The welfare of livestock animals is a controversial topic: when asked about the importance of this welfare, a vast majority of people would most likely agree that even though these animals are essentially being raised for slaughter, it is still necessary to treat them with care and to make their lives as comfortable as possible. However, the demanding agenda of the livestock industry causes animal welfare to be sacrificed at the cost of its continued drive to increase production and lower cost.
This has caused a subsequent increase in factory farming, and in turn, an increased presence of inhumane living conditions for animals raised for food. Factory farming is a method of animal-based food and meat production that treats the animals as products of production. Although this method of production is quite time and cost efficient, many people question the morality behind these processes.
Factory farming has created a moral dilemma for both producers and consumers: are animals that are raised for slaughter entitled to proper care? This question brings to light multiple perspectives on this issue.
Although the amount of animal rights-based advocating is on the rise, some believe that it is not necessary to make livestock animals comfortable, as they are brought up in order to be killed for food. Another large majority of people strongly believe that animals are entitled to a comfortable life, regardless of the purpose that they are raised for. Animal rights activists strongly protest factory farming, while those in favor of factory farming consider the efficiency and cost benefits that this method brings to food production.
It is shown that factory farming lowers food prices, reduces workload and time to produce food, and allows greater availability of resources. However, this is accomplished at the costs of the welfare of animals and an increased amount of animal cruelty in factory farms. The benefits and disadvantages of factory farming highlight the challenges of determining which perspective of this food production method presents the more justifiable argument.
Factory farming is considered extremely efficient because it increases the overall rate in which food can be produced, as well as lowering the cost of production. The only method in keeping up with the rapidly increasing human population is to prioritize the productivity of food production. The top priority of factory farming is raising and processing the animals in the most efficient manner. The livestock animals are solely being raised to be marketed to the human population – their purpose is to be slaughtered for human consumption. Livestock animals raised for food cannot be seen the same as a beloved household pet. Instead of being seen as domesticated animals that must be cared for, these animals are purchasable goods that are bred and marketed based on the preferences of the human population (Zuzworsky 2001). The goal of factory farming is not to make the animals’ lives as comfortable as possible. Although the methods of factory farming are not intentionally designed to abuse animals, high productivity of meat production is absolutely essential in sustaining the human population. It can be assumed that most people expect to find a wide variety of meats and other animal products to choose from on a standard trip to the grocery store. This is only possible through the support of factory farming; as large scale production is essential in today’s rapidly growing population.
Despite the ongoing protesting of factory farming, the animals involved in this process are not exposed to any unnecessary torture or trauma. Livestock animals are raised in such a way that sustains and prepares them to be marketed: the animals must remain healthy, since the meat or other products from a sickly animal cannot be sold. Those involved in factory farming care about the welfare of the animals and handle them in the best way possible, given the fact that they will soon be killed to be marketed to humans. The killing of livestock animals cannot be considered unnecessarily abusive, as they are raised only for this purpose. Although it can be considered an unfortunate idea, the animals will eventually be slaughtered no matter how comfortable their lives might be. This is not to discredit the importance of the animal’s basic quality of life: there are no deliberately abusive actions towards the animals that are aimed at making their lives miserable. (Zuzworsky 2001). Humans are still able to exhibit compassion and empathy towards these animals, even if there is no strong emotional attachment to these animals raised for consumption. In factory farming, it is absolutely necessary to take whatever actions lead toward optimal efficiency. Humans are at the top of the food chain, so they must do what is necessary to sustain their population and allow them to grow. However, there are no ill intentions towards animals raised for food; they are treated in such a way that increases productivity without being deliberately tortured.
Factory farming lowers the price of food production, as well as the price that consumers have to pay. Although animal rights are important and must not be ignored, it is essential for farming strategies to reach peak productivity in the sense of economics, as well as relating to the sustenance of the human population. There is simply not enough money in the industry that can be directed to providing each animal with the best experience possible. The idea of a “typical” farm includes visions of large pastures, green grass, and a surplus of food and water. Although these conditions are ideal for raising animals, it is simply not feasible for the amount of livestock animals that must be processed in order to be marketed (Zuzworsky 2001). The animals are treated in a manner that allows them to still provide a positive impact on human life. Today’s economy greatly favors factory farms over small, rural farms because factory farms have a greater economic impact and, in turn, tend to receive more government funding. Along with an increased amount of funding, factory farms have the ability to efficiently utilize resources when the production is accomplished on a large scale. Farming is a business; the farmers themselves must also effectively manage their businesses in order to make a living. This not only includes the successfulness of running a productive farm, but also raising quality, cost-effective animals that people are willing to invest money into (Zuzworsky 2001). Although the idea of small farms spread out across the United States is a nice thought, it is simply not economically feasible for the producers or the consumers. If the price to produce animal products increases, the price that consumers must pay will also increase. Factory farms are necessary to maintain and increase the productivity of food production, as well as maintaining the human population and increasing the economic benefits of this manufacturing method.
