Factory and Organic Farming

2021.6.4

Factory Farming

Farming practices in Canada have changed dramatically over the last 50 to 60 years. The number of small family farms has significantly declined, and larger intensive factory farms have become the norm for food production in the 21st century.

Farmers, faced with pressures to produce in greater quantities and at lower prices, succumbed to increasingly harsh and industrial techniques that treat animals as machines, rather than living, breathing individuals with natures, instincts, and needs.

Definition:

Factory Farming is a system of farming in breeding and raising vast numbers of animals in cramped, unnatural conditions, in order to produce a large amount of meat, eggs, or milk as cheaply as possible.

Why Factory Farms is a huge problem in Canada

In the past 45 years, there exists an inverse relationship between the number of farms in Canada and the average number of animals on each farm. The number of farms has decreased significantly, while the average number of animals per farm has shot up dramatically.

From 1976 to 2016, the total number of animal farms decreased from 412,404 to 119,699. Meanwhile, the number of animals increased from 117 million to 181 million. This means that more animals live on fewer farms, yet more animals are being slaughtered at ever increasing rates. This is in large part due to selective breeding and use of hormones which significantly reduce the life span of farm animals so that they reach their slaughter age extremely young.

Over this time period, the most significant intensification occurred for chickens and pigs. The most staggering example is pig farming – the number of pig farms decreased from 63,602 to 8,402, while the average numbers of pigs per farm increased over 18 times, from just 91 in 1976 to 1,677 in 2016

Over 834 million land animals were bred and killed last year in Canada, yet their existence and suffering is shrouded in secrecy.

Issues:

  • Animal impact: MASSIVE Animal Abuse (Animals are treated in inhumane ways)

    • Abuse
      • Workers smack pigs and use very disturbing ways that are absolutely unacceptable and unnecessary to treat the pigs
      • Workers have never been told how to properly treat animals.
      • farm workers forcefully slapping and hitting pigs with plastic boards, and jabbing them with pens.
  • Go insane
    • Many animals go insane while living on factory farms. Pigs, for instance, often live in tiny barred kennels where they can neither stand up nor turn around. They bite the bars, squeal plaintively, and even harm themselves. Worse, when these animals “misbehave,” they’re often beaten, shocked, or otherwise punished by workers.
  • Chickens are debeaked

    • When housed in the confined quarters of factory farms and kept at the limits of their endurance, chickens can act aggressively toward other chickens. Debeaking chickens and other birds is just a convenience to farmers. If the birds injure one another, the farmers don’t profit as much. For the chickens, however, there is always a reduced quality of life as a result.
    • This mutilation is just completely unnecessary and inhumane. If the farmers are concerned that they might hurt each other, debeaking is not the solution. Changing the system is the ultimate solution.
  • Cows and Pigs have their tails cut off

    • Factory farming with cows and pigs often involves the removal of the tails, without an anesthetic, a clean operating surgery, or post-operative care. The only reason factory farmers remove the tails is to prevent tail biting and subsequent infection.
  • These animals endure cruel mutilation for the convenience of factory farmers.
    • 1. Removing those body parts denies the animals their right to a wholesome life. Tail removal causes immediate and lasting pain to the animal.
    • 2.The lack of hygiene resulting from crowded cages, and the overall environment in factory farms ends up contributing to a higher possibility of infections farmers seek to prevent.
  • No Space

    • Animals live in substandard conditions, denied exercise or a healthy diet. Animals can never leave the barn, never step outside.
    • Many never see sunlight or breathe fresh air. They only know the overcrowded pens or cages in which they spend their lives until they’re slaughtered.
    • Farming denies animals their fundamental rights. These animals can never exercise their ingrained instincts.

The Sad Horrors of Factory-Farmed Chickens

  • Genetic Manipulation

    • A perfect animal, for a factory farm, grows rapidly or produces lots of milk or eggs with minimum input. These animals often have more muscle mass, more fat, and less lean muscle. Broiler chickens can become so large that their legs can no longer support them.
    • Broiler chickens are a perfect example of the unnatural optimization of production that the factory farming industry imposes on animals. A broiler chicken today weighs about 4.2 kg (9.3 lb) when ready for slaughter, at only eight weeks old. A broiler chicken of the same age in 1957 would weigh only 0.9 kg (2 lb). They are bred to grow maximum breast meat tissue, but the chicken’s internal organs and bone structure are not optimized in the same way.
    • This means that the broiler chickens’ lungs can barely provide them with enough air, and their legs can barely support them. If one of these broiler chickens falls, it may die from the collapse of its internal organs.
    • That’s the unnatural reality of factory farming.
  • Human Impact: Food security
    • Sick animals = Sick people
      • Infections from contaminated beef have caused severe illness and even death.
  • If you don’t oppose factory farming on behalf of the animals, consider your own safety. Contaminants like E. coli and Salmonella are particularly dangerous for young children and the elderly.

