Most of us are familiar with the classic book, Slaughterhouse and the movie Meet Your Meat which reveal the injustices to factory farmed animals. Perhaps we have seen a few snippets on [...], or read reviews of books by concerned animal activists.
But what you may not realize is that factory farms hurt people, too: entire communities, in fact. The book Animal Factory (a must read for all concerned -vores) reveals how the CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) are destroying the local community's air and adding to global warming. The manure, traditionally a source of fertilizer, gets sprayed all over, leaving toxic residue on houses, cars,--everywhere! It pollutes rivers to the point that the fish die in droves. Fishermen get sores and memory lapses from the toxins! Overuse of antibiotics creates harmful bacteria that don't respond to antibiotics. Novel viruses like the H1N1 swine flu flourish and spread. The community loses jobs because illegal workers must be hired to cut costs.
The animal factories are caught in the system, as they need to show profit for shareholders. Yet, a commission's report cited in this book demonstrated that the only reason these factory farms are profitable is that the externalized costs (such as the environmental cleanup) are not paid by the farm, but by the public taxpayer. The corporations are taking advantage of the system and lax laws at the expense of the people.
Also, Americans demand cheap food. People in the USA spend about half the percentage of their incomes on food as they did in 1966. But cheap at the checkout doesn't translate into cheap in the long run. Activist Helen Reddout points out, "If you look at the actual cost of protein in the supermarket, and then factor in the corporate welfare system, and the cost of damaging the environment, creating antibiotic resistance, and sickening people who live nearby, and then if you consider the inferior product we are getting as a result, then in that sense, we have the most expensive food in the world."
This book takes us on a journey of activism, a very detailed journey starring ordinary people that were brave enough to fight back, get media attention, change some laws and raise awareness in mass consciousness that this is not just a problem, but a major crisis. These activists (which include Rick Dove, Helen Reddout and Karen Hudson as star reformers) bravely fought despite death threats, drive-by obscenities, nasty comments from neighbors, and working long hours without pay.
The book even includes the arguments used by CAFOs to defend their cruel animal policies of keeping them trapped in tiny spaces in which they often can't even turn around. They claim the animals need to be separated so that they don't establish a pecking order and fight, as well as compete for food. (By such logic perhaps all humans should be confined in prisons.)
The best thing we can do is to boycott factory farmed meat and buy it only from reputable sources, including small farmers. All meat should come from animals that are free range, antibiotic-free, hormone-free, vaccine-free. Pay double the price, if need be, for maximum quality, but just eat less. Vote with your dollar. When this idea catches on, just as organic food caught on, big stores will start providing it.
The author, an omnivore, offers us six baby steps toward a more sustainable animal diet at his website.
Susan Schenck, author of The Live Food Factor: The Comprehensive Guide to the Ultimate Diet for Body, Mind, Spirit & Planet
Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn't Work