Here's a research paper I wrote on it last year. 


The Reality of Factory Farming

A baby chicken wakes up far away from a mother it will never see.  It opens its eyes to the darkness it has known since it hatched, for it will never feel sunlight until the day it is stuffed into a crate and shipped off to the slaughterhouse.  Its beak was recently cut off with pliers, by the factory employees, and it hasn’t been able to eat because of the pain.  The steroids that it has been given force its body to grow at an unnatural rate—so much so that its heart and lungs aren’t able to keep up with the growth.  It struggles to breathe because of this, and the poisonous amount of ammonia lingering in the air that has miraculously sustained it for so long.  Yet fate seems kind to this creature, at least when one considers the lives of its brothers and other male chicks, which are castrated without painkillers, and then tossed alive into meat grinders, simply because the company that produces has no need for roosters. 

It is remarkable how ruthless industries can be in their pursuit of profit.   To many, it comes as a shock that this is the actuality of modern-day factory farms, or Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO), as they are called by the meat industry.  What is more of a shock, however, is that these facilities are actually legal.  This is reality.  This is America.  This is factory farming.   Not only is this industry the cruelest to animals, it is also one of the top contributors to global warming and similar issues in the United States.  Standards must be imposed on factory farms, so as to prevent cruelty toward animals and reduce the environmental damage done by the meat industry. 

Much of the argument concerning the issue of factory farming revolves around the ethics, or lack thereof, of procedures.  Chickens raised in factory farms spend their entire lives packed by the thousands inside poorly-ventilated shacks.  As many as two adult creatures can be found crammed in an area no larger than the size of printer paper.   Their bodies are given heavy steroids, which if fed to a human child, would cause him to weigh almost 350 lb., by age two.  After a few weeks, these animals are slaughtered.  Those whose bodies are too bruised to be sold as food are disposed of in other ways.  In one incident which took place at the Ward Egg Ranch, in San Diego County, California, over 10,000 hens were tossed alive into wood-chipping machines.   

Similar conditions exist for other animals raised for their flesh.  Many dairy cows, for instance, suffer from what is called Mastitis, a painful inflammation of the udder, caused by over-milking.  The blood, pus, and other fluids that ooze out of the udder as a result of this slip into the rest of the milk unnoticed.  In fact, estimates reveal that every gallon of milk can contain up to one teaspoon of pus.  Genetic alteration, the administration of excessive hormones, and over-milking procedures yield ten times more milk from cows than what they would naturally produce.    When cows become too old to give any more milk, they are killed by having their throats cut with saws.  The rest of their limbs are then hacked off, while they are fully conscious.   “They die piece by piece,” said Ramon Moreno, a worker at a slaughterhouse (qtd. in Warrick A01).  In some factory farm facilities, their skulls are first crushed by workers who throw bricks at their head, after chopping their hooves off, so that they cannot stand.  

The consequences of the consumption of factory-farmed products are primarily medical.  The excessive drugs, hormones, and steroids pumped into animals before they are butchered have been found to increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and osteoporosis, a form of bone disease, in people who eat the meat.  Additionally, the lack of regulations within industries often results in the production of infected meat.  One such incident was the outbreak of Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease (CJD), a type of mental deterioration, in humans who had eaten beef contaminated with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE).  BSE, better known as Mad Cow Disease, occurs when dead cows are ground up and fed to living ones.  Other illnesses caused by the consumption of meat include food poisoning brought on by chicken or eggs infected with bacteria such as Salmonella or E. coli.  Such health risks could be avoided if factory farms were to implement more hygienic methods of caring for animals.  But by preserving the procedures that are currently in use, the industry is able to keep meat abundant and inexpensive for all Americans.  The monetary benefits remain the main argument in support of unregulated factory farms.  Still, some compromise is needed, for affordability comes at the expense of human health.  Certain methods used by factory farms, such as confinement, lack of veterinary care for animals, and the feeding of corpses to live animals must be banned in order to minimize the issues that they cause. 

Other concerns regarding the consequences of the lack of regulation in factory farms relate to the environmental impact.  Factory Farms have been noted to produce more greenhouse gases than all of the cars, trucks, planes, and other vehicles in the world combined.  This is because most CAFO facilities fatten livestock with grain, the production of which consumes vast amounts of fossil fuels and land.  Over 260 million acres of forests in the United States have been cut down so that grain can be grown in their stead.  And in other parts of the world, sections of rainforest roughly the size of seven football fields are bulldozed each minute to clear land for cattle to graze. 

