Factory farming on the present scale as we see today does not go back far.
What are the factors that have stimulated this development?
Several factors have contributed to the development of the factory farming industry.
First of all you have the cattle feed industry in whose interest it is to produce as much cattle feed as possible at the lowest cost.
With the present size of the pig and chicken fattening units the cattle feed trucks can drive relatively efficient.
The cattle feed industry made it easy for the farmer to start an intensive livestock farm (financing the factory unit often organizing the building and the necessary licenses etc.).
The only thing the farmer needed to do was to sign on the dotted line.
The banks are always more than willing to lend money for the farmers business.
It concerns very large amounts of money, very often up to 750,000 dollars.
The banks get fat on the interest.
For a farmer it's further important to raise as many
animals as possible in a short period of time.The higher
his profit the sooner he can pay off his loan. It seems
that all parties involved have the same target, "big" business,
low profile and clean and efficient production.
Only the animals, who are being "produced" in large quantities suffer and also the environment, if the farmer
dumps as much manure on his land as it can handle and often even more.
It may be clear that because of the large number of
animals, which stay for a relatively short period, the
farmer does not grow attached to them. He could not
care less. The animals become products and their well
being is minimized to the point where suffering is not
quite visible to the outsider and without affecting the cost price.
The role of the Government is ambiguous. On the one
hand the export of pork and poultry products raises the gross national
product, on the other hand it's up to the Government
to minimalize the damage to the environment.
The influence of the consumer is limited. Even if consumers
were to support the ecological livestock farming in
large numbers, by buying the more expensive free-range
eggs or free-range meat, there's still the export trade,
which will keep the factory farming industry profitable.Twice
as many consumers of meat exported by the Dutch factory
farming industry live abroad. They have no idea how
much the animals suffer in the Dutch factory units.
A pig farmer is inspected for animal welfare on average
once every 17 years while at the same time the majority
of pig farmers contravene several aspects of the pig
Are fast food chains like McDonalds responsible for animal suffering?
Everyone who eats meat from the factory farming industry
is responsible for animal abuse in the factory farms.
The same applies for persons and supermarkets that sell
meat which comes from the factory farming industry.
The responsibility increases when they encourage people
to eat more meat by keeping the price down, extending
the sales points or targeting children in advertising.
In this respect McDonalds and other fast food chains
are more responsible than other suppliers because they
increase the consumption of meat from the factory farming
industry. It would be a good idea to oblige fast food
chains to buy home produced meat.
Can factory farming be stopped?
Lack of protest from the public allows the factory
farming industry to flourish. Why are we afraid to draw
the line? Perhaps one of the explanations is the
romantic image of the farmer built up in our youth.
Many of the older generation have played on a farm in
their youth and retain an image of a farmer with very
few animals which he all knew by name: the smell of
drawn hay, helping the farmer to feed the animals. Who
would dare to tie these hard working people down with
more restrictions, who would deny them a good income.
The younger generation has hardly ever been to a real farm. Their
idea of a farm is probably the model-farm visited on
a school trip. In primary school we learnt that our
little Holland could produce dairy products more efficiently
than in any other country.
It would also be a good idea for the Netherlands to
relinquish their leading position in the export market
and to concentrate on a more desirable and responsible
branch of industry. By putting a stop to the export
the factory farming industry will be less viable.
The debts of the farmers can be repaid by introducing a system of pigs
and poultry quotas: by not allowing new participants and
by gradually decreasing the quota.
With the present numbers of livestock it is impossible to guarantee the well being of the animals.
Ideally the number of livestock should be reduced to a
level corresponding to the national demand. In the short
term it is inevitable that foreign producers will benefit
from the shortfall in supply in the market. The Dutch
have given the world a bad example and cannot complain
if others follow suit. Instead of our present role as
promoter of animal unfriendly products we should assume
a new role as promoter of animal friendly products.
Animal (and animal products) should be excluded from the international free market.
Just as is the case in general with child pornografy,
child labour, the slave
trade and drugs trade, a country with the most immoral
habits cannot be allowed to determine international
standards, but should be forced to restrict or preferably abolish the import and export.
In order to protect vulnerable parts of a country, for
example animals or nature reservations, a country should
be protected against itself by the imposition of a trade
restriction. This would mean a small economic "loss",
but an enormous moral "profit".