Top positive review
16 people found this helpful
Devastating critique of factory farming
on 2 February 2014
People tend to think of a farm as a place where animals roam around, the farmer attends their crops and happy birds sing from the trees, this book states that image is a PR spin of what farming used to be like because in the last 50 years farming has changed and the factory farm has become the norm. Factory farms specialise, the meat farms make only meat, the plant farms grow only a single type of plant.
The meat factory farms are grim places where animals spend their lives trapped indoors, squeezed in to tiny areas barely able to move. The factory meat farms pump out massive amounts of manure that is just dumped creating massive pits of excrement. A large hog farm of 800,000 pigs in America can generate 1.6 million tones of manure annually, more than 1.5 million residents of a city like Philadelphia. Because the meat factory farm specialise in just making meat they have no crops to fertilise and the manure just sits there devastating fishing and tourist industries and contaminating the drinking water.
The people that live by these mega farms have terrible health from the pollution, heart disease, birth defects and childhood asthma are all a lot higher than the national average and massive swarms of flies infest the entire area.
For the plant growing factory farm, they grow a single crop in massive amounts, having to buy fertilizers and using pesticides to keep away the bugs. Birdsong, once the key feature of the English countryside is all but disappeared as the pesticides that kill bugs have moved up the foot chain, killing the nations' birds. In the last forty years the population of tree sparrows has dropped by 97%, gray partridges by 90%, turtle doves by 89%, corn bunting by 86%, skylarks by 61%, yellowhammers by 56% starlings by 85% and song thrushes by 48%.
Bee populations in the UK and USA have crashed as well, the British Beekeeper Association believe that the UK could lose all its bees in the next decade. The problem is so bad in America farmers are having to rent lorries of bees to come to their farms to pollinate the crops, when the inevitable crashes happen swarms of millions of bees are released causing chaos on the roads. Insect pesticides and lack of diversity in single crop farms are believed to be the reason behind the bee population decline.
Fish farms use nets to block off farmed areas from the rest of the water but sea lice still get through devastating the tightly packed farmed fish and turning the farm into a massive fish lice factory that reinfects the local water system destroying the wild population. Farmed salon and trout contains more fat than wild and higher levels of contaminants. Because of differences in diet between wild and farmed fish, the flesh of the farmed fish is gray which consumers don't like so dyes are used to make the fish the same pink colour as the wild.
Fish farm require massive amounts of food to feed the fish, usually fishmeal (small fish, crushed into oil and dry feed). The fishmeal factories in Peru pollute the local area destroying the wildlife and poising the locals.
Tightly packed in farm areas are a breeding ground for virus. Attempts at using antibiotics to treat infected animals causes new antibiotic resistant super virus to emerge and when these virus jump the species barrier, infect humans who now cannot be treated with antibiotics. Swine flu being the perfect example of this.
Factory farming has stripped much of the nutrients from food, a single organic chicken from the 1970's contains the same nutrients as four factory farmed chickens today. Pasture reared beef has 25% less fat and free range and organic chicken up to 50% less fat. Free range eggs have up to double the vitamin E and three times the beta-carotene. Factory farm food is geared towards quantity not quality.
Factory farmed chickens have been selectivity bred to grow very fast, their legs, heart and lungs unable to keep pace with their weight gain, this results in them being barely able to walk.
The factory farmed animals instead of eating grass and other no use to humans plants instead are fed food like soya or wheat, food that could have been eaten by people, this demand for food from factory farms drives up prices on those foods for everybody.
Genetically modified (GM) crops are seen as the solution for more food problems, but there are problems with GM, research by the Russian Academy of Sciences found that rodents fed Gm-soya lost the ability to reproduce with three generations. An international team of scientists found that rats fed on GM corn eat more and got fatter than those on non GM diet. The effect was repeated when rats were fed fish that in turn had eaten GM food. Research from the university of Caen found rats fed a lifelong diet of GM corn developed breast tumors and liver and kidney problems( unfortunately this book does not mention the arguing over the validity of these experiments which damages its credibility ). GM is banned in UK but there are no rules against giving farm animals GM food,
The farmers themselves although getting more revenue now actually make less profit because of all the fertilizers, equipment etc they now need and the powerful interests that sell fertilizers, equipment etc are unlikely to want this broken system to change.
All these sounds very depressing, but does the consumer really care why it is their food is so cheap?
It would seem that yes they do, After Compassion in World Farming brought a private prosecution against monks of Norbertine 'white canons' for raising veal using barbaric veal crates, the media lapped up the story of ascetic monks inflicting cruelty on veal and when the public learned how veal is made the veal market in England collapsed. So people do care but unfortunately the supermarkets use misleading labeling on food to deceive people about what they are buying, for example chicken with 'corn fed' on the label means nothing as most factory chickens are corn fed anyway.
And what is the solution to all this? The author recommended a return to the old ways of mixed farming( plants and animals on the same farm). No more giant pits of excrement, instead the farmer uses the manure to fertilize their crops, so no need to buy fertilizer. Animals roam freely eating grass etc not trapped in a shed all day been fed food that could have been eaten by people. These results in a more environmentally sustainably farm, higher quality food and less cruelty to animals. Also the consumer can be savvy about what they buy (and the supermarket's misleading labeling) and avoid factory farmed food
This book is an excellent read and I thoroughly recommend it.