E- coli

According to the CDC, as of December 2, 2019, 102 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli have been reported from 23 states.

Eating or drinking food or water contaminated with certain types of E. coli can cause mild to severe gastrointestinal illness. Some types of E. coli can be life-threatening.

Generally, the symptoms include severe stomach cramps, diarrhea, fever, nausea, and/or vomiting.

Salmonella:

In total, 70 laboratory-confirmed cases of Salmonella Enteritis illness were reported in: Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.

Young children, the elderly, pregnant women or people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for contracting serious illness.

These outbreaks show us that food poisoning exists and could mainly be caused by the dirty environment of factory farming. In order to prevent such things happening, or even decrease the chance of this, we need to change to healthier and cleaner farming such as organic farming.

  • Antibiotic resistance:
    • It may seem true that our food is safe because animals are getting antibiotics, which means that they are immune from bacteria and diseases. But is that really the case? Antibiotic resistance is caused when people or animals consume too many antibiotics in an untargeted way, allowing bacteria to adapt. Subsequently, antibiotics don’t kill the bacteria.
    • This happens in factory farming because farmers distribute antibiotics routinely through food. When bacteria in an animal develop antibiotic resistance, they can flourish — and make their way onto your dinner plate. Microbes that have evolved to resist antibiotics now make 2 million Americans sick each year, and kill 23,000. Much of that is attributable, directly or indirectly, to factory farming.
  • Environmental Impacts:
    • Manure Runoff Causes Environmental Damage and Human Health Crises.
    • Concentrated feeding operations also create concentrated excrement. This manure can have a lot of positive uses. It helps plants to grow, improves the quality of soil, and adds nutrients to the ground.
    • On the downside, manure runoff creates human health crises and negatively impacts the environment. Manure runoff occurs most frequently in factory farming operations.
    • Produce tons of manure for months or years. When runoff occurs as flooding or leaking, or if it is simply cast aside, it can find its way into groundwater and natural waterways with terrible consequences.
    • When manure runoff reaches a certain saturation point, it can contaminate the water we drink and bathe in. Furthermore, it promotes algae growth in bodies of water and can contaminate the environments of aquatic life.
  • Case:
    • The Raccoon River in central Iowa runs through one of the most intensely farmed regions of the US. Agriculture is vital to the area’s economy, but polluted runoff from farms poses an acute threat to residents’ tap water – and a daunting challenge to utilities struggling to keep the water clean.
    • Almost three-fourths of the Raccoon River’s watershed – 1.7 million acres – is planted with corn, soybeans and other crops, treated each year with millions of pounds of fertilizer and other chemicals. It is also home to millions of animals, whose manure is applied to millions of acres annually. At the southern tip of the watershed is the city of Des Moines, where each day the Des Moines Water Works supplies water drawn from the river to just over half a million people.
    • Commercial fertilizers and manures contain a chemical called nitrate, a form of nitrogen, which gets into the river when rain washes it off fields. It can be fatal to babies who ingest too much of the chemical in tap water and it has also been linked to cancer in adults.
    • Between the spring of 2014 and the fall of 2015, the average nitrate level in untreated Raccoon River water was 11.12 parts per million. This standard was set to protect infants against blue baby syndrome.
    • But recent studies by the National Cancer Institute have found that drinking water with just 5 ppm of nitrate increases the risk of colon, kidney, ovarian and bladder cancers. As such, the EWG Standard for nitrate is 5 ppm.
  • Government involvement:

    • Obviously the government would want to maintain good relationships with the big food companies, not only because they give job opportunities and sustain the economy, but also because the country’s citizens are fed on these companies.
    • Eliminating factory farms would be detrimental to the company’s profits, and will also impact the nation’s economy, because farms no longer have as much production that could be exported and thus make them more money. In this way the government would be inclined to their side and make policies that benefit the companies.
  • Case study:

