Sadly, even animals are not safe from government and corporate interests. A hidden camera video taken in December 2011 was obtained recently by the animal rights group Mercy for Animals, showing how North Carolina Butterball turkey farm personnel were kicking and stomping on turkeys. The video also showed injured birds with open wounds and exposed flesh.
A police raid ensued afterwards, inspecting nearly 3,000 birds. It turns out that the company knew that the raid was coming – a veterinarian from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture tipped off a fellow veterinarian employed by the turkey farm, according to phone records.
According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, the US government already has a history of supporting confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Apart from playing ignorant to the abuse animals receive in these facilities, they also subsidize cheaply produced beef, and allow the use of corn and soy for feeding. CAFOs are also promoted as the best source of food for the public.
Why Does the Government Support CAFOs?
Dr. Mercola says, “The only reason CAFOs are able to remain so ‘efficient,’ bringing in massive profits while selling their food for bottom-barrel prices, is because they substitute subsidized crops for pasture grazing.”
Because of government subsidies, farmers produce enormous quantities of soy, corn, and wheat, rather than vegetables. This is the reason why fast food diets are prominent in America. In the book CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories, the author states:
“Thanks to U.S. government subsidies, between 1997 and 2005, factory farms saved an estimated $3.9 billion per year because they were able to purchase corn and soybeans at prices below what it cost to grow the crops. Without these feed discounts, amounting to a 5 to 15 percent reduction in operating costs, it is unlikely that many of these industrial factory farms could remain profitable.” (link)
While subsidized farms get special treatment, small farms receive no financial assistance from the government. Despite this, they are expected to be level with the efficiency claims of subsidized facilities.
What Goes on in CAFOs
Regardless of government support, the animals cultivated in CAFOs are often treated cruelly and like objects. They are locked in overcrowded cages and are often covered in dirt and even fecal matter.
CAFO: The Tragedy of Industrial Animal Factories also describes some of the most inhumane and unsanitary practices in these confined farming prisons:
- In these industrial farms, thousands of animals – chickens, cows, and swine – are fit into small spaces and reside in spaces bathed in their own waste, which slips into the food chain as animal feed supplements.
- In order to get abundant quantities of milk, cows are squeezed to the absolute physical limit. Many of them are reduced to a life of confinement, without any grazing activities. Most of them suffer health problems such as bone deficiencies, infected udders, lameness, and abrasions.
- CAFOs hens, on the other hand, are confined as egg-laying slaves in cramped cages without the chance to flap their wings. Their beaks are often seared to prevent them from hurting one another. Because of this, they are left without privacy to lay their eggs – a situation which causes them great distress.
- Many livestock are fed with anything that will induce weight gain cheaply and quickly. Examples of common cattle feed used here are hydrolyzed poultry feathers, inter-species waste, antibiotic drugs, cement dust, and even plastic roughage replacements.
Eighty percent of antibiotics produced are used in agriculture not only to eliminate infection but also as a tool for unhealthy weight gain, according to Dr. Mercola. Because of this profitable practice, bacteria are evolving, giving birth to antibiotic-resistant diseases.
In Europe and other parts of the world, antibiotics are banned from being used in animal feed. However, CAFOs in the United States continue to use them without any restrictions from the government.
In 2010, the FDA acknowledged the existence of antibiotic-resistant diseases and proposed that only low doses of antibiotics be used in animal feed. But in December 2011, they quietly released a notice in the Federal Register retracting their plan of reducing the use of antibiotics.
Apart from the dangers they inflict on animals, corporate-owned CAFOs also contribute to environmental harm. These facilities contribute to the chemical and pesticide contamination of rivers, streams, and ground water, resulting in shifts in aquatic ecosystems; large emissions of greenhouse gases; and negative impacts on soil quality because of erosion, pesticide use, and excessive fertilization.
CAFO Meats vs. Organic Meats
When you go to your local supermarket and buy meat, chances are you are putting yourself at risk for food poisoning. According to Consumer Reports, 83 percent of fresh, whole chickens found in supermarkets are positive for campylobacter or salmonella. (link)
Conventional chicken products are 460 times more likely to contain antibiotic-resistant germs. Instead of being left to graze on their own, they are fed with pesticide-laden genetically engineered grains. On the other hand, organic meats raised in small family-owned farms are less likely to be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Dr. Mercola says that if you want to be assured of good health, you must obtain your food from responsible, high-quality, sustainable resources. Find small family or organic farms in your area that grow their livestock based on the natural relationships between animals and the environment. By visiting their farm directly, you will be able to witness firsthand how their animals are treated.
You may also participate in farmer’s markets and community-supported agriculture programs, suggests Dr. Mercola. Here are some sources where you can find resources of wholesome foods that support not only you, but the environment.
- Farmers’ Markets (link) – A site with a national listing of farmers’ markets
- Local Harvest (link) – A directory of farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area
- FoodRoutes (link) – Helps you connect with local farmers through a “Find Good Food” map.