Before the Second World War, when expansion
and rationalization had not yet struck the livestock
industry, animals were born at the farm in spring. Now,
in most cases, pigs and chickens are born in specialized
multiplying farms, all year round. Calves are born in
the "classic" dairy farms to stimulate their
mother's milk yield, a rather silly reason. In
most cases the calf will then be transported for slaughtering
directly, or after being fattened up.
For the moment this is the only way. If it was technically
possible for cows to keep producing milk without calving,
this system would have been introduced a long time ago.
The rationalization of "modern" livestock
industry has everything to do with running the farm
as efficiently as possible. The costs should be low
enough for the "product" to compete with
foreign producers. Not many Dutch people realize that
the Dutch cattle farmer produces mainly [two thirds]
for the foreign market. To make that possible, the post-war
agricultural ministers, for the most part advised by
the Agricultural University at Wageningen, the Netherlands,
told every farmer to specialize,
invest and scale-up. And that is exactly how the
love for animals disappeared from farming.
farmers no longer see their animals grow up from birth
to death. If they did, they would still no longer see
the individual animal due to the large numbers of them.
The unethical part of the bio-industry is not initially to be found in
the moment of birth or slaughter. The animal's
birth and death are necessary as long as people and
animals eat meat. In practice this is organized on an
industrial scale but we can find little fault with it,
although it cannot exactly be called respectful. It
is not a romantic
sight to see chickens being born in large numbers
from eggs in incubators and subsequently see them being
However, in this case of mechanization there
is hardly any question of damage to animal welfare.
Of course, we would like a chicken to be born under
its mother's wings, but we can imagine that this
is hardly possible economically. Still, it is true that
if newborn chickens are treated as "things"
it is not a good sign for its treatment in the weeks
to come. The fact that the young cockerel will be shredded
or gassed is a sign of industrial indifference. However
serious this might be, it is a question of personal
taste. The cockerels cannot be put in an animal home.
If it were possible to influence the chicken's
gender at the moment of conception or if there were
a technical solution, it would have been introduced
a long time ago. It is firmly established that this
animal is not kept alive under unpleasant circumstances
(bio-industry). Worse is the situation for animals that
are economically important (egg laying-hens, chickens
and pigs used for consumption, sows and, to a lesser
extent, the dairy cows).
The more important ethical objections to bio-industry
lie between life and death, that is during their growing
up and during the long, often international
transport of the animals. Now, because of specialization,
the farmers and the transporters are the ones who volunteer
to do the dirty work.
The farming industry has made it easy for the cattle
farmer by the construction of stables and by the possibility
of production on a large scale. The newly born chickens
or pigs are delivered at the farm and picked up as soon
as the animal has reached the right weight for slaughtering
after a number of weeks or months. As for its age, the
animal is adolescent, not even fully grown. If the farmer
cannot or does not want to grow the food himself, it
is delivered and the milk is picked up. The only things
these dairy farmers do is milk cows or operate the milking
machine and feed the cattle. Anyway, that is the job
that the agricultural industry rather leaves to the
dairy farmer, because of the long and unfavourable working
hours and the bad image. This is even stronger the case
for pig farmers and chicken farmers who are not bound to the land.
Is there still something in it for the farmer
in this unfavourable exchange? The farmer prices his freedom
of movement in his farmyard, the free enterprise and free
working hours, in short: his freedom. Actually he is fooling
himself and his cattle. The modern farmer has made such
investments, that he is, essentially, the bank's slave. By working hard he hopes
to pay off his debts as soon as possible. Unfortunately,
the wages are low, so it takes longer than he thought
it would. In times when things go better he will be tempted
to invest some more money.
This will lead to the situation that farmers who have
a heart for animals will stop farming or become amateur
farmers. Only the farmers with the greatest desire for money will remain.
Meanwhile, the older public will visit children's
farms and organic farms with their children during open
days. Because there are still cows in the fields, they
think or hope that the reality still somewhat resembles
the situation they remember from their childhood at their
grandparents' farm. Alas, the actual reality for
the animal kept for consumption, is different.
filled with thousands of animals having nothing
else to do than feed themselves in order to become
ready for slaughtering as soon as possible. And then there
is the transport to the abattoir, which sometimes takes
much too long. The modern farmer has become an industrialist
who spends all his time optimizing the production process
and so keeps the costs for food and animal welfare to
a minimum. The veterinary is only called in when animals
have symptoms that may reduce the production. Anybody
who considers the costs will, in the long run, desist
from anything that is not minimally required by the animal's
buyer. And this buyer (having no affiliation whatsoever
with the animal) will try to make as little welfare demands
as possible on the farmer, since this would only boost
the shop price for the consumer. Only a few consumers
are ready to pay the full price for a sound product.
is the farmer still doing his job?" one may wonder.
"For the big money," must be the only answer.
If a farmer loved his animals, he would stop his business
or rigorously change over to an ecological management.
The bio-industry cannot continue like this forever. There
must be a moment that the public will also realise that
bio-industry no longer has anything to do with healthy
production of sound food or sound production of healthy
food, whatever you your choice is.
Food from the bio-industry does not contribute to a healthy
and fair meal.
Those who really want to make the choice
of having a clear conscience and a longer and healthier
life should take the trouble to find out how this can
be done in a comfortable and animal-friendly way, e.g.
through a vegetarian lifestyle. This will save animals
from a miserable life.
By treating themselves and other creatures (humans as
well as animals) in this way, mankind can bring the love
that has been lost back
to society. This would prove very helpful to people
as well as animals. At the same time, a bit more space
would be created for animals and humans in an overcrowded world.