Factory Farming – what on earth does that mean?

Factory farming has been used as an emotive expression used to denigrate the livestock industry. If you assess what it infers, it’s industrial processes applied to animal production, which grates against our desire for foods to be natural and wholesome. So, the term is meant to shock us into rejecting animal production.

The term originates from Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines (1964) which was crucial in raising awareness to the welfare of animals. However, it has now been converted into a movement which has no clear concept of what a factory farm is. The reality is the most intensively managed species is our own. There is nothing natural about the way we live or raise our children in modern society.

So when I read the Guardian headline “Is factory farming to blame for coronavirus?” I was shocked. Here is a respected newspaper using a phrase linked to the pandemic as a blatant strategy to sell copies. The article lacks the depth of analysis that I used to love and respect – I used to read it daily. This article misses the point completely – Covid19 came from bats, possibly via Pangolins so to make this an article about livestock production methods reveals the sinister agenda behind this paper. Where is the evidence and balance in this article and paper?

It would be interesting to explore these points:

  1. There is a human population explosion – pandemics will be inevitable and it remarkable it has been 100 years since the last one. The prediction is there will be more, but human population movements are the problem now
  2. Population densities in major cities is increasing – these will be the places to avoid. The chances are the next pandemics will come from animal species, just as animal pandemics could come from humans. That’s the nature of viruses skipping species which has happened for millions of years. They may come from farmed species as we have closest contact with these, but clearly many of the big ones don’t e.g. Covid19, Ebola, HIV (all mentioned in the Guardian article)
  3. Demand for animal sourced proteins is increasing. The priority should be to ensure this is done to highest welfare standards and sustainably.
  4. Welfare can be very good or very bad and the compassion and skills of people determine this. Making sure we have the best people looking after animals. By demonising a section of society we do livestock the worst harm of all by destroying the labour markets for farms and forcing ever greater automation
  5. Animals can be healthier, happier and better cared for than people, who are often managed more intensively to their detriment, mentally and socially. I’m surprised no-one has commented on this yet. I often think we would be happier if we lived like sheep or cattle rather than animals attached to machines. We are the real Animal Machines in Factory Farms.