Is It Crunch Time for Factory Farms?

A dirty, poisoned world, and yet we're expected to eat these birds and their eggs
I'm starting to wonder if the modern factory farm may have climbed up the ladder, just to arrive at the top of a very big slippery slide heading to its own demise (well, we dare to dream, don't we?). The recent UN Report - Livestock's Long Shadow - made official what many have been pleading for years, and today The Sietch Blog shared highlights of another upcoming, and damning official report - this time from Worldwatch Institute, and entitled Vital Signs 2007-2008.

This section below talks about the impact of Avian flu, something we wrote about just the other day - and shows how, when culling birds, the wrong people have been targeted:

At least 15 nations have restricted or banned free-range and backyard production of birds in an attempt to deal with avian flu on the ground, a move that may ultimately do more harm than good, according to Nierenberg. “Many of the world’s estimated 800 million urban farmers, who raise crops and animals for food, transportation, and income in back yards and on rooftops, have been targeted unfairly by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization,” she told participants at the AAAS event. “The socioeconomic importance of livestock to the world’s poor cannot be overstated.”

... Locating large chicken farms near cities might make economic sense, but the close concentration of the birds to densely populated areas can help foster and spread disease, Nierenberg says. In Laos, 42 of the 45 outbreaks of avian flu in the spring of 2004 occurred on factory farms, and 38 were in the capital, Vientiane (the few small farms in the city where outbreaks occurred were located close to commercial operations). In Nigeria, the first cases of avian flu were found in an industrial broiler operation; it spread from that 46,000-bird farm to 30 other factory farms, then quickly to neighboring backyard flocks, forcing already-poor farmers to kill their chickens.

It's tremendously unjust that the 'little guy' is suffering due to the unnatural habits of nearby factory farms. It gets worse when you consider these small backyard operations - which are far healthier and humane - may not recover financially, and their market share will be swallowed by the financially stronger factory farm that caused their bankruptcy.

In a fair world, the enormous flocks of the factory farms would be culled off instead. Oh, wait a minute - keep reading...:

Experts suggest that rather than culling smaller, backyard flocks, the FAO, WHO, and other international agencies should focus the bulk of their avian flu prevention efforts on large poultry producers and on stopping disease outbreaks before they occur. The industrial food system not only threatens the livelihoods of small farmers, it potentially puts the world at risk for a potential flu pandemic. “While H5N1…may have been a product of the world’s factory farms, it’s small producers who have the most to lose,” says Nierenberg.

Intensive animal farming is not only deleterious to human health and economies; it is also responsible for a great deal of ecological destruction. The growing numbers of livestock are responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (as measured in carbon dioxide equivalent). They account for 37 percent of emissions of methane, which has more than 20 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide, and 65 percent of emissions of nitrous oxide, another powerful greenhouse gas, most of which comes from manure. - The Sietch Blog

Common sense should have prevailed on this topic a long time ago. Putting thousands upon thousands of birds beak to backside in cramped, faeces and ammonia-laden conditions is not only inhumane, but logic dictates that an unhappy, unhealthy bird is not fit to eat. Combine that with growth hormones and antibiotics and this should be seen as outright criminal negligence.

What better way is there to breed disease? It's incredible that we have to stand on the brink of a pandemic before people with authority begin to speak.

Back in 1999 the EU put a battery hen ban in place, to take force from 2009. Readers may be able to clarify or correct here, but as far as I can tell this has somehow been postponed to 2012(?). And, according to this website even that deadline is under threat.

How about we stop financing the eggs and chickens raised in these conditions.

Care to re-home a battery hen anyone?

Further Reading:

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  • Posted on Feb. 20, 2007. Listed in:

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