Factory Farming: Threat to human health, animals, environment

By Rupesh Dutta,

Jaipur : Persuaded by the increase and success of factory farms in Brazil during his two-year stay there as a taxi driver, 35-year-old Ajaz Katiyar returned to Jaipur and set up four farms – two for poultry and one each for cows and pig.

Support TwoCircles

Constant increase in the demand for meat and milk in the region kept his business going for over years. But he, like the other factory farm owners in Brazil, ignored proper conditions for the animals.

Keeping thousands of fowls and cows housed in different long and enclosed metal sheds on his property and the overuse of antibiotics to keep the animals insulated from diseases posed a major health risk not just for the animals but also for consumers.

Keeping profit in mind, Katiyar had started using promotants (a medicine) on the animals to induce hormonal changes and mature them early. Also, instead of giving them natural food, Katiyar started giving them grain – a step not at all recommended by the nutrition scientists globally.

Also tens and thousands of animals and fowls in Katiyar’s factory farm – a large industrial operation that raises a large number of animals for food – generated millions of tonnes of manure. This was polluting the water and air, and had repercussions on the health of the neighbours and others living nearby.

He and many others who started the same business with profit in mind were later asked by the Jaipur Municipal Corporation (MCD) to either shut their factory farms or shift these to other locations.

Katiyar learned his lesson. He closed down two of his factory farms and is now running the other two by following proper norms.

Philip Lymbery, chief executive of Compassion in World Farming, told IANS that factory farming leads to the proliferation of super bugs.

“Factory farming can cause the biggest food disaster to the human beings that we have not even thought of,” he said.

“These unhealthy conditions and additives not only pose threats to the environment and public health, they are also detrimental to the animals themselves. Most factory-farmed hogs and chickens have no access to the outdoors and never see daylight.”

As per the Compassion in World Farming, a leading global farm animal welfare organisation, 70 percent of the meat is produced from the factory farming globally.

“Beef cattle and dairy cows spend time outside, but they are crammed onto feedlots with no access to pasture or grass, which is what they are built to eat,” said Lymbery, who was recently in India to attend the three-day international conference on “India For Animals” organised by the Federation of Indian Animals Protection Organisation here.

“Lack of outdoor access, inability to express natural behaviours, health problems and stress are caused by production practices, and breeding designed to maximize weight gain or egg and milk production ignoring the animal’s welfare,” Lymbery told IANS.

He also released a book – Farmageddon, an investigative journey on facotry farming practices of various nations.

“The stress and unsanitary condition and the direct grain feeding weakens an animal’s immune systems, making it more susceptible to infection. Overcrowding allows diseases to spread quickly and easily. Over time, the antibiotics can cause resistant strains of bacteria to evolve.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) had also recently warned against the health risks of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs).

CAFO are agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations. AFOs congregate animals, feed, manure and urine, dead animals, and production operations on a small land area. Feed is brought to the animals rather than the animals grazing or otherwise seeking feed in pastures, fields, or on rangeland.

Nutritional scientist across the globe have highlighted that factory farms across the world are facing tough times. Experts said India and China took up factory farming following the footsteps of Europe and North and South America. But did not follow proper procedures, which has led to health problems for both the humans and animals and and also played havoc with the environment.

Joyce D’Silva, ambassador Compassion in World Farming, told IANS that the animals suffer greatly in these farms.

“Despite knowing the fact that the animals, specially cows, give just 13 percent of what they eat, the animals in the farms are fed grain. This changes the food patterns of these animals and they thus suffer from several diseases,” she said.

The organisation also states that a third of global grains and 90 percent of soya are used for animals feed, while hundreds of millions of people go hungry.

“Factory farming can lead to rural unemployment and put small-scale farmers out of business, unable to compete,” she said. “The animals are also kept in bad conditions, mostly kept in cages, which again affect their health.”

(Rupesh Dutta can be contacted on [email protected])