By Patrick Barnham
A new report released today (16th May), debunks the myths perpetuated to keep the global factory farming industry alive, and the few multi-national corporations making billions from the systems that are cruel to animals while damaging our health and killing our planet.
Factory Farming: Who Benefits? How a ruinous system is kept afloat – produced by Compassion in World Farming – lays out the seven key input providing sectors benefiting from intensive agriculture and obstructing the reforms needed to switch to higher welfare, health- and climate-friendly farming. While the activities of the big meat-providing companies are well-known, the major ‘input providers’ of factory farming have largely escaped attention.
These big input providers are: the manufacturers of cages and crates; the animal pharmaceuticals sector; the pesticides sector; the big grain traders; animal feed producers; the animal genetics sector; and the fertilisers sector.
The report lays out and dispels the key myths used by ‘big ag’ to frame factory farming as a necessity, helping to perpetuate this destructive industry. These include:
- Myth: “Factory farming is necessary to feed the world”
Reality: We produce much more food than is needed to feed the world’s growing population but much of it is lost or wasted post-production and substantial quantities of human edible cereals – such as wheat and maize – and soy are fed to farmed animals who convert them very inefficiently into meat and milk.
- Myth: “Factory Farming gives us cheap food”
Reality: While factory farmed meat and milk are cheap at the supermarket checkout, society pays dearly for the huge costs entailed in the detrimental impact of factory farming on human health and the environment, including soil degradation and biodiversity loss, the over-use of antibiotics, greenhouse gas emissions, and the increased risk of deadly pandemics.
- Myth: “Factory farmed animals like pigs and chickens have low greenhouse gas emissions”
Reality: Pigs and chickens produce high amounts of GHG emissions – much higher than plant-based foods.
The report’s author and Chief Policy Adviser at Compassion in World Farming, Peter Stevenson, said: “Industrial animal agriculture – factory farming – threatens global food security, causes significant environmental damage, is a key driver of climate change, and is the biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet.
“It’s unthinkable that in the face of significant scientific evidence of the destructive impacts of factory farming, we have major industries not only ignoring the evidence and putting profit before animals, people, and planet but also obstructing efforts to transition to sustainable systems that work for us all.
“There needs to be accountability for the destruction industrial agriculture is causing. A handful of huge companies simply cannot be allowed to continue making massive profits at the expense of animals, our health, and the very existence of our planet. Unless we reduce our overconsumption of meat, fish, dairy and eggs and switch to regenerative farming systems that work in harmony with nature, the very future of humanity is at threat.
“We need a Global Agreement on food and farming to transform our food system, before it’s too late, and we would urge anyone who cares about animals and the future of our planet to sign our petition to end factory farming at END.IT.”
Four companies that benefit greatly from factory farming are known as the ABCD companies: Archer Daniels Midland, Bunge, Cargill, and Louis Dreyfus. These companies are the world’s major grain traders who provide much of the cereals and soy used to feed factory farmed animals. They hit the spotlight in 2022 when it was revealed that they were making record profits at a time when a growing number of people were facing hunger due to soaring food prices and food insecurity, largely due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Companies like these, and others throughout the seven key industries, have immense financial and political power which is used to influence policy makers to block the changes so desperately needed to reform agriculture and make it planet-friendly and future proof, such as the reforms set out in the EU’s Farm to Fork strategy.
The animal feed sector are the companies that buy cereals and soy from the big grain traders – such as the ABCD firms – and mix them into feed for factory farmed animals. This sector generates the highest annual revenue of all the input industries, with more than US$400 billion per year. The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) points out that the use of cereals as animal feed could threaten food security as it reduces the amount of food energy and protein available for human consumption. According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the cereals expected to be fed to farmed animals by 2050 could, if they were instead used for direct human consumption, feed more than 3.5 billion people.
The pesticides and fertilisers sector also benefits hugely from intensive farming. Chemical pesticides and chemical fertilisers are used to grow the 40% of the world’s cereals and 76% of global soy production that are used to feed farmed animals.
The animal genetics sector provides animals to factory farms that are bred to grow faster and produce more meat and dairy than they would naturally, leaving them to experience painful, debilitating health and welfare problems. The Manufacturers of cages and crates that confine factory farmed animals in barren and tiny spaces condemn them to lives not worth living.
For more information and to sign Compassion in World Farming’s petition to end factory farming visit www.END.IT
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