Our Grub’s Up! theme is all about supporting a shift from Factory Farming to Sustainable Food Production – but what is Factory Farming, and why is it a problem?
Factory farming is a system of growing food that prioritises getting maximum food from minimum land area. That sounds like it’s just good business sense, until you look at what it means in practice.
Factory farmed animals are crowded into large pens, with hundreds, or even thousands of animals held together, with barely space to move. This mean that the animals suffer from poor welfare standards – they can’t behave normally, and sometimes attack each other – so will often have teeth removed, beaks clipped and tails docked.
Not only is this bad for animals, it’s bad for us too – disease spreads easily in these crowded spaces. To combat this, factory farms regularly give all their animals antibiotics, including the healthy ones. Because of this overuse, bacteria develop resistance to these antibiotics: this means that when antibiotics are needed to combat serious illness in humans, they can be less effective.
And, it’s bad for our environment as well: factory farming relies on large quantities of grains like soya to feed the animals. Important ecosystems, including the Amazon rainforest, are destroyed to grow this feed, while the process leaves a large carbon footprint from animal’s methane, transporting food and keeping animals in artificial environments. Huge quantities of slurry produced can leak into the environment, damaging the local ecosystem.
Farming subsidies and government policy are currently weighted towards factory farms: they’re putting smaller farmers – who employ skilled labour – out of business, and instead employing people in low-paid menial jobs. And through aid programmes like the G7’s ‘New Alliance’ we’re encouraging this approach in Africa too.
But – there is another way! By supporting smaller-scale, sustainable farms we can make sure that there’s enough food for everyone, whilst protecting our environment.