Welfare Problems Of Industrialized Agrictulture

For these reasons, the values of industry business efficiency and productivity supplanted the values and way of life of husbandry. One casualty was animal welfare, as technological sanders such as antibiotics, vaccines, air-handling systems, and hormones allowed us to force, as it were, round pegs into square holes. Productivity was severed from well-being, with animals now suffering in ways that were irrelevant to productivity and profit. Industrialized confinement agriculture in fact brought with it at least four major new sources of suffering and welfare problems:

1. So-called production diseases that would not be a problem but for the means of production (e.g., liver abscesses in feedlot cattle arising from feeding too much grain and not enough roughage).

2. Truncated environments that prevent the animals from actualizing their physical, psychological, and social natures (e.g., gestation crates for sows, cages for egg-laying hens).

3. The huge scale of confinement operations militates against attention to and concern for individual animals (e.g., dairy herds of 6000; 100,000 chickens in one building), because part of the point in developing such systems was using capital to replace labor. However, nothing in principle prohibits reintroducing more individual attention, particularly if such attention is vectored into the design of these systems.

4. In confinement systems, workers are not animal-smart; the intelligence, such as it is, is in the mechanized system. (Instead of husbandry people, for example, workers in swine factories are low-wage, often illegal-immigrant labor who have no empathy with, knowledge of, or concern for the animals.) Once again, this could be changed with greater attention to selection and training of workers. Indeed, agriculture could take advantage of better educated urban people's desire to leave the cities.

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