Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Factory Farming | Blog the Change

I've lived beyond the sidewalks for many years now and as one friend has said:  this is your life's blessing -to be close to the animals.

It will come as no surprise to you if you've read my posts about horse slaughter and puppy mills, that I believe that all animals should be treated with compassion and protected from suffering. 

Many was the day I dragged a lawn chair out to just sit in quiet meditation with my cattle herd.  There's a zen quality to bovine that is magical.  While some of my "cowgirls" would simply continue to browse the grass, some would come and lay beside me.  Quietly chewing their cud and gazing off in the distance.  Perhaps they were looking inward, like me. 
Some of my cowgirls.

Unfortunately, billions of farm animals lack even access to pasture, let alone the most basic welfare protections under the law.

According the ASPCA, more than 99% of farm animals in the US are raised in factory farms - large, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food.  There the focus is on profit and efficiency, not animal welfare.

Where did that milk come from that you poured over your cereal this morning?  The hamburger you ate last night?  How about that pork chop?  Or the eggs in your recent omelet?

Probably from animals being raised in extreme confinement, not in those gorgeous pastures shown in commercials and print ads.  Those animals have been bred to grown unnaturally fast and large to maximize profit.

Cows belong in fields.  Watch the dairy cows below.  They've just been released into fresh spring pasture.  They remind me of my own "cowgirls."  When we moved them from one pasture to another they danced with joy and glee.

Living in confinement, dairy cows ares often injected with BGH (bovine growth hormone) which can increase the incidence of mastitis and lameness. Tails are often docked.  A dairy cow is considered "used up" at 5 years of age on average in the United States and slaughtered for human consumption.  In a natural setting, cows can live more than 20 years.

Beef cattle usually begin their lives on pasture with their mothers.  However, they're soon separated for weaning and by the time they're a year old they on their way to a feedlot.  There they're fattened on an unnatural diet unto they reach optimal market weight and sent to slaughter.

Sows (female pigs of breeding age) most often live a life confined to a gestation crate which is only slightly larger than their own body.  Their lives are a cycle of pregnancy, birth, nursing and then, finally, slaughter.

Each year in the United States, over 200 million male chicks are killed upon hatching because they will never lay eggs.  The majority of hens (female chickens) are debeaked and spend their lives in battery cages which usually hold 5-10 chickens with room enough to barely turn around if they're lucky.  After a year or two, when egg production declines, those chickens are sent to slaughter.  

In addition to the egg industry, chickens raised for meat usually spend their lives confined to warehouse packed with as many as 20,000 chickens.  Again, with individual space enough to turn around if they're lucky.  They're often slaughtered at only 42 days old.

What you can do:
  • Meatless Monday - Try going meatless one day a week.
  • Eat at restaurants that support the local sustainable food system.  Visit the Eat Well Guide to find them near you. 
  • Shop at your local farmer's market.
  • Check out purchasing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share.  One good resource is Local Harvest.
  • Explore independent grocery stores and co-ops looking for locally produced meats, eggs and dairy products from traditional farmers.
  • Look for local farmers online.  More and more smaller farms sell directly to consumers via a website.
  • Become a label reader.  Look for "pasture access."  "Grass fed" does not necessarily mean the animals were ever on pasture.  "Organic" does not mean that the animals didn't spend their lives in confinement on a dry lot/feedlot.
  • Follow and take action on legislation related to factory farming with the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, or other animal welfare organization.
Frankly, the absence of photographs and lots of details is intentional in this blog post.  However, I did find this video produced by Compassion in World Farming that is relatively "safe" to watch.  Though they're talking about Europe, this rings true of factory farming in the United States, too.

January 15th is Blog the Change Day - a day when pet bloggers and pet lovers come together to blog, read, share and Be the Change for Animals.  Bloggers are encouraged to write about pet fire safety in July or about a cause near and dear to their heart. Readers are encouraged to read and share their favorite posts.  Join Team BtC on January 15th to Blog the Change for animals.


  1. So sad to hear about this really bad things we humans do :(

  2. Great post Sue. I'm about 90% vegetarian but I know there is more we could do, Thanks for the link to the Eat Well Guide - I will certainly use it. Each small step helps I guess.

  3. Wonderful post. It's been almost a year since I gave up meat and dairy, initially for health reasons, then because of the inhumane treatment given to these animals. There were a few lapses over the holidays, because I wasn't ready to hurt my loved ones' feelings, but on the whole it's made me feel good. Thanks for the cow video, it is really sweet and a good reminder that these animals are not 'things', they have emotional lives.

  4. I raised a few chickens for eggs when we had the house. They were pretty spoiled. I never ever buy eggs that are not free range, and if I can get them from a local person, even better.

  5. Great post. Thanks especially for the link to Eat Well, I had never heard of that site before and will definitely take advantage of it!

  6. Oh Sue!! I knew this would be a great post! I am trying really hard to do a meatless day a week, while I do continue to eat meat, I try my best to make choices that don't support factory farming and I do read the labels.

    I'm so glad you shared the resources you did, my goal this year is to purchase a CSA and try and plant a few of my own veggies as well. I've been doing jam for a few years but also hope to get a pressure canner so when the farmer's markets are in full force, I can buy veggies/fruits in season and preserve them for later use.