    • For example, the government made a policy that was implemented in Alberta, and it is made to protect the profits of the farms:
    • The bill is known as Bill 156, which is a bill that seems to improve the protection of farms, making it illegal for undercover activists to work and film at farm facilities. This policy is implemented right after an undercover journalist exposed the dirty animal abuses in a factory farm. The government used this policy as a way to protect large corporate producers and their factory farms from the public scrutiny, when people come in secretly and take films to expose the cruelty in these farms. This prevents transparency for the citizens to know what was actually going on, and many citizens have been blinded by the illusion that factory farms are “humane”. There’s not going to be any transparency in animal abuses and people will never be aware of this severe animal right problem, if the bill has passed.
    • What we see from this example is that the government would do everything they can to protect the company’s profits. They are on the company’s side of hiding the cruel realities behind factory farming. That’s why the government plays a huge role in this problem, and what we could do is to alter their perspective to work in our favor.
    • So the first thing we have to do is make the government state their stance on our side, and combat factory farms as a whole. Without the support of the government, we don’t really have the power to achieve such changes. There could be campaigns and organizations that complain about these issues to the government, and are influential enough for the government to notice, and adapt the ideas. If this works, and the government is aware of this problem, and taking actions, this issue could be potentially solved in the future. But without our condemnation, they will still likely help out the big companies, but if there’s a national condemnation or complaint, the government will have to take notice of it, or else the citizens will not be happy with the government.

Organic Agriculture

Definition:

Organic Agriculture: Organic farming is a farming technique that involves the raising of plants and animals in natural ways. This process involves the use of biological materials, avoiding synthetic substances, and thus minimizing pollution and wastage.

Organic agriculture is defined as the sustainable cultivation of land for food production that nourishes soil life, nurtures animals in their natural environment and feeds them according to their physiology.

Crop rotation: the practice of planting different crops sequentially on the same plot of land to improve soil health, optimize nutrients in the soil, and combat pest and weed pressure.

Location:

Organic farms are found in every province in Canada.

In 2019, there were 5677 organic farms in Canada. And Canada’s Organic production is the 5th in the world.

Quebec had the highest percentage of certified organic farms (28.6%) in Canada in 2016, and then Saskatchewan (22.5%), which comes second.

Benefits:

  • Reduced Exposure to Pesticides and Chemicals
  • 5.6 billion pounds of persistent and harmful pesticides are entering the environment annually around the globe. In Canada, 69% of Canadian crop farms reported applying herbicides, 15% employed insecticides and 23% used fungicides.
  • The negative environmental issues with pesticides:
    • Pesticides allow disease resistance to build up in plants, weeds, plant-eating-insects, fungi, and bacteria.
    • Pesticides and chemicals sprayed on plants contaminate the soil, water supply, and air. Sometimes these harmful pesticides stick around for decades (maybe longer).
      • They contaminate solid and most importantly groundwater, which are cruel for our water supply.
    • Synthetic chemicals also discourage smart farming practices such as cover crops and crop rotation, which in turn, may cause other harmful environmental problems like soil erosion.
  • Organic Farming Builds Healthy Soil
    • To grow healthy food, you must start with healthy soil. If you treat the soil with harmful pesticides and chemicals, you may end up with soil that cannot thrive on its own. Natural cultivation practices are far better than chemical soil management.
    • A large nine-year study by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS), shows that organic farming builds up organic soil matter better than conventional no-till farming.
    • Just one teaspoon of organic soil may host as many as 600 million to 1 billion helpful bacteria from 15,000 species. On the flip side, one teaspoon of soil treated with chemicals may carry as few as 100 helpful bacteria.
    • Organic farming impacts our health, soil, water, air, in long term benefit.
  • Combating Erosion
    • Not only does organic farming build healthy soil, but it helps combat serious soil and land issues, such as erosion.
    • The effects of soil erosion:
      • Decreases soil fertility
      • increases pollution and sedimentation in streams and rivers, blocking these waterways and can cause decline in fish and other species.
      • Degraded lands are also often less able to hold onto water, which can worsen and increase flooding that contaminates water and breaks down towns.
    • Erosion is the primary concern for farmers and citizens whose livelihood depends on agriculture.
    • However, organic farming practices do help discourage erosion from occurring.