Animal welfare activists do not support factory farming because it is extremely important for animals to be treated with care, even if they are being raised for slaughter. Livestock animals are making the ultimate sacrifice. To knowingly put a sentient being through actions that are considered cruel (and sometimes even torturous) classifies this as an unnecessary act against livestock animals. Whenever a person chooses to carry out an action that will put an animal in an inhumane or unacceptable condition, he/she consciously ignores the moral acknowledgement that this action is causing another living being to suffer (Puryear, Stijn, and Lázló, 2017). Even though the justification of what is or is not moral varies from person to person, the act of attempting to justify cruel treatment towards animals in itself classifies factory farming as a cruel act. A large majority of people undoubtedly consider cruel treatment towards any animal, regardless of purpose, an immoral action. The apparent moral dilemma that burdens those involved in factory farming is discredited by the idea that the sense of morality in humans should prevent inhumane actions towards animals. Animals are considered sentient beings that have a moral standing. Even though animals do not have the capacity to necessarily comprehend the concepts of morality, morality in humans is interpreted as not only having a consideration towards oneself, but also showing empathy and compassion towards others (Puryear, Stijn, and Lázló, 2017). By voluntarily increasing the suffering of other animals, humans are not accurately representing the ideals of morality, considering that morality includes the respect of all other sentient beings. The morality of humans and the interpreted moral standing of animals is at a disconnect when “moral” humans consciously torture an animal because the animal itself is unable to comprehend what is actually moral. The idea of morality is much broader in the sense that it includes treating all sentient beings with respect, regardless of their mental capacity.
Factory farming is not necessary in the food industry, as a human’s nutritional needs are not solely dependent on the efficient production of animal products. Although a large portion of the population consumes meat on a regular basis, the amount of meat produced by factory farming is not a necessity. Many people are caught up in the efficiency and streamlining of the meat-producing process. Of course, humans have certain nutritional requirements that must be met. However, these needs are able to be satisfied without the abuse and mistreatment of livestock animals (Puryear, Stijn, and Lázló, 2017). Although it is completely acceptable for humans to consume meat, it is still extremely important that the animals raised for food are treated ethically. Smaller portions of ethically-raised meat outweighs a surplus of meat produced by factory farming. This is not to suggest that factory farming must be ended altogether; it is simply a perspective that proposes that smaller-scale production (perhaps smaller factory farms that allocate more resources per animal) could be a possibility. There is still potential for larger scale food production, as long as animal welfare remains as a top priority.
The broader concept of factory farming remains as a controversial topic, as most people find it difficult to defend the methods of factory farming while also advocating for animal rights. Generally, people do not approve of the idea that they are contributing to factory farming when they consume animal-based products. Most of the time, consumers are not aware that this is even occurring. The people who outwardly support factory farming are in the minority, since most people consider themselves to be advocates for animal rights. Factory farming is considered cruel because purposefully exposing animals to this type of inhumane behavior simply for means of efficiency shows a clear disregard of the animal’s welfare and the population’s unconcerned mindset towards animal suffering (Puryear, Stijn, and Lázló, 2017). Ninety-four percent of Americans agree that when animals are raised for food, it is still necessary for them to live without being mistreated. This shows that a majority of the population disagrees with the ethics behind factory farming. The disconnect between a consumer’s ethics and their consumption patterns is due to a lack of understanding of where animal products are actually coming from. The meat industry is so blinded by the idea of efficiency that they do not prioritize animal welfare in factory farming practices. Animals being raised for slaughter are still living and breathing animals, so they must be treated as such. It is an immoral act to intentionally cause another living being to suffer, even if this being is a livestock animal that is brought up to be killed. The amount of factory farming would most likely decrease if the human population became more aware of the harsh truths that it brings.
The benefits and disadvantages of factory farming highlight the challenges of determining which perspective of this food production method presents the more justifiable argument. The benefits of factory farming include increased productivity, as well as the economic stability of the food industry. However, factory farming is only accomplished through the mistreatment of living animals; an aspect that could potentially be avoided through the lowered production of animal products. The position that argues against factory farming is the most persuasive because human nature includes empathy towards other living beings, regardless if they are able to have a concept of morality. Even though livestock animals raised for food do not have the capacity to understand moral and humane actions, their purpose is to improve the lives of humans. Human nature inclines the human population to show some degree of respect to these animals. In factory farming, the respect of this sacrifice is nonexistent, which explains why the inhumane practices of factory farming are unacceptable. Some aspects of factory farming are essential to sustaining the human population and meeting their nutritional needs. However, animal rights must not be sacrificed, and should still be one of the top priorities of a consumer. It is only moral that they are given all needed resources for a comfortable life. A decreased productivity rate of factory farming, as well as a consideration towards humane animal treatment, are needed. The rights of animals raised for food are more important than a quicker productivity, as humans must still show empathy towards these animals and maintain a sense of respect and morality.