Fighting Factory Farms

Several readers were sufficiently shocked by the picture and story of what goes on in Western factory farms to ask “What can we do about it?” Here are some thoughts, and a bunch of useful links to more information:

  1. Become a vegan: Our political and economic systems being what they are, it is much more effective to eliminate demand for what factory farms provide, than to try to get government to change the way they operate. Contrary to the industry’s hype and propaganda, a vegan (botanic) diet is an extremely healthy, easy and delicious one. If you’re not really convinced that the animals we eat are profoundly sensitive, emotional creatures, read Jeff Masson’s lovely, gently persuasive The Pig Who Sang to the Moon or When Elephants Weep. Here are eight tips to make the transition to vegetarianism, the first step to a botanic diet. A great way to start is to take a class in vegan cooking.
  2. Buy local or Certified Humane: If giving up meat and dairy is too much of a stretch, find local, trusted suppliers that you, or people you know, have visited and are comfortable with the conditions the animals are kept in. Or support and research Certified Humane suppliers (Canadians will find a more complete list here). Note that “organic” does not necessarily mean cruelty-free (though it is more likely to be) and that there are no standards or inspections behind “free-range” claims. For more inspiration on why this is so important read this wonderful essay A Good Farmer from novelist Barbara Kingsolver in The Nation. Small local farms are better for the environment, better for employment, better for the local community, better for workers, better for your health, and, of course, better for the animals. And if you haven’t seen the award-winning short film The Meatrix yet, take a look — it’s not violent or sensationalistic.
  3. Talk others into becoming vegan/vegetarian and buying local/Certified Humane: Consumer action takes numbers. Nothing is more effective than person-to-person conversation. You don’t have to be strident — just tell people the facts.
  4. Adopt a local farmer: Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) group or meet with a local farmer and get your neighbours to pool together to buy from that farmer.
  5. Support the Slow Food Movement: They are champions of sustainable and high-biodiversity agriculture, and hence enemies of factory farms.
  6. Talk to your grocery stores and restaurants: Start your political activism at your end of the food chain, where you have the most influence. Tell your grocery store that you want more variety of botanic products, and to be able to buy them in bulk, not just tiny prepackaged portions. Tell them, and your favourite restaurants, that you want to buy Certified Humane products. Print up and give them I Care Calling Cards.
  7. Join organizations that care: If you’re going to try to lobby for political change, work with organizations that are doing so already. Farm Aid, the Sierra Club, the Humane Society of the US or Canada, and the GRACE Factory Farm Project all provide resources and help fighting factory farms. Know what you’re up against: Factory farms are dominated by a few huge, politically influential and massively subsidized agribusiness corporations.

If you have other suggestions, please use the comments button below to tell us about them.
Top Photo: From ‘The Meatrix’
Bottom Photo: Dead fish washed up on the shore of the Neuse River in North Carolina, among the more than one billion killed by runoff of effluent from huge nearby agribusiness pig factory farms.

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8 Responses to Fighting Factory Farms

  1. Tim says:

    This is a very important topic indeed. Especially the treating of farm animals is a shame and utter cruelty indeed.I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat meat only in reduced quantities and have no problem eating vegetarian food. But I can’t completely give up on meat because I like to eat it from time to time and I don’t think that’s wrong (if you buy it from a quality local farmer) because animals eat other animals too.I really enjoy your site and I’ve devoured ‘Straw dogs’ as well (and this prior to knowing this site).Keep up the interesting articles.

  2. I’ve made the switch to ovo-lacto vegetarianism about 6 months ago and it was one of the best decisions of my life. A LOT easier than I thought it would be too — in fact, it would be hard to go back to eating animals. I encourage others to do the same. are a good source of information and discussion.

  3. Zach says:

    “”If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million,” David Pimentel, professor of ecology in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, reported at the July 24-26 meeting of the Canadian Society of Animal Science in Montreal. Or, if those grains were exported, it would boost the U.S. trade balance by $80 billion a year, Pimentel estimated.”…… So what! I like steak! Now you are saying to ‘save the world’ I have to change my diet? That is absurd! But if you changed the rules of the system in order to increase the price of beef, then I would change my diet. (Although for health reasons I actually don’t eat a large amount of red meat.) It seems to me trying to impact each individual in a system is ineffective, it may create temporary instabilities but you have to change the rules of the system in order to make a real lasting change. (Did you check out the link to that MIT active essay “Exploring Emergence?” You should go into politics…

  4. Zach says:

    Also, do you see how a real concern for other people would ultimately solve the factory farm problem? People are hungry, cows eat all the grain, give the grain to the hungry people not the cows. Problems solved: fewer hungry people, fewer unhappy cows. Very simple really. But it requires a concern for others which most people don’t have. They (i.e. you and I) are to afraid and to busy juding every one else to show any real compassion.

  5. i agree with zach, it’s all about political economics, we all need a system’s and rules’ major change. sustainable and environmental friendly solutions are fine, but do nothing in the long run if we don’t criticize the economical system that lies underneath.

  6. I am not about to become a vegan, or even a vegetarian. Humans eat meat, or more to the point, I eat meat. My body was designed that way. That is how I eat, and my ancestors eat, and their ancestors as far back as we can see. This blog talks – appropriately – about living naturally. Part of humans living and eating naturally, in the forest, as it were, is eating meat.I think it is possible to respect animals and still eat them. They would show the same respect for me, most of them at least. From the worms and maggots that will have their way with me when I’m done, to the wolves and bears that would, if they spotted a weakness, hunt me and bring me down, to crows and other carrion eaters who would feast on the remains, even to the mosquitos and black flies who are happy to extract a chunk of flesh even as I walk through aforementioned forest.This is not a defense of factory farming or anything like that. But it is a reminder that from a naturalist perspective there is no inherent superiority in vegitarianism. It is, at best, a response to a more pervasive problem, that of population and agriculture. It is, at best, a form of asceticism. But when you run those pictures of forests – forests that are, indeed, my home, the place where I grew up – then you need to paint an accurate picture of those who run in those forests. Not farmers. Meat eaters.Don’t get my position wrong. I am an environmentalist. A am a humanist. I contribute to environmental organizations. To aid organizations. I don’t drive a car. I live simply. I work on the endge of the forest and surround myself with wilderness whenever I get the chance. I support fair trade. It seems evident to me – and to most who have looked at this, I think – that the problem of malnutrition is not caused by shortages (which vegitarianism addresses) but by distribution (which vegitarianism does not address). To, as other commentators have noted, underlying economic systems. To corporatization, to hyper-consumerism, to a predatory and amoral economic system.My sympathies lie with humane farming, small farming, free-range and good farming. I am distraught by the onslaught of urbanization – but cognizant enough to know that you can’t de-urbanize without destroying what’s left. We need a balance, not extreme solutions. We need to find our way, but not be deluded by false promises or false religion.

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Stephen: I’m entirely sympathetic, which is why I tried to offer alternatives in this list. Veganism is not inherently superior, but if we could get enough people to become vegans, and the rest to give their business to family farms that treat animals humanely, we could eliminate the market for factory farms. I see no other way, since the political and economic systems are stacked against us. The only real leverage we have is consumer/citizen power, and self-education.

  8. Berlin says:

    This is indeed becoming a serious problem. I have created a website myself trying, in a light-hearted manner, to promote organic farming:!

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