Water pollution is yet another concern when it comes to factory farms.  CAFO units often do not have proper sewage systems.  This detail becomes a serious issue when one considers the fact that animals like cows, for instance, produce over 20 times the amount of waste that normal humans do.  In facilities where there are thousands of animals but no sewage center, the only place for the dung and other waste products to go is manure lagoons, man-made ponds of sewage.  Spills often occur, as a result of rainfall, collapsed walls, or mechanical failure in equipment.  When this happens, large amounts of manure run into nearby rivers and streams, wreaking havoc as they destroy aquatic ecosystems, kill fish, contaminate groundwater and make rivers unsafe.  The nutrients in the manure disrupt bionetworks by inducing eutrophication, the excessive growth of algae which eventually leads to the destruction of an entire aquatic habitat.  Manure spills are also responsible of producing “Dead zones”—areas of water or land that are completely free of all aquatic life.  The most famous example lies in the Gulf of Mexico, where excess nutrients have killed off all aquatic life in an area of water almost 8000 square miles—roughly the size of the state of New Jersey.   This can all be avoided with simple regulations enforcing factory farms to process the sewage and dispose of it properly, in methods which do not harm the environment. 

The lack of regulation of factory farms continues to be a main cause of many of the serious issues faced by the world today: animal cruelty, water pollution, and global warming.  It is with these concerns in mind that it is concluded that standards must be imposed on the factory farms in the United States.  If measures were taken to control the procedures and methods used by factory farms, and to enforce certain requirements, many of these problems could be mitigated.


WoundedButterfly WoundedButterfly
18-21, F
7 Responses Jul 1, 2009

I took another read of this again after learning a lot more about the agricultural industry and how animals are raised. I have to note that it's actually illegal to give broiler chickens (those raised for meat) steroids or hormones for growth. So it's actually not the steroids that are supposedly pumped into them, but rather the genetics that have caused their bodies to gain more muscle than their bone frames--and thus their legs--can keep up with. (

Male chicks cannot be possibly castrated if they are going to be thrown into the meat grinder. The testicles are inside the body of all avian species, thus it's actually infeasible, and a complete waste of time and resources, to castrate male chicks if there's no use for them. However I think you are confusing the process with what happens in the layer barns, where male chicks are disposed of because they cannot be used for egg production. With broilers, though, the young cockerels (young roosters) are not castrated because since it only takes 6 weeks for them to become ready for "harvest," it's not worth castrating them. Cockerels are ready for breeding by the time they're 4 or 5 months old. That's a big difference from being ready for market.

Dairy cows do have issues with mastitis, but it's not actually from being over-milked, rather it's from bacteria entering an open teat and not being flushed out in time to prevent infection once the teat closes up. Unsanitary conditions and equipment, injury from being bumped or stepped on by other cows, and *under-milking* (not milking often enough) actually causes mastitis. If you are still skeptical, think of this: A calf does not nurse its mother once a day, but rather several times a day--at least a dozen (12) times--taking a some milk from select quarters each time. By comparison, most dairy cows are only milked twice a day. Think on that for a moment.

Somatic cells are simply white blood cells, not pus. Pus is dead white blood cells that have accumulated to combat a foreign body or harmful bodies like bacteria or viruses. Somatic cell count, the count that is used to detect the number of white blood cells in milk, is admittedly rather too high in dairy operations in the United States, but it does not mean that there is pus in the milk. Milk is actually sterile inside the udder, and contamination from pus or bacteria would enter once it exits the teat, but that is very rare and actually untrue, particularly since all milk gets inspected and pasteurized before it hits store shelves. Cows with high somatic cell counts--indicative of mastitis or an infection somewhere else in the body--are typically "separated" or have their milk thrown away when they are being milked out. For a farmer, having cows with high somatic cell counts spells bad news and nothing good for his operation. And if a supply of milk gets tested with a high SCC than what is considered optimal for human consumption, ALL the milk gets tossed. ALL of it. If you were a dairy farmer, that would be a very, very bad day indeed. So as far as I'm aware, I would think all dairy farmers make sure they keep good practices to keep their SCC levels down and their cows equally healthy if they want make some money from being a dairy farmer.

