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.