Sick animals hurt!
It hurts to be sick, and animals are no exception. When animals are raised in factory farm conditions, they are usually crammed into small spaces, and held in very unhygienic conditions, such that diseases can run rampant. Sometimes these diseases spread from one factory to another causing a pandemic. Unfortunately farm animal disease pandemics plague our food system, destabilizing trade and markets and causing product shortages, and multiplying the amount of suffering that the animals themselves experience exponentially.
Over the past few months, news reports of China’s African swine fever problem, which is decimating the country’s pig population, have dominated agriculture and trade headlines. At any one moment, China houses half of all pigs in the world — up to 700 million animals — and scientists estimate that as many as half could be infected and killed once this epidemic has taken its full toll. Few talk about the tragedy of so many pigs suffering and dying.
What about here in America? Despite rising sales of meat substitutes, the per capita meat consumption for the country as a whole has risen in the past few years. The most popular source of animal protein is chicken. We currently raise over 8 billion chickens every year. Chickens are packed wall to wall in dark warehouses across the country, often living in filth, until they are transported to slaughter and eventually end up on our dinner plates. These warehouses are breeding grounds for many diseases, from headliners like campylobacter and salmonella to lesser known but equally menacing ones. One such bacterial disease, gangrenous dermatitis, infects soft tissue and causes feather loss, dark red or blue-green lesions, and areas of macerated skin. Once infected, birds can die within 24 hours. Gangrenous dermatitis has been described as the “number one health problem” facing U.S. chicken companies.
Our chicken production system is so fragile and the birds so immunologically incompetent — due to overcrowding and stress — that to simply tour one of these facilities, one must wear protective clothing to prevent disease entry from the outside. Even so, epidemics can still be spread. Despite industry’s best efforts, animal disease pandemics continue to plague our food system, destabilizing trade and markets and causing product shortages and even more animal suffering.
It’s time to stop this risky, dangerous business which leads to so much animal suffering. The world will stop producing the meat, dairy and eggs raised under these conditions when we stop eating them. In doing so we’ll not only reduce the risks to our own health, we’ll also save these poor animals from immense pain and suffering.