Each year, nearly 50 billion animals are slaughtered for their meat, to feed a world population of 6 billion people. These numbers might look odd but not only are they real; they also are the result of the way WE consume! Animal farming throughout the world has become increasingly intensive. This is partly a response to demand from consumers for cheaper meat, milk and eggs and to the pressure on farmers from supermarkets for cheaper products.
Cheap food policies can be very costly to society as a whole and here are four facts that explain why.
Industrial farming contributes to global warming
Our modern, genetically modified and intensive industrial food and farming system is one of the main causes of global warming.
Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) contribute directly to global warming by releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – more than the entire global transportation industry.
The air at some factory farm test sites in the U.S. is dirtier than in America’s most polluted cities, according to the Environmental Integrity Project.
According to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), animal agriculture is responsible for 18% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, including 37% of methane emissions and 65% of nitrous oxide emissions.
Industrial farming can lead to serious health issues
Today, nearly 65 billion animals worldwide, including cows, chickens and pigs, are crammed into Confined Animal Feeding Operations. These animals are literally imprisoned and tortured in unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. Sickness is the norm for animals who are confined rather than pastured, and who eat genetically modified corn and soybeans, rather than grass and forage as nature intended.
To prevent the inevitable spread of disease from stress, overcrowding and lack of vitamin D, animals are fed a steady diet of antibiotics. Those antibiotics pose a direct threat to the environment when they run off into our lakes, rivers, aquifers and drinking water. And if they are a threat to the environment, ever wondered what this could do to our health?
Industrial farming negatively affects communities’ economy
With claims that industrial farms will create new jobs, invest in local businesses, and increase property value, many communities open their arms to these farms. Recent experience, however, has shown that when large-scale farms enter communities, replacing small farms, they can actually create an economic downturn.
In fact, most factory farm jobs pay such low wages that the local workers suffer severe pay cuts. Local farmers are also losing control over the way they farm and the prices they can ask for their products because of contract farming.
It has also been proven that small farms proportionately spend almost 50% more at local businesses than large farms do, primarily because larger farms buy feeding bulk from sources outside of the community.
The animal cruelty factor is revolting
It’s sometimes easy to forget that the path from livestock to our plates can be fraught with unbelievable animal cruelty. Locking animals in tiny cages, slicing parts of their bodies off without any pain relief, these are examples of common practices in industrial farms and simply writing these words actually make me feel sick. It is revolting and, more importantly, hard to believe that we, humans, who feel pain and empathy, are even capable of treating animals in such a way.
Now, I am not going to pretend that I am vegetarian, I am not. But as a consumer, I try to make conscious choices to lessen my negative effect on the animal community. I only eat meat a few times a week and when I do, I make sure to buy free-range eggs and chicken, and grass-fed beef. Sometimes my bank account hates me, but I do it for my body and the environment.
There are alternatives to industrial farming such as semi-intensive and organic systems which pay particular attention to the needs of animals and are kinder to the environment. So we don’t have to give up on meat, we just need to make smarter choices!