  • Combat the Effects of Global Warming
    • A healthy organic agriculture system can actually reduce carbon dioxide and help slow climate change.
    • Why is this the case?
      • It estimated that agriculture contributes about 25 percent of annual emissions globally.
      • The fact is that organic farming would cut the direct greenhouse-gas emissions from livestock by 5% and from growing crops by 20% per unit of production.
      • This is how organic farming cuts down emissions and actually combats global warming.
  • Organic Farming Supports Water Conservation and Water Health
    • Dwindling water supplies and poor water health are very real threats. When our water supply is at risk, people and the planet end up suffering.
    • A major water pollution threat to rivers is runoff from non-organic farms, such as harmful pesticides, toxic fertilizers, and animal waste. Organic farming helps keep our water supplies clean by stopping that polluted runoff, and massive animal waste resulted from factory farming.
  • Discourage Algal Blooms
    • Algal blooms result in adverse effects on the health of marine animals and organisms.
    • While there is more than one cause of algal blooms, a primary human-based cause of algae blooms is runoff of fertilizers often used in conventional farming, or manure (animal waste)
    • In order to solve this, organic farming does a much better job.
  • Supporting Animal Health and Welfare
    • Animals who live on organic farms are exposed to clean, chemical-free grazing that helps keep them naturally healthy and resistant to illness.
    • The health of the animals are also closely associated with our own health. Because our livelihood depends on them, and without clea food, our health is also in vain.
  • Organic Farming Encourages Biodiversity
    • In general, the more biodiversity there is on a farm, the more stable the farm is. Organic farming encourages healthy biodiversity, which plays a critical role in issues like bad weather, disease, and pests on farms.
    • Additionally, reduced biodiversity may directly correlate with a rise in infectious diseases, which of course, isn’t good for farmers, consumers, animals, or the planet.
    • Organic farming results in lower greenhouse gas emissions, richer soil, cleaner water, massively reduced pesticides, combats global warming, coupled with additional benefits of biodiversity and other environmental services, makes organic agriculture a farming method with many advantages and considerable potential for mitigating and adapting to climate change.
    • It also doesn’t have any of the problems that factory farming has to address.

Concerns:

There are some issues that needs to be addressed before implementing this method of farming:

  • They require much more additional lands
    • The switch to 100% organic practices would require 1.5 times more land to make up for the declines, which would add up to nearly five times more land.
    • Because they cannot use conventional lands for organic farming.
    • Clearing additional forests for farming creates more greenhouse gases and reduces the biodiversity and species in such areas.
    • If the farmlands are converted from grasslands, which store carbon in plant tissues, roots, and soil, it would boost overall greenhouse-gas emissions by 21%.
    • Land use is already causing a huge problem today, explain…
  • Production issues
    • They can not produce as much as conventional ones and avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified organisms, all of which can boost the amount of crops produced.
    • They have to spend much more effort on ensuring the health of the products are sustainable, because synthetic insecticides are prohibited, but pests and disease still exist. They will have to use methods such as green manures, delay seeding, to control weeds, insects, diseases.
    • Organic farming yields are between 5% and 34% lower than those from conventional agriculture, depending on the specific crops and practices.

Solution:

  • Regulations:

At the moment, corporations have been able to keep the laws favorable to industrial farming practices. A well-organized movement can produce better policies—California voters just passed Proposition 12, which established “minimum space requirements based on square feet for calves raised for veal, breeding pigs, and egg-laying hens.” Reforms like this will improve millions of lives, even if they are small. And while improving laws will increase the prices of animal-based products, that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Those prices will better incorporate the “true costs” of the food, just as products made without worker exploitation are often costlier.

  • What comes after that? What is the most IDEAL solution?
  • Vastly replacing factory farms with conventional, or organic farms.
    • Wipe out Factory farms creates more land and resources for conventional/ organic farming
    • Which means that we don’t need additional land for agriculture, while simultaneously building up a much better, healthier and humane system of farming.
    • So the land use problem could be solved for organic farming. And there will be much better outcomes.
    • The production issues are still there, but however, using more land (by replacing these farms), could increase production for conventional. But also lowering demand for people, could be a possible solution.
    • This doesn’t mean people will starve, which i’ll be explaining next.
  • Veganism:
    • But while regulation can better the conditions of farmed animals, it cannot eliminate the human demand for animal products. For that, we will need to improve non-animal-based products. If you could give people a functionally indistinguishable substitute, they could probably be persuaded not to stick with slaughter purely for the sake of slaughter.
  • Make plant based products more affordable:
  • Meat alternatives are improving all the time. Plant-based burgers no longer taste like plants. The Impossible Burger, for instance, has come extremely close to replicating the experience of eating hamburger meat, and is about to be made available in stores. This was phenomenal. And we can see hope and our future from these products.

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