There seems to be some sort of blind spot in our collective consciousness about the term ‘factory farming’ and all the various types of *CAFO in which our numerous species of victims are incarcerated.
For a start, the creating of victims and keeping them alive until they are executed in response to consumer demand is a practice known as ‘farming’, a term we are raised to mistakenly view as benign and bucolic. There’s nothing benign or bucolic about creating unnecessary victims. Nevertheless, popular mythology suggests that these ‘farms’ have a range of options by which to conduct the practices that are needed to meet consumer demand. ‘Factory farms’ are widely vilified as some sort of particularly brutal or ‘cruel‘ option. On the other hand, establishments with different labels like ‘family’, ‘organic’, ‘local’ are held up to be more ‘ethical’ or even ‘humane’ in some way that quite frankly escapes me. But then, comparing types of torture has never appealed to me.
What rarely seems to be confronted is that it’s the practice of ‘farming’ itself that is the real problem; the flawed concept of needlessly creating victims out of unconsenting and defenceless individuals; not only is it completely unnecessary but it is also destroying the planet while making humans sick. That’s the fundamental problem – NOT the size of establishment in which it occurs.
It’s all about scale
I’ll come back to ‘factory farming’ in a minute but before I do, let’s continue with my simplified take on where we are as a species that is destroying the planet that we all call home. The key thing to note is that the human population of this planet is currently 7.9 billion and rising exponentially. Most of these humans have been encouraged to think they need to use and consume other species for their wellbeing, and the industries that make money from ignorance on such a breathtaking scale, are working very hard to foster and maintain that ignorance. As information about plant-based nutrition and the calamitous ecological impact of farming – ALL farming of lives – becomes more widely known, vested interests are becoming increasingly blatant in their attempts to retain their income (follow the money), and as yet, the truth is not spreading fast enough.
Farming takes up a lot of space to grow plants to feed to our victims
This human population of 7.8 billion currently demands that over 80 billion members of other species (almost 10 times the human population) be ‘farmed’ for use and consumption each and every year.
Every one of these victims requires to eat, so that’s 80 billion mouths to feed each year before we even think about feeding humans. These corpses, breast milk, eggs and body parts do not come close to meeting the nutritional requirements of the human population because although these 77 billion have **converted feed into whatever substance the victim makers require to profit from financially, all members of animal species are inefficient converters of food into what our exploitative species thinks of as ‘resources’. We all eat food to live, to stay warm, to provide us with energy, to build and repair our bodies and our victims are like us in this, as in almost every other sense.
When we are feeding others with the intention of slaughtering and eating them, eating their eggs or breastfeeding from their bodies, the physics of ‘feed conversion’ inevitably results in a nutritional output that is only a tiny percentage of what they were given to eat. And as biological plant eaters, the one thing that we do actually need to consume for our wellbeing is plants. So every year, on top of growing plants to feed the 77 billion, we have to grow an additional supply of plants for ourselves. As indeed we have done up to now, although the news this month is increasingly worrying as supplies falter around the globe.
Also this week, the Amazon rainforest has been in the news, with deforestation recently escalating by between 60 to 88.4%. It’s now running at the equivalent of 1.5 football pitches per minute. This is being driven by – any guesses? Well just in case there’s any doubt, while there will no doubt be an instant return for the loggers, the real driving force is the need for grazing for victims to supply the escalating global population’s demand for dead flesh.
Please just let the scale of this sink in; 7.8 billion of us (and increasing by the minute), 77 billion nonhuman victims – not counting over 2.7 trillion aquatic victims and numerous other groups. Every year, year in year out.
Farming needs space to incarcerate our victims
And here, after a bit of a circuitous route, let’s come back to the term ‘factory farming’. Rather than being some particularly barbaric choice, factory farming is the inevitable consequence of a massive population with an insatiable demand for death and destruction and very little space in which to indulge that proclivity. Protesting about it is a complete waste of time although many large ‘welfare‘ organisations raise funds on the strength of the misdirection; it’s actually the only way there is to meet demand, and only a vast reduction in that demand could ever have made any impact on it.
As the lungs of the planet disappeared at the rate of several football pitches while I was writing this, we have run out of space to incarcerate our billions of annual victims. Even if it were true that there was some difference between needlessly creating victims and keeping them alive until they are executed in one place as opposed to another, it’s just not feasible to have these rolling pastures of our nursery rhymes on a planet in its death throes.
This means that every time we point the finger at ‘factory farming’ as the problem, every time we sanctimoniously promote labels like ‘family’, ‘organic’, ‘local’, every time we comment or post or write about animal rights and slip in the word ‘factory’, we are encouraging the view that there’s a different type of farming that is ethical. And that’s not the case. There just isn’t, although it’s such an unwelcome message that the majority of humans will grasp at any straws that they can find to continue to feel ‘ethical’ without changing their behaviour.
If we were all to stop buying death and destruction now at this moment, while lobbying governments to stop subsidising it and listen instead to what the health authorities have been saying for years, it would take some time, but eventually the death cycle would slow and stop.
Even so, there’s no guarantee that our world is saveable for the life forms who currently regard it as home, but at least one thing is true; each of us who withdraws from participating in the practices that are depriving us all of a future will be able to meet their own eyes in the mirror and know that at least they tried. Maybe that’s the best we can hope for at this stage.
*A concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO), as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is an animal feeding operation (AFO) in which over 1000 animal units are confined for over 45 days a year.
**Feed Conversion Rate is a ratio or rate measuring of the efficiency with which the bodies of our victims convert feed into the desired output.