I'm really shaking my head at the slaughter nonsense. American slaughter houses do none of that to old cows. The only thing I can think of where such abuse and atrocities come from is that from places like India or other third-world countries where animal welfare and humane handling is unheard of. Dairy cows, once in the slaughter house, are actually stunned with a cap-bolt to the brain, THEN their throats cut, and that is with a sharp knife, not a saw. The whole process is quick and they don't feel a thing. They don't even feel the part where they are skinned, gutted, dismembered and sent down the line to be hung in the cooler. Once an animal is stunned and bled out, they are dead. They cannot be still conscious and "die piece by piece." I know because I've been to a abattoir myself and seen how it's done, and understand that even when an animal is twitching and moving but no sound is coming out except for the air being exuded from its lungs, and there is no breathing, no vocalizing nor any ocular response if the eyeball is touched, that animal is DEAD.

These health risks of Salmonella or E.coli you speak of are actually NOT the farmer's fault! It's the packers or butchers' fault of not having sanitary conditions or having improper carcass handling procedures where intestinal bacteria get on the carcasses and thus contaminate the meat. Also, it's the people who cook the meat as well. Those who do not know how to cook meat properly, like hamburgers or chicken, are much more likely to get food-borne illnesses than those who DO know that their hamburger and chicken should be cooked through and through. Yes, unsanitary living conditions can be part of the problem, but it's not the entire problem for the illness that people can get from eating meat.

And no, animals on factory farms are NOT fed dead corpses. The animal products they are fed are finely ground up and incorporated into the feed as a complete ration.

The greenhouse gas issues is directly related to the manure storage. Even the FAO has seen in their publications that since the onset of use of liquid manure, greenhouse gas emissions have gone up. And actually, the livestock sector produces LESS greenhouse gases than the transportation industry. The EPA has found that agriculture is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions in the USA, and transportation for 28%.

I don't know where you got that 260 million acre statistic for the US, but as far as I'm aware it's not for growing crops, rather it's more for construction, flooring, furniture and paper, not for growing more crops. And actually, forest cover has grown quite a bit in the last few years, not shrunk. Forests that are cut or burned are reclaimed again, because the stuff that is left behind from cutting down trees is impossible to grow crops on the next year. Even the land and soil underneath is very, very unsuitable for crop production. Better off trying to put some cows in there--even then that's an impossible feat with all the deadfall and scrub left behind--than planting corn! As for the rainforest, no it's not cleared for cattle to graze. It's cleared so that more sugarcane, soybeans, coffee, rice, and other tropical crops can be raised to meet global demand. Once the soil has been mined of its nutrients from repeated cropping, THEN it can be used for cattle. But here's the other thing: this does not concern North America. Most beef in the USA is domestically raised, and imports primarily come from Canada, Australia and New Zealand. There's a ban on beef from South America and other countries due to continued concerns regarding foot and mouth disease. So the rainforest deal? Nonsense that doesn't apply to America.

Eutrophication is actually more of an issue with the continued use of chemical fertilizers that are primarily phosphorus and nitrogen. Most farmers make sure the lagoons they make are not going to seep into ground water, or run off, but things do happen, and there is certainly concern surrounding the use of these lagoons.

Coming back after a while I certainly wouldn't have given you such a high mark, but I hope you'll find over time that a lot of what you have written is much more myth than truth. Though I still do not support CAFOs, I would appreciate it if more people became more knowledgable about these things than they think they are.

Good paper, you covered all the issues

I only eat meat that is either free range fed with no antibiotics or hormones. If the label says humanely treated that is a plus. But I am still leary of the conditions that they raise these animals in. I never seen any of the farms myself. The claims of these companies make I don't even know if they are legitimate or not. Bison raised in this country is mandated by federal with tight restictions. The beef lobbyists were pathetic during the mad cow crisis in this country. They were fighting very hard to not have any of their animals tested. This country is run solely by big business that don't really show any concern over human life or the welfare of its animals.

I'm very glad to hear that you have made an impression on many people with this paper; well done. Just creating awareness makes a difference, more so than I'd thought. Just by being myself, with no preaching or trying to lead by example, people have asked questions about why I do what I do and have followed suit. Don't get discouraged or as cynical as I am now; keep it up.<br />
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Regarding Canadian farms; I cannot speak for dairy farms in southern Ontario, or cattle farms out west, but I know that in my region the dariy cows are free range. I've seen them myself - the farms are all between 20-50km outside of town, and you can see the cows walking around in large fields, seeming perfectly content. If I continue with the dairy, I know I should commit myself to eating local upon observing these conditions. Price in this case should be no problem.. at least I have this available to me. <br />
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About the 'primitive' cultures.. anthropology has taught me much.. What comes to mind in particular is the Hua (Hu'a?) culture in Africa. Their nomadic society is based on sharing; anyone who hoards goods is publicly ridiculed. Other tribes have commented on them in a negative context, suggesting that they can share one cigarette between ten people, among other things. I want to join them :)<br />
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There are far better systems than capitalism, but they are in danger because of us. **** profits :)

