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See that “Humane Farming” box on the sidebar?…

September 24, 2008
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…Here’s why it’s important. More abuses uncovered at yet another factory farm, this one a pig “farm” in Iowa that supplies Hormel Foods. The sow in the photo to the left took 30 seconds of spray paint in the face; the story doesn’t say what her crime was, but that was the least of the “punishments” doled out by the psychopaths on duty. (Recall the HSUS undercover investigation that revealed horrific abuses taking place at at a slaughtering facility in California.)

Despite industry protestations to the contrary, you can bet that this kind of crap is going on all over the country every day at CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) and “processing” facilities just like this one. What can you do? For one thing, you can support efforts to reform the industry, wherever those efforts are being organized. Yes, animal cruelty laws are on the books in most states. But it takes brave and enterprising whistleblowers or undercover agents to expose abuses and get the attention of law enforcement. The factory farming culture condones abuse and exploitation – in fact, it couldn’t do business any other way. You can’t “process” hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of animals a week without inventing cruel efficiencies that demean and commodify nonhuman beings and twist and desensitize human ones. Industry-wide reform is desperately needed.

This fall, Californians will consider Prop 2, a “humane farming” measure that says if an animal is going to be confined for the majority of the day, he/she should be able to stand up, turn around, and lie down with legs extended in the pen. I collected some signatures for this ballot measure last winter and one signer, a farmer, said to me, “that’s humane?!” Baby steps, I guess. The proposition also bans battery cages (for egg-laying hens), and gestation and veal crates. The Prop 2 opposition is pouring money into the state to try to defeat the measure, modest as it is. (Just take a look at who is bankrolling that opposition; talk about a rogue’s gallery.) That’s why I put this donation link in the sidebar, over there on the right. Help me out, if you can; I get nothing but the satisfaction of channeling more money than I can cough up myself! Your donation (and you don’t have to live in California to help, as the opposition has shown!) will help reform factory farming. If California passes Prop 2, it will set an industry-changing precedent.

What else can you do? Well, I know I’m repeating myself, but if we continue to buy factory-farmed meat and dairy products because they’re cheaper, and make us feel like we’re getting “more for our money,” we are telling the industry that whatever they’re doing to keep prices artificially low is peachy-keen with us. But the thing is, we’re NOT getting more bang for the buck. Humanely, sustainably raised meat and dairy products are demonstrably more nutritious, AND more flavorful – ergo, ultimately more satisfying. Vote with your dollars wherever you can. It’s not easy in this Bush & Friends economy, but if those who can would help create the demand for more humanely, sustainably raised food, agribusiness will begin to produce more of it, and it will become more economical for consumers.* When a company like Walmart decides it’s worth their while to carry fairly priced organic foods, it means the industry can be changed.

Now, for more about the human and animal health and environmental hazards of factory farms, check out Food & Water Watch’s report “Turning Farms into Factories.” And for more motivation to support the efforts of humane and sustainable producers, watch this 5-minute preview of the upcoming documentary, “Peaceable Kingdom.”

*I’m no economist, but my friend “RamblinRobert” is, so I’m happy to tag him for corrections, explications, and enlightenments on this topic. Check out his terrific blog, UrbanAgroEcology.

Update: See respondent Jenny Stein’s remark in the comment section below, and my response to it. I did not mean to imply that “Peaceable Kingdom” advocates humane farming; I meant only that it will make you think hard about the atrocities of factory farming. But I should specify that I watched an older version that is now being substantially revised; I linked to the sneak preview above. Some animal advocates argue that “humane farming” is a myth (that site appears to be a project of Tribe of Hearts, producers of “Peaceable Kingdom”) pushed by corporate meat, poultry and dairy producers to mitigate any guilt consumers may feel about eating meat, poultry and dairy – to make sure they keep eating it. (They clearly have money to burn, if they’re pushing that myth even as they pour millions of dollars into defeating humane farming bills across the country.) Those advocates argue that many large animal welfare groups like the Humane Society of America, PETA, etc., and – I suppose – individuals like myself!, are aiding and abetting the exploitation of animals by endorsing humane farming reforms.

Check out the Humane Myth web site for a more detailed look at the argument.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 24, 2008 11:48 pm

    Thank you for sending people to the preview for our upcoming film, Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. It’s interesting to see that you are advocating for “humane” farming when 5 of the 7 subjects of the film are former family farmers, and each of them came to the conclusion that there is no humane way to raise and kill animals for food. To learn more about what they have to say, and to get the perspective of other people knowledgeable about these issues, visit http://www.humanemyth.org

  2. MizM permalink
    September 25, 2008 3:49 am

    I appreciate the comment and respect the critique, Jenny. I haven’t seen the full new version of the film, yet, and it’s been a long time since I saw the original. If you search some of my other entries, I think you’ll see that I also urge folks to consume less meat and dairy. I’ve also linked approvingly (either on this site or my former blog) to Jame LaVeck’s article “Invasion of the Movement Snatchers” and am grappling with his arguments myself (and working toward veganism – in part because of them). (Here’s the article, readers: http://www.humanemyth.org/mediabase/1014.htm) But considering the vast numbers of people who currently eat meat and dairy products without even a passing thought about the living beings from whom their food came, and the exceedingly remote likelihood of instant mass conversion to veganism, I side – for now – with the camp that aims to at least reduce the suffering of millions of animals already “in the system.” But I am a work in progress, and I hope some of my readers are, too. (Edited to put my moniker in; I posted this before I signed in, and showed up as “Anonymous.”) (Edited again to insert James LaVeck’s name, which I hadn’t found when I linked to his article, above.)

  3. September 25, 2008 6:17 pm

    Thanks for your thoughtful response, MizM. I think you may have misunderstood something about my comment, which was not meant to criticize your approach to working for changes in animal husbandry practices, but rather to point out that our film is not being represented accurately in the context of this blog entry. To be more specific, you say, “For more motivation to support the efforts of humane and sustainable producers, watch this 5-minute preview of the upcoming documentary, ‘Peaceable Kingdom.'” In fact, all of the film’s subjects and its makers are outspoken about the myth of “humane” animal products, which is why I mentioned the HumaneMyth web site. Hopefully this clears things up.
    PS: We are all works in progress!

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