By Colin Todhunter
– The amount of meat humans eat is immense. In 1965, 10 billion livestock animals were slaughtered each year. That number is now over 55 billion. Factory farming is the fastest growing method of animal production worldwide. While industrialised nations dominate this form of farming, developing countries are rapidly expanding and intensifying their production systems.
Violence on the farm
A new virtual reality film project by Animal Equality shows the public how a factory farm operates. The film focuses on how pigs live out their lives from birth to death – from the perspective of a pig. It is clear that it is not just the pig’s final death that is brutal but its whole life
The film shows how a factory farm pig is born in confinement (and into its mother’s excrement), its tail is docked and teeth clipped and it is castrated (if male) – all without pain relief. It is separated from its mother, which has been pinned down by a metal bar, and will never see the outdoors.
If the pig is female, ahead of it lies a life of artificial insemination and the taking of its children by humans over and over again, for as long as it remains fertile. Males will be taken to be fattened and will again live in overcrowded cages without stimulation, often leading to mental distress played out by biting other pigs in the cage, and fattened for five months until slaughter.
It is a life worse than that of the worst incarcerated prisoner, yet its only crime is to have been born. And immediately before having its throat cut, the pig can see its own fate as other pigs are hung up in front of it, struggling and bleeding.
Animal Equality is an International animal advocacy organisation that is dedicated to defending all animals through public education, campaigns and investigations. It works to create a more just and compassionate world for animals and is active in many countries. Its film does not go in for sensationalism. What we see appears to be an ordinary factory farm from where the public’s food increasingly derives.
Hidden filming inside factory farms shows that, from pigs and cattle to chickens, the stories are similar and the treatment of animals often barbaric. Various organisations have posted short films about the practices and standard abuses of animals within factory farms that take place in many countries (for example, Mercy For Animals has carried out numerous undercover operations in the US and Canada, which can be seen here, and Animal Equality has conducted similar investigations across Europe).
Why factory farms – why meat?
It is commonly claimed that we need to massively increase the amount of food we produce to feed a growing world population. Another claim is that chemical-intensive (GM) agriculture and factory farming is the only way to do this. These claims are erroneous.
The world already produces enough food to feed the anticipated increase in global population, and various official high-level reports state that small-scale/family farms using ecologically friendly methods are better placed to feed a growing population if adequately invested in (see this and this). Small farms already feed most of the world (see this as well), whereas factory farming belongs to a globalised model of chemical-intensive, mono-cropping and export oriented food and agriculture that produces and fuels food poverty and insecurity.
Moreover, if as a species we were to cut down on meat consumption or even eradicate it from our diet, we could feed the world more easily.
However, meat eating and factory farming are fuelled by government policies. The heavily subsidised meat industry has encouraged people, especially in the US, to eat more much meat than is necessary. A more healthy, non-meat based diet is being discriminated against due to the meat industry’s taxpayer-subsidised cheap meat (see this, this and this).
It comes as no surprise then that, according to the United Nations Population Fund, “Each US citizen consumes an average of 260 pounds of meat per year, the world’s highest rate. That is about 1.5 times the industrial world average, three times the East Asian average, and 40 times the average in Bangladesh.”
And all this meat eating has a huge impact.
A 2010 report from the United Nations Environment Programme’s International Panel of Sustainable Resource Management declared: “Impacts from agriculture are expected to increase substantially due to population growth and increasing consumption of animal products… A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”…