Pass the bacon (or don’t!): against factory farming

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The demand for animal products has been steadily rising over the years. This demand has increased the practice of factory farming where animals are confined and taken through mechanized production with the aim of creating high volumes of meat to supply to the market. In 2007 alone, for instance, the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that more than ten billion land animals in the United States were slaughtered for food (Pluhar, 2010). In this paper, I argue that from the Animal Rights Organization point of view, factory farming is not a defensible practice. This practice should instead be supplemented with small-scale farming.

From an animal rights point of view, factory farming is a practice that takes away the rights of these animals (Panaman, 2008). The ethical argument here is that as humans, non-human animals have the capacity to feel pain, and have interests that need to be protected (Strindlund, 2006). Factory farming is a practice that takes away these rights by treating animals as commodities used to satisfy human demands and desires. Animal rights activists hold the view animals hold equal rights to human rights, and it is our responsibility to protect these rights (Strindlund, 2006). I hold the views that since animals have rights that demand us to offer a high degree of protection to reduce pain and suffering (Panaman, 2008). In addition to animal welfare, the idea of ecocentrism or ecocentric ethics points to the fact that factory farming is a dangerous practice. This branch of ethics is concerned with the protection of plant and animal species, as well as landscapes. Factory farming is a practice that puts intense pressure on existing resources, and this, in turn, causes major effects to the environment and the plant and animal species. This practice causes intense pollution due to animal waste and other activities related to factory farming. Also, factory farming is a practice that uses huge energy quantities. This causes the production of greenhouse emissions. The livestock industry has been found to be notorious in as far as the production of greenhouse emissions is concerned. According to FAO, the livestock industry accounts for more than 20% of all greenhouse emissions (Pluhar, 2010). When it comes to the consumers, studies also show that meat eaters contribute immensely to the to the total carbon dioxide emissions. Therefore, practices associated with factory farming causes major damages to the environment, and this causes major effects to the plants and animals on earth.

The Mark demand for meat and other animal products is on the increase. This, in turn, promotes the practice of factory farming in a huge way. For instance, it was estimated that in 2007 alone, the global meat supply stood at 284 million tonnes (Bittman, 2008). The per capita consumption has increased by more than double since the 1960s, and this is likely to continue increasing in the future. By 2050, it is estimated that the world meat consumption will have doubled (Bittman, 2008). The market demand for these products is thus a major driver for factory farming. It is a big business to engage in large-scale animal production in order to take advantage of the ever increasing demand. In my answer, I have stated that factory farming should not be encouraged, but with the global demand for meat increasing, factory farming is being legitimized indirectly. The efforts to end this practice directly hinge on the ability to reduce global meat demand. Alternately, as the next section will demonstrate, this high demand can be met with small-scale farming. If the market can be supplied with enough quantities of meat and related products through small scale farming, it will be a major gain towards alleviating factory farming.

Another problem associated with factory farming stems from the diseases it causes to the human population. Research has shown that most strands of influenza virus that affect humans are caused by contact with animals, mainly domestic birds and pigs (Anomaly, 2015). With factory farming, the transmission of these viruses has been on the increase. First, by crowding a large number of animals together, the immune systems of these animals are reduced thus making them vulnerable to infections. Secondly, by putting together animals of different species, the virus is given a chance to mutate making it highly resistant to traditional medicines and vaccines (Anomaly, 2015). Finally, in factory farming, animals are confined in very small space without proper ventilation and lighting. This also makes the animals susceptible to certain parasites.

The biggest question, therefore, is whether or not the world can be fed by small scale farming. To this question, I answer yes. Small scale farming, if practised correctly, can meet the current and future demands of meat products. The strategy is to use smaller but many small-scale family farms in which sustainable agriculture is being practiced (Pluhar, 2010). Small scale farms will make it possible to raise animals in a much less stressed environment, and this will not only promote the rights of these animals but also reduce the risks of diseases to the human population. Through small-scale farms, the impact to the environment will be reduced. One possible counterargument to my position on factory farming is that to satisfy the needs of the population, factory farming will help produce large enough quantities. I argue that the defense for factory farms is myopic and fails to see the potential problems in future. While factory farming may address these needs now, the impact on the environment and human population is great and will cause problems in future. People should be encouraged to practice alternative sustainable farming methods of we have to meet the global demand for meat and related products in the long term.

To conclude, this paper has taken the position that factory farming should not be allowed to continue since it causes harm to animals, the environment and human populations. From an animal rights perspective, it is our duty to take care of these animals and promote their rights. Small scale sustainable farms are the best alternative to the factory farming that is currently ruining our environment.

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  1. Anomaly, J. (2015). What’s Wrong With Factory Farming? Public Health Ethics, 8(3), pp. 246-254
  2. Bittman, M. (2008). Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler. The New York Times.
  3. Panaman, R (2008). Factory Farming & Animal Rights.
  4. Pluhar, E.B. (2010). Meat and Morality: Alternatives to Factory Farming. J Agric Environ Ethics, 23, pp. 455-468
  5. Strindlund, P. (2006). Butchers’ Knives into Pruning Hooks: Civil Disobedience for Animals. In P. Singer (Ed.) In Defense of Animals (pp. 167-173), Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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