I think I did this paper more for the sake of creating an awareness than my actual grade [although I didn't mind the grade either ^_^ I got 96%] <br />
My teacher for that course always made us read our reports to the class. In fact, that is why I picked this topic to begin with. I know a lot of people aren't even aware that these terrible things are going on, so I thought it would be an effective way of creating awareness. It worked. When I finished my presentation and got to the questions/comments part, nearly everyone of the class raised their hands with inquiries (as opposed to the usual two or three teachers pets). <br />
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I dont know whether to lament or cheer for the factory farms in Canada. They might be free of steroids and excessive hormone injections, but that doesn't make them much less worse than those in America. At least its less of a health concern.<br />
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And you are absolutely right about the American system. That's what I really hate about this country. The profit-minded are in control of everything. Greed has gotten to the extent where animal welfare, environmentalism and human health no longer even matter. <br />
I saw this really striking commercial the other day. It featured a slideshow of photographs of some tribe in Africa. "No war. No poverty. No suffering. And we call *them* primitive?"<br />
It rings true, doesn't it?

Very solid paper, Euphoria. I hope you received a good mark :) I especially enjoyed the captivating first paragraph, and the overall structure was also quite good. <br />
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I respect all of your arguments and wish it could all be different.. I'm eventually going to give up dairy, I promise :P<br />
The truth makes these foods quite unappetizing, but most of the grossness comes from the US standards. Canadian dairy farms, although far from perfect, are sooo much better than the American farms. Significantly, Canadian dairy animals do not have any hormones and steroids put into them. The conditions are nowhere near as disgusting, although it can be difficult to find raw data or any research at all on the matter. <br />
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One thing to keep in mind when considering the American system.. change is slow due to many factors. I mean.. a lot of policies are dictated by lobbyists, who are paid millions by business interests to promote their profit-driven causes by essentially bribing politicians by funding their campaigns. Lots of back-scratching. The politicians in turn will lie to the public to shape their views on whatever issue. The healthcare 'debate' is a laughingly obvious example of how this works. Scare tactics seem the most effective; 'public healthcare will kill seniors - caseworkers will go door-to-door to establish how you would like to die', and so on. It'd be funny if a lot less people swallowed this kind of.. manure. <br />
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Anyways, I begin to digress. Nice essay, and good comment niceguyinhell. Wish more people cared about this stuff :P

Factory farms are truly horrifying places. The abuse and misery inflicted on those animals is nothing sort of a mental illness. If a person did this to a cow or chicken just for fun, they would immediately be institutionalized as sociopathetic. But so long as a CEO somewhere is making a few bucks sawing a cows legs off while their alive, well then! That's perfectly okay!<br />
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Actually, it's not okay. (Where the hell are the Pro-lifers on this issue? If they feel a microscopic collection of cells in a woman's uterus should be granted full consitutional rights in their warped world view, why shouldn't cows and chickens be protected from unnecessary torture and abuse?)<br />
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I cannot abide by the factory farm method. It needs to be outlawed.<br />
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If a businessman is simply too stupid to make a profit WITHOUT torturing the animals in his care, then he shouldn't be allowed to start that business.<br />
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There were a LOT of old plantation owners in the South who honestly couldn't figure out how to keep their cotton fields profitable without the use of African slave labor. Instead of re-writting the Constitution to accomodate their stupidity, we kept our standards high and allowed them to go bankrupt. Instead of lowering our standards to accomodate them, we kept them high and we were ALL the better for it. Sink or swim. The old racists gave up their plantations and moved on to something else. I think the dame CEO's of factory farms should be forced to do the same.<br />
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Nowadays we write laws based on the lowest common denominator. We write laws to accomodate the dumbest/laziest businessmen in the room. Instea dof pulling them up to a higher standards, we just drag everyone else down to their level and call it "improvement."<br />
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"Too stupid to make a profit without throwing 10,000 live chickens into a wood chipper? No problem! We'll simply LOWER our standards to accomodate your incompetence!"<br />
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This attitude of lowering our standards to accomodate the dumbest CEO's is why America is sinker deeper and deeper into the abyss.