The Future of Food is Good for Animals and the Environment
The fight against factory farms brings together forces from both the animal welfare and environmental movements.
Over the last fifty years, agriculture has drastically changed, and traditional family farms have given rise to massive, industrialized facilities that intensely confine thousands or millions of animals in crowded, filthy conditions that all but eliminate expression of any natural behaviors. In addition to the nightmarish cruelty, these factory farms produce staggering amounts of chemical-laden animal waste that pollute the air and waterways.
A report by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health identified problems caused by factory farms. The study cited industrial food animal production’s negative impacts on the environment, animal welfare, economic health of rural communities and public health. Overuse of antibiotics is common in factory farms and contributes to the burgeoning crisis of antibiotic resistant organisms.
All types of plant-based meats are now widely available, including plant-based turkey.
Photo credit: Annie Hornish.
What are the Alternatives to Factory Farmed Products?
Fortunately, the future is beginning to look bright, with social justice entrepreneurs breaking into the mainstream marketplace with disruptive industries that offer plant-based alternatives to eggs and meat.
Many brands of egg substitutes exist (and many people simply use bananas in lieu of eggs for certain recipes), and meat substitutes are now the rage. Beyond Meat and Impossible are two companies that are entering major fast food chains, like TGI Friday’s, Carl’s Jr, Burger King, White Castle, Umami Burger, Del Taco, Little Caesar’s, and others. KFC announced recently that they’ll be exploring plant-based chicken.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has been promoting plant-based meals not only through consumer education and outreach to corporations, but by offering culinary training to chefs at institutions so they can better prepare delicious, plant-based foods. Here in Connecticut, we’ve been welcomed in schools, universities, hospitals, prisons and more.
Those who have difficulty with making changes to their dietary habits can rest assured that even reduction in consumption can help animals and the environment (try Meatless Mondays!), as can buying eggs or meat from a local farmer, at a place where you can personally see the conditions in which the animals live.
Factory Farms in our State
We have one factory farm here in Connecticut, headquartered in Bozrah: Hillandale Egg Farms, formerly KofKoff Egg Farms. Hillandale was the subject of two HSUS undercover operations that revealed horrific conditions at their Maine and Pennsylvania facilities. Here in Connecticut, Hillandale intensively confines around 5 million birds, who languish in battery cages, unable to spread their wings and standing on filthy wire floors, until they are brutally killed when their egg production wanes at around two years old. They live lives of complete frustration, unable to perform their natural behaviors. Male chicks have no economic value in the egg-laying industry and are mercilessly killed, often buried or ground up while alive. Hillandale sells these ill-gotten eggs under a variety of brand names.
Extreme confinement is extreme cruelty: Birds who live in battery cages cannot spread their wings, nest, perch, dust bathe or forage.
Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary.
With the vast majority of animals in our food supply suffering in nightmarish conditions on factory farms, and with factory farms playing a leading role in environmental pollution and climate change, the shift to plant-based proteins is not only a good choice, but inevitable. Bon appetit!
Annie Hornish is Connecticut State Director for The Humane Society of the United States and a member of The Sierra Club.