the rural communities surrounding these farms compared to other populations. This list of problems is only scratching the surface. Still, I'm sure you are already wondering how to avoid contributing to this cruel practice.
Unfortunately, these cruel, overcrowded conditions create the perfect environment for diseases to cultivate. Because giving animals a more ethical environment would reduce profit, however, these farms pump the animals full of antibiotics instead of addressing the underlying issue. When these seep into the environment, they allow microbes to become resistant, making it harder for us to fight certain illnesses.
You can stop the problem at its source by reducing or eliminating animal products from your diet. This isn't always easy, so try to remember it is a gradual process. Animals Australia is a great place to go for more tips.
If buying meat, Sustainable Table's Ethical Meat Suppliers Directory will help you find butchers offering free range and organic meat.
If you continue to eat animal products, look for those which are independently certified by organisations like the RSPCA. The ethical standards for these items are higher, although far from perfect.