Toward Reform

Agriculturists have recognized that the welfare of animals in confinement represents one of the three major challenges to agriculture in the next century, the other two being food safety and environmental concerns. When the British public became aware of factory farms in the 1960s as a result of Ruth Harrison's pioneering book Animal Machines, the outcry generated a royal commission, the Brambell Commission, that was highly critical of confinement agriculture as violating the animals' natures. In the face of confinement agriculture, European society is moving toward legal protection for farm animals. Laws in Britain, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland have restricted certain aspects of confinement agriculture, and Sweden has essentially abolished such agriculture and guaranteed certain rights for farm animals, in a law that has been called a "bill of rights" for farm animals because it aims at protecting their fundamental interests. In the United States, public attention was first directed toward animals in research, and certain basic protections for such animals have been legally encoded in two federal laws passed in 1985. Public attention is beginning to focus on the treatment of farm animals as well as on the environmental consequences of confinement agriculture, and articles in agricultural journals show that agriculture is starting to pay more attention to these concerns.

Until very recently, U.S. confinement agriculturists (in contrast to their counterparts in Europe and Canada) tended to deny that there were any problems of animal welfare intrinsically related to confinement agriculture, and acknowledged only occasional "bad management." This was further exacerbated by widespread skepticism in the scientific community about the existence and knowability of animal consciousness, pain, and suffering. Since the early 1990s, however, there have been indications that at least some parts of the industry and government are engaging such issues as animal deprivation, boredom, and inability to move in confinement, primarily by inaugurating research into improving animal welfare.

While it is unlikely that industrialized agriculture will ever revert to being fully or even largely extensive, it is possible to make intensive agriculture much more "animal-welfare friendly," and perhaps to change certain systems from full to partial confinement. For example, it is possible to raise swine profitably without keeping sows confined in small gestation crates for their entire lives. In addition, concern about sustainable agriculture may well result in a concerted social effort to return to less industrialized systems guided by husbandry. On the other hand, confinement agricultural systems are being introduced into Third World countries as a shortcut to rapid economic growth and as a way of adding animal products to the diets of these countries. This has generated a variety of ethical concerns, including fear of environmental despoliation, concern that successful indigenous agriculture will be lost, worries about importing Western health problems to these countries, and concern about proliferating animal suffering.

100 Health Tips

100 Health Tips

Breakfast is the most vital meal. It should not be missed in order to refuel your body from functional metabolic changes during long hours of sleep. It is best to include carbohydrates, fats and proteins for an ideal nutrition such as combinations of fresh fruits, bread toast and breakfast cereals with milk. Learn even more tips like these within this health tips guide.

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