Factory Farms

You might be like the majority of people and believe that farm animals live in an idyllic place, namely in the country, where they are free to roam the area and once they have lived their long and happy life, they are then somehow ‘turned into meat'. This is far from the truth in today‘s world.

What are Factory Farms? (Also known as intensive farming)

First, there isn't a clear definition of factory farms since there are various terms. Due to the different types of factory farms a definite meaning may not be adequate to cover all types. The easiest way is to first understand the concept of the term ‘factory'. This often refers to a place or system which produces a large quantity of goods in the shortest and cheapest way possible, that is mass production. Due to the increase in human population and the high demand for meat products at a cheap price, there is now a system of 'extensive' farming. But instead of producing ‘goods‘, animals are reared in the quickest and cheapest possible way before being slaughtered. This leads to a change in view from animals being living creatures, to that of mere units of profit. Since they are seen as ‘products' and are going to ‘die anyway', many cruel practices are employed in which the welfare of the animal is often compromised. However, one cannot blame factory farms solely for cruelty because it is a business relying on supply and demand. It is as much as the public's responsibility because it is their continual demand for meat that results in the cruelty.

How did it all begin?

The practice of factory farming is relatively recent. It is the result of various discoveries in science and technological advances. The innovations in agriculture generally paralleled that of developments in mass production of other industries characterized by the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800's. It wasn't until the discoveries of vitamins and the part they play in animal nutrition in the first two decades of the 20th Century, that led to the introduction of certain livestock being raised indoors, without sunlight. It was the discovery of antibiotics in the 1940's that facilitated raising livestock in crowded conditions by minimizing disease. Supported by an increase in the quality of lifestyle in many developed countries, an increase in the demand for meat led to the expansion of many factory farms. Include the continual increase in human population, the fate of millions of future factory farmed animals is a bleak one indeed.

Factory Farming in Australia

Although the extent of factory farming in Australia is not as large as in the United States, the consumption of meat products in Australia is significantly high and on the increase. The tables show the number of animal farming establishments, as well as statistics of meat production and animal slaughter over a 10 year period.

Number of Establishments with Agricultural Activity#
ESTABLISHMENT 1995 2000 2005
sheep-beef-cattle 11,999 9,253 8,309
sheep farming 16,234 14,302 12,956
beef cattle farming 36,092 35,236 35,979
dairy cattle farming 14,175 13,820 9,881
pig farming 1,531 1,145 882
poultry farming (meat) 721 845 666
poultry farming (eggs) 526 508 423

#Australian Bureau of Statistics

Meat Production (Carcass Weight)#
LIVESTOCK 1995 2000 2005
beef '000 tonne 1,766 1,952 2,133
veal '000 tonne 38 36 29
mutton '000 tonne 354 333 237
lamb '000 tonne 268 347 354
pig meat '000 tonne 351 363 388
chicken meat (dressed weight) '000 tonne ^ 467 598 750

Note: ^ excludes Tasmania, ACT, NT

PRODUCT 1995 2000 2005
eggs '000 dozen 126, 287 182,179 202,653
whole milk factory intake (million litres) 8,206 10,847 10,175

Livestock Numbers '000s#
LIVESTOCK 1995 2000 2005
milk cattle 2,741 3,140 3,056
meat cattle 22,991 24,448 24,725
sheep and lambs 120,862 118,552 101,125
pigs 2,653 2,511 2,538
chicken (meat) ^ # 54,475 72,912 62,289
chicken (eggs) ^ # 11,148 12,016 13,175

Note: ^ excludes Tasmania data; # 1995 excludes breeding stock

Livestock Slaughtering and Production '000s#
LIVESTOCK 1995 2000 2005
cattle '000s 7,220 7,520 7,986
calves '000s 1,048 1,122 868
sheep '000s 17,500 15,857 11,483
pigs '000s 5,120 5,025 5,339
chickens '000s ^ 330,495 393,992 437, 641

Note: ^ excludes Tasmania, ACT, NT

Although the abovestatistics may not appear significant take a look at the numbers this way. For the year 2005, let'sbreak down the annual numbers into more clear timeframes.

Breakdown of Number of Animals Slaughtered (2005)
cattle (7,986,000) 665,500 153,576 21,879 911
calves (868,000) 72,333 16,692 2,378 99
sheep (11,443,000) 953,583 220,057 31,350 1,306
pigs (5,339,000) 444,916 102,673 14,627 609
chickens (437,641,000) ^ 36,470,083 701,346 99,918 4163

Note: ^ excludes Tasmania, ACT, NT

These figures are just an estimate and do not take into account seasonal variations, holidays, and peak production times. These periods would yield different numbers reflective of said periods.

So? What's the Big Deal?

You may be like so many other people and feel that we need factory farms to supply the meat and animal by-products that western society appears to be so reliant on. However, if you knew how factory farms operate and the hidden side of these industries, you may start re-thinking your choices. You need to start considering the effect your choices have on the animals involved and the environment. More people are becoming aware of the both the cruelty and health issues that are involved in intensive farming. Others are becoming more aware on how intensive farming is contributing so much to environmental damage, such as carbon emissions and pollution. For detailed information about the types of factory farms and the effect on the environment. Hopefully, you will realise the hidden side of how you get your animal products and as a result, want to start making a positive difference.

What can you do?

Become vegetarian or vegan. By not eating meat or consuming any animal products, such as milk and eggs, you are not part of the cruelty.

If, for some reason, you can't become vegetarian or vegan, try to avoid meat and dairy produce resulting from factory farmed animals. Look out for welfare friendly products, especially organic and free-range. You might like to try alternatives to meat and dairy products.

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