The Pitfalls of Factory Farming
The Pitfalls of Factory Farming
  • 박지민 기자
  • 승인 2009.09.01 10:49
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The Pitfalls of Factory Farming


Mad cow disease, bird flu and swine influenza have all been major news stories. One of the fundamental causes for the spread of the diseases is the mass production of meat products or "factory farming." YNO did research into the issues and problems concerning the mass production of meat products. Based on our research we found that there are some possible solutions. We will examine some of the major problems with this industry as well as consider some of the solutions.


There have been many examples recently of damage that has been done by factory farming. Mad cow disease, bird flu and swine influenza are the most famous cases. All of these diseases are deadly and horrible. Mad cow disease is a progressive neurological disorder which can be transmitted to other species, including humans. In 1996 after the report of mad cow disease outbreaks in England and a temporary ban on the sale of English beef, beef consumption in Europe fell by 40%. In Europe, a large number of cattle had to be destroyed, and there was a huge impact on the beef market.

Bird flu is an acute plague virus that is found in chickens, ducks, and wild birds. 376 human cases have been reported from 2003 to 2008. Once the potential dangers of bird flu were recognized the medical community has kept careful watch over any reported cases. There is a very real possibility that an epidemic could result.

The swine influenza virus is a strain of the influenza family of viruses that is usually found in pigs. It spread to humans in Mexico and the United States and has mutated into a new virus. In Mexico there have been over 1600 reported cases, 100 of which have led to death. There are many experts who point to the mass production and processing of meat as one of the fundamental causes of all three of these crises.


Mass Production and Processing


Mass production and processing of meat became necessary as the demand for the quality of meat products increased. In Korea raising and processing livestock became big business as people started to have more disposable income and began to eat better. Livestock started to be looked at as simple commodities and not as living creatures. More and more workers in the industry became unskilled laborers due to mechanization. There was no longer any human expertise applied to the slaughtering of animals and the processing of meat. Europe and America have especially embraced the idea of meat production for profit.


Ecological Problems Caused by Factory Farming


According to a National Veterinary Research & Quarantine Service report from 2006, chickens that live in cramped spaces have a greater chance of contracting bird flu than chickens that are raised free range. The root of this problem comes from factory farming. Factory farming is the practice of raising farm animals in confined spaces in order to raise and ultimately process as many as possible thereby maximizing profits.

It is impossible to maintain healthy conditions for all of these animals in dark and cramped spaces. If one animal contracts a disease it is almost inevitable that it will be passed to the other animals. To make matters worse, livestock are often injected or fed hormones in order to accelerate and enhance growth. Many of these hormones have been found to accelerate the emergence of pathogens that are mutated by the hormones. The WHO (World Health Organization) reported that cattle that were injected with hormones and antibiotics were found to have more strains of viruses.

Factory farming has also done serious damage to the environment. The presence of large numbers of livestock can seriously affect the equilibrium of an area's environment. Places where factory farms are located create greater demands for water and other resources. In addition, factory farm livestock create huge amounts of waste. This waste is one of the principle causes of contamination in the world's lakes, rivers, and streams. Environmental strains caused by the increase in the population of factory farmed cattle have led to the possible extinction of some species living in the wild. Since the 1960s, 25% of the forests in Central America have been converted to pastures for livestock.

Social Issues Created by Mass Production and Processing of Meat


The consumption of meat is all too often considered a status symbol in many countries. In America, Europe, and even Korea affluence is often measured by how well you eat. More people have the income available to them to buy meat nowadays. This is a problem that seems to have no immediate solution. People are not going to stop buying and eating beef, and as long as the demand is there businesses will find ways to produce and process more and more. This is especially disturbing in light of the fact that so many people in places like Africa are starving. The resources we place in feeding and processing livestock could feed everyone in Africa many times over. We should concentrate on making sure everyone has enough to eat before we worry about how well we are eating.

There are also serious concerns about the ethics of factory farming. Peter Albert David Singer, who is the president of an animal rights advocacy group and the author of The ethics of what we eat, said that we should recognize animal's rights. He stated that if we refuse to recognize the animal's rights, we are guilty of "specieism" especially if we treat beef products like they are not living creatures. He believes that speciesism is as unethical as racial discrimination and gender discrimination.


Ideas for Solving the Problems of Factory Farming


The HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) system contains key management standards that measure elements of risk in livestock production, distribution, and sales.

The new beef tracking system will create records that are difficult to get around or forge. This system will become effective on 22 June, 2009. If sanitation problems occur the new system will allow us to quickly trace and cope with the problems. This system will create complete records on beef from birth to processing and sales.

As individuals we should always be concerned about safety and do our part to be vigilant as consumers. The HACCP mark system will not be effective unless we check the marks to ensure we are consuming safe meat. We also need to pay attention to risk warnings issued by the government that let us know about specific risks and products that are deemed to be dangerous.

We should also exercise a little common sense. It's not always true, but if the meat does not look, smell, or taste right, it probably is not any good. Furthermore, we should have a better understanding of how the foods we eat affect our health and make the right choices. Mrs. Yoon, a housewife said, "When I choose food, I usually consider price and taste first." Mrs. Yoon's attitude is not uncommon. We need to fundamentally change the way we think about food and consider all factors instead of just the immediate ones.

Incorporating more vegetables into our diets is also something that can help to lessen the impact of factory farming. If more people decide to lead a vegetarian lifestyle the impact could be considerable. Many people become vegetarians to advocate ecology and conservation of nature. However, not all of them start out with these factors in mind. We interviewed a vegetarian named Sung-Bong Bae. She is typical of many vegetarians in her motivations for becoming a vegetarian. She did not have any really special reason, she is not an animal lover, nor does she have any specific religion or political affiliation. She just thought of it as a healthy choice. As a result of her choice she feels healthier in mind and in body.

There are many people who believe that eating too much meat can be bad for your health. Mrs. Bae believes that all meat eaters should know more and think twice about the realities of where meat products come from as well as recognize the value of life regardless of species.

Even though she finds it difficult to eat out she believes it is worth the sacrifice. The only thing she really wants to see improve is having more vegetarian options in school cafeterias. She wants everyone to know that living a vegetarian lifestyle is not as difficult as some people think. Once we change our basic ideas, actually living the lifestyle becomes much easier.


Recently more than 100 people died in Mexico due to swine flu. It has been another reality check that should force us to take a much harder look at the dangers that can result from factory farming. We must come to understand that excess can be just as damaging as deprivation. In developed countries, overconsumption of fatty meat products has contributed to the increase of obesity and adult diseases. Huge amounts of resources are spent every year dealing with these problems. It is my hope that this article will bring to light the problems involved with factory farming, and encourage a few of you to try vegetarianism at least for a little while. Our health and our environment are two things that cannot be recovered once they are lost.






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