faCE Issue 7

Over the past several months, there has been good news as some of the largest suppliers and buyers of factory-farmed animals have announced changes which will improve the living conditions of the animals. McDonalds’ commitment that it will begin phasing in the sourcing of only cage-free chickens will effect 2,000,000 chickens each year. Saputo, one of the world’s largest dairy producers stated that it will no longer buy milk from farmers who mistreat their animals. One of North America’s largest pork producers, DuBreton, announces that it will raise an additional 300,000 pigs without cruel gestation crates.

Factory farms are inherently cruel enterprises. Animals are not regarded as living, feeling, sensitive creatures, but as products, commodity units on an assembly line. Factory farmers have never cared for their animals – or they wouldn’t be factory farmers. And they aren’t feeling any sudden vibes of compassion now. These are businesses predicated on the inherently cruel design model of immense animal concentration, absolutely minimal care, and ruthless maximization of profit. They are implementing changes now either because legislation or the threat of legal action forces them to, or in response to a new business incentive: the rising numbers of increasingly aware consumers who are not only insisting upon, but will pay a bit more to purchase healthy, antibiotic free, humanely raised animal products.

Factory farmers are under an immense strain because, fundamentally, they are trapped. Their business model, the factory farm, is inherently, unspeakably cruel and inhumane in its treatment of its animal inhabitants. 

Some factory farmers will make changes where they have to, investing the minimum necessary to adapt and raise a better product. Many others, as well as their BigAg industry representatives, will explore ways to skirt, void or break the new rules. With each of these victories for animals, the cheaters appear…

Major supermarket chains have been caught re-labeling packaged meat – playing a dangerous game with the trust and health of their customers - one with legal repercussions. The Arizona state legislature, under pressure from BigAg and the factory farming industry, is enacting laws described in Arizona Says That Farm Animals Aren’t Animals that will protect continued animal abuse and suffering.  Morgan Yaeger’s article explores how Whole Foods may be either skirting the rules, or through a lax GAP5 system, enabling its animal suppliers to deliver factory-farmed animal product under the guise of being humanely raised. PETA is taking them to task in court. 

The larger issue isn’t the possibility of a supermarket chain, through deceptive practices, deceiving its customers to pay more for something they aren’t truly getting, as well as purchasing a product which, if they knew the truth about it, they would not purchase at all.

The larger issue is THE issue: Animal suffering.

Skirting these standards enables the unconscionable, deliberate cruelty and horror inflicted on millions of innocent factory-farmed animals to continue. Their lifelong misery and suffering is the horror. This is why, whether Whole Foods is responsible, or their suppliers, for enforcing the GAP5 standards, this cheating can’t be allowed to continue. A precedent must be set. Those responsible must be taken to task, damages must be paid, and the industry – Big Ag and the factory farmers - put on notice about the risks and costs of cheating.

Any retailer who re-labels products with misleading labels is cheating. Any BigAg industry group that lobbies the federal government, state legislatures, or health agencies to denude or degrade essential food product definitions such as ‘Organic’ or ‘Natural’ or ‘Humane,’  or lobbies to keep important product health information that consumers want and have a right to know about off of package labelling, or draft and promote state AgGag laws in direct violation of our Constitutional rights, is cheating. (Hear us on that one, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack?) Any factory farmer that markets his or her animals at a humane standard which they are not, is cheating. Each one of these individuals is as morally bankrupt and corrupt as the system of factory farming which they represent.

Standing tall on the right side of this issue, and the compassionate right side of history, is California, my home state. California isn’t messing around. On October 9th it passed State Assembly Bill 27, which Governor Jerry Brown signed into law the very next day, which will all but eliminate the extreme antibiotic overuse on farmed animals statewide. 

This historic, monumental legislation will eliminate one of the biggest health concerns this country faces – that of the increasing risk of antibiotics becoming ineffective on humans based on their massive overuse on farmed animals. 23,000 Americans lose their lives each year because antibiotics no longer work for them. The number is rising. Imagine you come down with a simple infection. Commonplace. The symptoms are getting worse so you go in for prescribed antibiotics to knock it down. Routine. Been there before. Only the antibiotics, this time, no longer work. Your infection worsens, becomes life threatening - then life extinguishing... This happened to over 23,000 Americans last year. This is examined in detail in the articles and information curated in faCE ISSUE #3, ANTIBIOTICS

Maren McKenna notes in her article that California's action will impact the country because it is one big puppy: "According to the U.S.Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, California is the country’s biggest dairy producer and third-leading state (behind Iowa and Texas) for beef cattle. It produces 5 percent of US milk, beef cattle, and chicken eggs."

There is another effect of State Assembly Bill 27 that, we find, may prove to be just as significant. The massive use of antibiotics on livestock, administered routinely in their food and water for disease prevention and control, is a practice that is completely unnecessary when humanely rearing sustainably farmed, pastured livestock – as nearly any small family farmer or rancher will tell you. This massive overuse of antibiotics on livestock for disease prevention and control is administered on factory farms because the living conditions, due to vast overcrowding, are so vile, so toxic and so debilitating that, without constant dosing of antibiotics, large percentages of factory-farmed livestock very probably would succumb to disease and die. Factory farms are a living hell for the creatures captive within their confines. 

By prohibiting antibiotic misuse, Bill 27 should force factory farmers to begin to take steps to lessen animal overcrowding, to clean up their pestilent living environment, perhaps even to abandon the horror that is the system of factory farming itself. 

They certainly will no longer have recourse to the routine dosing of antibiotics to keep these suffering animals alive.

If you haven’t seen how cruel factory farming is, and would prefer not to, just look at Why Are These People Crying? in faCE TIME. This beautiful article doesn’t show you what these people - who are crying -  are watching. With just one simple sentence accompanying each photo which describes what they are watching, it lets you imagine what they are witnessing by experiencing their reactions.

One of my heroes, in this context, is a man who started a small restaurant in 1993. It was popular from the get-go. Today, Steve Ells oversees as Founder and Co-CEO, 1,900 of them – 1,900 Chipotles. In the brutally competitive food business, his company mandate is to make best efforts to buy produce locally and from farmers who use crop rotation to protect the quality of their soil, and to source pigs that are humanely raised. Earlier this year, when he could find NO PIGS IN THE COUNTRY that were humanely raised, he pulled popular carnitas off his menus – taking a huge risk that his customers would bolt down the street to eat at a competitor’s - any one of several who served pork with little concern for the life-long suffering each animal endured or the health risks to you from the virulent environment it came from. His customers stayed loyal. And it is no coincidence that some pork suppliers are now changing the way they raise their pigs. 

Finally, one of the best articles, and one that sums up this powerful Issue 7, is our lead article, Why I’m An Animal Rights Activist When There Is So Much Human Suffering In The World. Tracey Narayani Glover’s piece is a must read. Please do.

In your own way, please get active on behalf of animals.

There is much much more that needs to be done to end the cruelty of factory farming. We're only getting started. Farm Animal Compassionate Engagement is about solutions. There’s much more to learn about and discover on our site. Take a little time and explore faCE.

  • Eat less meat and dairy.
  • Know your food sources.
  • Avoid factory farmed meat and dairy products completely.
  • Keep your friends and family informed. 
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Love, value and care for life. All life.

-Stephen