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Monday, June 16, 2014

Day 537: Is a Factory Farm Really a Farm?

Today I pondered on the definition of the word "farm" as I drove by a collection of large buildings with chickens inside them (battery farms). It struck me as a contradiction of terms, as the actual definition of farming does not actually include the practices of factory farming. Factory farming may have the function of producing food, but the methods that they use cannot be described as farming.

Here is a basic definition of the verb "farm":

To use land for growing food or raising animals

If animals are kept in tiny cages inside massive buildings filled with thousands of animals, we can't really say that those animals are being "raised", as that would imply some kind of respect for the animal, in which these cases there is none. We can also not say that the land is being used, as that would imply that the animals would at least be on the land instead of inside cages.

Before this modern age of mass production, farming was done in the understanding that the farmer has a responsibility to the land and the animals, a responsibility to keep both healthy at the very least because an unhealthy animal or barren field is of no help to a farmer.

So what has changed in recent times that has caused the shift of the farmer no longer practicing respect for animals or for the earth?

What has certainly been a large contributor to this phenomenon is the fact that farmers just don't make that much money from what they are producing - in general. Factory farming is large scale in a small space - maximum income potential at a much lower cost.

Many farms have been bought out by the big food corporations and turned into factory farms just because the original farmers simply couldn't afford to continue doing what they do.

Natural disasters often are enough to destroy a farm's source of income during the season it is most desperately needed, causing the owner to sell.

In the end, the common denominator is money. The production of food has become all about the business and because of this there has been no consideration for the practical side. This is evidenced by the increasing cases of food-borne illnesses originating from unhealthy animals. The animals must be routinely given antibiotics simply because the conditions in which they are forced to survive are not fit for living. This contributes to the ever-increasing ineffectiveness of antibiotics due to the viruses adapting and evolving.So in general, factory farming may be cheap, but it's not good for anyone's long term health.

Another big consequence is that there are only a small handful of corporations controlling a huge chunk of the global food industry. We are literally at their mercy - they could do pretty much anything they want and get away with it because of their vast resources and connections. If they wanted to feed us rubber chicken then they could do it at the same time as convincing everyone that it's safe. That's what they're already doing anyway - it's called advertising.

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