How To Prevent Factory Farming Cruelty

Photo Credit: The New York Times

(ANIMAL RIGHTS) Many animal lovers give up meat entirely, but even for those who struggle with a love of ribs or filet mignon, it’s horrifying to hear of the constant abuse farm animals are made to suffer. While any death of farm animals may be unacceptable to some, a decent life of minimal suffering for farm animals can be appreciated by all. This is achievable. Lawyer, rancher, and author of “Righteous Porkchop: Finding A Life And Good Food Beyond Factory Farms,” Nicolette Hahn Niman explains five clear paths the government can take to reduce or possibly even eliminate animal cruelty on farms. — Global Animal

Photo Credit: The New York Times

The New York Times, Nicolette Hahn Niman

Industrialized animal operations — grim, intensely crowded confinement warehouses — externalize their true costs in terms of public health threats, environmental damage and animal suffering. These problems have been widely documented by governments, universities and credible organizations like the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. Yet the industry’s political influence has stymied desperately needed reforms.

Consumers choosing foods from environmentally sound, humane farms hold the greatest promise for positive change. But governments can and should be addressing this urgent question, too. Here are five necessary and achievable reforms.

1. State laws should protect farm animal welfare. Polls show that about 90 percent of Americans believe farm animals deserve humane living conditions. Narrow metal cages for pregnant pigs, crates for veal calves and cramped cages for egg laying hens should be outlawed. California, Colorado, Michigan and several other states have already adopted such laws.

2. Congress should prohibit overusing antibiotics in animal farming. About 80 percent of antibiotics used in the United States each year is in the daily feed of farm animals, mostly to enable keeping animals in densely crowded conditions, which reduces costs. Recent research found half of meat tested from U.S. grocery stores contaminated with staph infections, half of which were antibiotic resistant. Banning subtherapeutic antibiotics in agriculture, as the European Union has already done, would ease overcrowding and make our food safer.

3. Government should better enforce environmental laws. Environmental laws like the Clean Water Act cover animal agriculture. However, federal and state environmental agencies have largely failed to apply them. Forcing animal agriculture to bear its true environmental costs would tip the economic balance in favor of farms with smaller herds and less crowding.

4. Farm subsidies should foster grass. Grass is a happier, healthier habitat for farm animals. It also is the core of ecological farming, even offering the promise of major carbon sequestration. Yet current federal farm policies encourage plowing grasslands while discouraging grass-based methods, like crop rotations, that safeguard soil, water and air. Farm subsidies should contain incentives for grass and require farmers to follow good conservation methods.

5. The United States should launch a domestic Peace Corps for farming. America needs to repopulate rural America and stimulate beneficial jobs for young people. Our nation struggles with unemployment, and yet traditional farming is disappearing partly because it is more labor intensive. Training the next generation in sustainable agriculture and assisting them to start new farms could be a brave president’s boldest and most lasting initiative.

These sensible reforms are financially doable, even in today’s fiscally constrained budgets. They would go a long way toward reestablishing a food system that is safe, environmentally sound and humane.