NY Times editorial on industrial farm animal abuse
- May 31, 2008
The Worst Way of Farming
In the past month, two new reports have examined how farm animals
are raised in this country. The report funded by the Pew Charitable
Trusts calls the prevailing system "industrial farm animal
production." The report from the Union of Concerned Scientists
prefers the term "confined animal feeding operations."
No matter what you call it, it adds up to the same thing. Millions
of animals are crowded together in inhumane conditions, causing
significant environmental threats and unacceptable health risks for
workers, their neighbors and all the rest of us.
The astonishing increase in the number and size of confined animal
operations has been spawned largely by the very structure of
American farm supports, which always has been skewed in a way that
concentrates farming in fewer and fewer hands. As both of these
reports make clear, the so-called efficiency of industrial animal
production is an illusion, made possible by cheap grain, cheap water
and prisonlike confinement systems.
In short, animal husbandry has been turned into animal abuse.
Manure traditionally a source of fertilizer has been turned into
toxic waste that fouls the air and adjacent water bodies. Crowding
creates health problems, resulting in the chronic overuse of
And, because the modest profits in confinement operations require
the lowest possible labor costs, including automated feeding,
watering and manure-handling systems, these operations have helped
empty and impoverish rural America.
The Pew report recommends new laws regulating pollution from
industrial farms as rigorously as pollution from other industries, a
phasing-out of confinement systems that restricts "natural movement
and normal behavior," a ban on antibiotics used only to promote
animal growth and the application of antitrust laws to encourage
more competition and less concentration.
These are all useful guideposts for the next Congress and a new
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company