CyberDodo and the farmyard (1-25)
In our times, industrial livestock farming is commonplace. What if we were to return to the happy...
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Similarly to natural fertilisers, which were once used with the justifiable aim of helping our ancestors to get better crops, and then progressively replaced by dangerous derivatives, particularly chemically-based ones (See the CyberDodo case file on this topic), the farming of animals changed from a few beasts which a family needed to feed itself, to meat factories in which livestock has become nothing more than a commodity to be produced just like any other.
How did we get here?
For thousands of years, humans and animals had very similar living conditions. For example, if meteorological conditions were difficult or if there was a drought, their common survival was threatened. The main source of protein that a family had consisted of the animals they owned, thus they were an extremely precious asset that had to be looked after.
Then, towards the middle of the 20th century, western countries underwent an economic boom which pushed the transformation of the traditional farming model towards intensive farming.
The aim was to offer better food to a larger number of people. This objective was very noble at the end of the second world war, a period of deprivation, but soon gave way to an industrial system which produces ‘living’ commodities without any consideration for the animals involved and their needs.
Where does this leave us at the beginning of the 3rd millennium?
The description of ‘meat factories’ refers to numerous structures, of which one of the aims is to increasingly reduce the required rearing time before being able to sell the ‘products’.
Let us take the example of layer hens, which have become ‘egg machines’ that live in appalling conditions in battery cages. It started out with the discovery of an Asian race (Gallus Gallus) whose behaviour was solely motivated by the perpetuation of the species. The male has beautiful colours which are used to attract the female, who will build a nest in a discreet place. She will lay 5 to 10 eggs which she will sit on for about 3 weeks, under the watchful eye of the male, who will risk his life to defend the nest against every danger.
Then males and females will help each other protect and raise their little ones that they will teach to find food, know their surrounding environment, etc, nothing too out of the ordinary...
Now let us have a look at what man has done to this species because of industrial farming:
- Several chickens are locked up in small cages in which they cannot move or unfold their wings;
- The bottom of the cage is made of wire mesh, so their feet get hurt and become disfigured;
- These cages are piled up to form veritable walls standing up to several metres in height;
- The light, which stimulates laying, is kept on for 12 to 16 hours a day;
- The too high concentration of individuals results in the use of anti-biotic treatments, sometimes on a systematic basis;
- This proximity generates aggressive behaviours, often the chickens’ beaks have to be clipped to stop them from hurting each other;
- The males are of no interest to egg production, so they are killed when they hatch;
This industrial approach will result in the production of about 300 eggs per chicken per annum before they are ‘recycled’ for their flesh or whatever remains of them.
However, it is not just layers that suffer because they are solely regarded as machines; this is also true of chickens that are fattened as quickly as possible, because the less time the animal will occupy a (very small) space, the more cost-effective the outcome will be.
The natural development of chickens is an ancient story, the genetic selection of species that grow faster, combined with very rich food and reduced mobility, which helps ‘produce’ a chicken ready to be eaten within one and a half months.
No need to mention that this ‘production’ is to the detriment of the animal which will live its short life under extremely sad conditions (which results in the death of many chickens even before being slaughtered); not forgetting the curious quality of greatly reduced cooking time.
The same is true for pigs, which often do not even have enough space to turn around, cows which have become ‘milk factories’ and their calves which are deliberately made anaemic (lack of iron) so that their meat can be as white as possible, because this is the colour preferred by most consumers!
What are the consequences for mankind?
If we can easily understand that the intensive farming of animals involves treating them as if they are objects and not living beings, and that without having this mentality, it would be impossible to inflict so much suffering on them; we need to also understand that this has negative consequences for mankind, here is a non-exhaustive list of examples:
Quantity of food available
Let us just talk about the billion or so cows which are on the earth today; the amount of food needed to rear them is a more important priority than the billion human beings who go hungry every day. Eating meat is a luxury available in rich countries, but the price for this is paid by poor countries.
The growth of the human population implies guaranteeing each person a sufficient amount of food on a daily basis, thus global reflexion and action.
Cattle produce methane during digestion and this is one of the main greenhouse gases (see our case file). Certain specialists estimated that at the beginning of the 21st century, the rearing of cattle was responsible for one-fifth of all emissions.
Industrial farming produces enormous quantities of waste, for example, the rearing of pigs, whose manure has contaminated numerous water tables (See our case file) and rivers (Eutrophication = Asphyxia).
Intensive farming impoverishes the genetic diversity of species, because we are producing more and more animals which belong to less and less different species. Furthermore, this promotes the spread of pandemic diseases (Zoonoses = animal diseases that are transmissible to humans).
Industrial farming particularly implies the use of massive antibiotic treatments for animals, which can often be avoided. These antibiotics are found in meat and their sub-products consumed by mankind and contribute towards the confirmed development of human antibioresistance.
Quality of food
Let us not lose sight of the fact that ‘manipulation’ of live animals for intensive and battery cage farming, with the aim of accelerating the growth of animals, has consequences on the quality of meat, milk, eggs, etc. which are obviously fattier and therefore not as healthy (Antibiotics and other treatments mentioned above).
The inhumane treatment of animals, even those which are to be consumed, is not acceptable.
The challenge of feeding billions of people is one of the most important faced by society today. This implies the coordination of agricultural policies at international level so as to put an end to the glut of offer in rich countries as well as the neediness of too many poor countries.
Once again, the key word is RESPECT, respect for animals, respect for human beings, respect for the environment, and respect for future generations.
Because life is a chain whose solidity is endangered every day by those who consider farm animals to be nothing more than commodities...
To see the cartoon on battery cage farming, click here
To see the game on intensive farming, click here
To do the quiz, click here
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