How love slowly went out of stock breeding

Can making use of animals and (at the same time) insisting that you love them go hand in hand? We don't think so. But it can be done differently. Whereas once nobody doubted the farmer followed his profession out of love for animals and nature, nowadays it is money that is more at stake.

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.

Most cattle 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 sexed.

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.

Dark stables, 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.

"Why 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.

logoThis page describes one aspect of the influence that man has on the quality of life of an animal. We wish to promote the (in other countries as well) growing of awareness, that freedom is also important for an animal. An animal is not a thing, but a being that has the right to quality of a natural way of life. If you want to do something to help animals, click here for our suggestions.

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