The demand for cheap meat and cheap animal products is increasing to supply the demand of supermarkets and fast-food chains. Factory farms are set up to produce cheap meat and animal products to meet these demands; and while customers may be able to buy these products for less money, there is a real and higher cost that we will all have to pay.
The Green Party promotes a sustainable approach to food production and these mega units, reliant on cheap oil and animal feed are not sustainable, which is why we oppose all factory farms. We believe that the land used to grow the animal feed needed for factory farms should be used to grow food for human consumption. Land used to grow the animal food is taken from the area used to grow human food. More intensive animal units means less land for human food. For example, the calorie needs of a growing pig is about double that of a human child under 10 and 50% higher than an active adult. So the food going to a mega pig unit of 25,000 pigs, like the one proposed in Foston, Derbyshire, could feed 50,000 children.
I feel strongly about animal welfare, since animals are able to experience many of the same feeling as humans do. Any human with some sense of empathy can sense that animals can feel fear, pain and discomfort, they also feel stress when separated from their young. Keeping pigs, chicken, cows or any other animals in cages for all of their lives, without natural light, without the chance to be part of their social structures – is cruel.
Another major concern is the use of antibiotics. In large factory farms, animals are kept in unnatural and confined environments, the outbreak and spread of diseases is, therefore a serious risk. In order to prevent this, animals are kept on low doses of antibiotics. 27% of all antibiotics in the UK are used in pig farming. Doctors are increasingly warning that bacteria are getting resistant to these antibiotics, which are the same as the ones used in human medicine. We rely on antibiotics heavily; without effective antibiotics, normal operations and common illness can become lethal. Risking losing the service of valuable antibiotics through overuse as in factory farms is irresponsible.
As mentioned above, the Green Party says that we have to address sustainability in food production. These factory farms use a lot of energy and have a high carbon footprint. Since we are facing a major environmental crisis, we need to reduce energy usage and carbon emission. The UN has published information that states that the meat and dairy industry produces 18% of greenhouse gases globally; however, other studies imply an even higher contribution.
These factory units will further harm small and medium-sized farmers. Farmers cannot compete with the low prices that these mega units can achieve, so these smaller farms are going out of business. Factory units have fewer employees than if the animals were traditionally farmed, so they lead to a loss of rural jobs. Do we really want our British farming to become an industrial production line? Do we really want our landscape to be filled with industrial units? Or do we want to see traditional farms with grazing animals in the fields?
Having looked at this issue, I have found that the only potentially positive aspects are that customers have access to cheap animal products, and that big corporations make good profits. However, traditional farmers, the animals, the consumers’ health, our environment all would have to pay a price so that a handful of people could get rich. That is simply not a good reason to allow mega factory farms.