Our food under attack!
Factory farming ranges from several thousand hogs housed in one livestock operation to chickens crammed into units as big as one football field to dairy facilities with 100,000 cows which never see the daylight to slaughterhouses that kill 90 chickens every minute. This concentration and industrialization of food production in the United States has reached levels that are hardly believable for Europeans. Nevertheless, livestock production in Europe is also increasingly dominated by industrial production controlled by a few transnational companies (TNCs) that disregard the environment, human rights and animal welfare.
Towards food monopoly
A few transnational companies now dominate the agri-food sector. For example, Smithfields, Archer Daniel Midlands and Cargill can be found all over the world - in the US, Brazil and Poland. Behind well-known national food brands often hide huge conglomerates with dubious social and environmental practices. These TNCs gobble up local companies with good national reputations and use them to expand internationally. In addition, they implement a predatory strategy that forces small scale farmers to become subservient contractors, raising and slaughtering animals for the TNCs while they control the price and force them to run into financial ruin.
Factory farming = danger for the environment
Some European regions are already suffering from the spread of factory farms. Factory farms, also called “Confined Animals Feeding Operations” (CAFO), ignore animal welfare and use antibiotics to fend off the uncontrollable diseases that spread like fire through the cramped facilities. These huge livestock operations pollute the rivers and generate unhealthy air emissions. For some years factory farms have been spreading in Central and Eastern Europe, especially Poland and Romania. Agri-food companies take advantage of low social conditions and of the concentrated agricultural structures left over by the communist era. Rural communities in Poland are already deeply affected by the excess manure generated by factory farms that contaminate the air, water and land. The countryside is being sacrificed in the name of efficiency and profit.
Junk food is the direct consequence of industrial farming methods. Food that comes from factory farms has no taste, is highly processed, is not nutritious and is often unhealthy. Producing food at the lowest possible cost leads to methods of production that can have catastrophic impacts on human health. Herbivorous cows are turned into cannibals, and mad cow disease is created. Chicken are raised in over-crowded pens, and a mysterious avian flu epidemic strikes. Hogs are grown in such filthy conditions that antibiotics are pumped into their feed, creating antibiotic resistant bacteria that can be transmitted to humans. Local food and food from sustainable family farms are increasingly hard to find in retailing stores, which threatens the diversity of our food cultures.
Social exploitation and unemployment
Factory farming creates few badly paid jobs, while it leads a great number of farmers to bankruptcy. Moreover, local food processing industries also tend to disappear and be replaced by a few centralized units. For example, thousands of slaughterhouses have vanished over the last twenty year in Europe.
Factory farms must be stopped!
Factory farms affect the environment, human health and employment. We need strong measures to prevent them from expanding in Europe. On the other hand, sustainable family farming should be promoted: allowing small farmers who produce good and sustainable food to make a fair living from their job is the best way to stop factory farming.
View the Meatrix - a flash video about factory farm meat production
The Meatrix is a collaboration of the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE) and Free Range Graphics.
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