    Thank you for taking the time to share these links, I'm so glad you are being the voice for the voiceless.

  7. I'm with you, I love being around animals. I grew up in Vermont, so I love cows. The list of things you can do is very helpful. My daughter and son in law gave us a share in their CSA for our anniversary, and I never received a better gift! Thanks for the great post.
    Be the Change for Animals
    Peggy's Pet Place

  8. I love that video of the 'dancing' cows! I think that drives the point home much better than images of factory farms that cause people to just look away and ignore the issue.
    The Husband and I do not cook a lot of red meat or poultry at home (okay, let's be honest, I don't cook much of anything and am basically a defacto pescatarian when the Husband is away at work.... out of laziness more than health or morality). But when we do get red meat, we stick to local butchers - you know, the kind where you roll up to the little storefront on their property and see the cows in the field out back. Supports local business, too.

  9. This is a great post! The Eat Well Guide is a great resource. People can also find local organic produce and meat for their own kitchens at Everyone should remember we're not doing ourselves any good to look for healthier, humane meat if we're turning around and throwing GMOs into our bodies from other sources. If you're growing your own, look for heirloom seeds that aren't GMOs.

  10. Your post is a reminder to all of us to think about the conditions the animals are subjected to for our benefit. I recently joined ASPCA ambassadors to add my voice and received a letter that the government is considering horse slaughterhouses again in one state! WTH?

  11. Great information, thank you for sharing. I am a country girl also, my brother has a small beef heard that I just love to watch also, I love to watch the calves. I am like you and the animals need to be cared for well. My duck and chicken pen is hugh and I give them kid swimming pools to swim in and change the water daily. If you want the good life come stay with me! :)

  12. When we eat our food, we don't want to think about where it really came from. But the reality is very sickening. I haven't quite gone vegetarian yet, but my husband and I are down to eating meat only once a week. Twice or three times if you include seafood. When we do eat meat that once time per week, it is generally chicken raised cage free. We rarely eat beef nowadays. One thing I tend to forget, however, is that dairy also comes from animals. Dairy cows may not be any better treated that cows raised for eating. It is very expensive to get organic dairy. And it is difficult going vegan.

  13. This is such a great informative post. I have often heard the term "factory farming" but never really knew exactly what it meant. Ugh...most of us prefer not to think about where our food actually comes from. You have some great ideas here. We try to buy more local, we mostly buy local eggs or if not I read the labels to get the right ones at the grocery stores. We buy some local meat also, but I know there is so much more we can do. Going meatless one day a week is a great place to start!

  14. Oh geez - i didn't know that the "grass fed" thing doesn't necessarily mean they had ACCESS to the grass field. It makes me sick how the manufacturers/marketers manipulate this stuff so you think you're doing the right thing. We try to always buy cage free eggs, grass fed beef, and organic milk, but it's disheartening to know that doesn't necessarily help. We are not vegetarian, but we do a few nights a week without meet. We joined a CSA a few years ago and it's been great. Definitely makes me eat veggies that I probably never would have bought otherwise! :)

  15. Mom knows about all that terrible stuff, but we try not to think too much about it as it is all just too overwhelming combined with all the homeless pets.

  16. i barely eat meat. i used to live across the street from a sizzlin steak house. it would make me sick realizing all the beef being eaten in one place. and that's just one place. i have been more health conscious for some time. thanks for sharing. be the change. :)

  17. PS I haven't drank cow's milk either for some time. Coconut milk is the best! or vanilla flax milk, or almond milk, vanilla flavor. gotta have my vanilla. :)

  18. I'm with Jen K. You took a really great approach to a subject many animal lovers find difficult.

    I don't feel like I'm that old. But when I was a kid we ate a lot of beef. My parents would buy half a steer from a local farmer. And we always "met" that steer. When the steer was killed, I we'd go to the butcher shop where my mom would tell the butcher how she wanted her half of the meat cut up.

    That hands on approach to eating meat has kept me conscious that when I do eat meat, a living creature died to nourish me. Meat is not a product that comes out of a factory.

    In the summer I am a happy vegetarian who is lucky to be surrounded by organic, human dairy farms (goats and cows). In the winter, I find I need more meat in my diet to feel good. But I'm lucky, once again, to have local and human sources of meat.

    Lots of animal lovers disconnect their loves of cats and dogs with the treatment of livestock animals. I'm really glad you picked this topic and got people talking about it. Even if someone chooses to eat meat, it's good to be conscious about it. And it's even better to make better choices that cause less suffering (both for livestock animals and for human animals).

  19. I just discovered new restaurants and a baker thanks to Eat Well Guide! That is very cool.

  20. I think most people are unaware of just how awful the conditions are for a lot of animals.

  21. I would prefer to eat meat that hubby hunted, but he isn't always lucky enough to get that. :) It is good that there are more choices these days. But as far as milk goes, I seem to recall that with all the government regulations these days it is really hard for the small dairy farmers to make it. Isn't most milk from factory farms, (which we as taxpayers subsidize)? I know of local sources for most things, but not milk.


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