Rearing of farm animals for food production has experienced a change in the production systems employed over time. The traditional farm’s inability to handle large quantity of production has seen the evolvement of large scale animal production for meat. This shift has been necessitated by the need to make huge profits on an ever increasing demand on meat and meat products (Kanaly et al., 2010). The focus of the large scale farming is mostly productivity and how to increase the same without the market price going up. This is the only way they can ensure that they have enough to feed people and to make huge profits, or so they argue. The system does not think about the ethical implications of the large scale meat production. One of the issues that keep arising is the welfare of the animals due to the practices of the IFAP (Industrial Farm Animal Production) facilities (Silbergeld et al., 2008). This essay focuses on the ethical implications of confining animals for food production and the demand to increase the productivity of the farms.
The large scale system of production is not based on increasing the size of the land for rearing animals but on increasing the animal number per acreage of land. This can only be achieved through confinement of animals in small stalls at very close proximity. The system also employs use of certain feeds to bring out certain desirable traits in the animals for meat production. The animals have been turned into machines by the way they are fed and are expected to convert so much food into meat produce; they are also expected to breed at a higher rate than is normal so as to increase their numbers remarkably. They are, therefore, subjected to standardized animal husbandry activities that can be controlled by the facility (Kanaly et al., 2010).
The productivity of animals in such facilities goes up due to the controlled system of breeding, because the number of animals born at a time by a single female animal is high. The lactation period can also be reduced by the use of a microbial and mechanized feeding style. This increases the number of animals that can be produced by one sow before it is slaughtered. This constitutes the major benefit that the facilities draw from the system combined with the reduced number of employees that are needed to cater for the animals (Silbergeld rt al., 2008).
This, however, raises ethical issues, such as the welfare of the animals due to confinement. Confinement of animals deprives them of the opportunities to breathe fresh air on the country side, to roam about naturally as they exercise their bodies, and to hunt or browse for food according to their natural instincts; and it causes the mental stress to the animals due to the small nature of the confinement structure.
According to research done by the public health sectors around the globe, it is very easy to expose the animals to illnesses due to the confinement they are subjected to (Kanaly et al., 2010). The proximity of one animal to the other is so minimal that a disease outbreak would spread very rapidly. The use of medicine that is not intended to treat a sick animal has fostered the development of resistance to drugs when they are administered therapeutically. The unregulated use of fertilizers to accelerate growth of crops for the animals’ consumption and the use of chemicals in making of standardized feeds for feeding the animals add to the problem of the number of chemicals that the animals consume (Silbergeld et al., 2008). The waste management also requires the use of chemicals in large quantities so as to eliminate the pathogens that are present in the pool of animal waste concentrated in the confinement structure. The nearness of employees to these animals and the chemicals that are used can make them sick, and hence, they in turn act as careers of disease spreading pathogens in the outside world. The use of chemicals for treatment of waste and foliage production causes respiratory illnesses to the employees (Kanaly et al., 2010).
Another of the ethical concerns engineered by animal confinement is the environmental degradation concern. The concentration of animal waste on one area overcomes the ability of the land to dispose the waste naturally. The land, therefore, becomes laden with waste materials from the animals, and this is detrimental to the environmental welfare. The waste may even find its way to the aquifers and ruin such natural resources as rivers and lakes or pose a health problem to people and other animals that are dependent on these resources for survival (Silbergeld et al., 2008). The high levels of carbon emission, due to the demand that is placed on the energy source, cannot be ignored. The energy used for processing food and managing waste is quite a lot as compared to the energy demand when the animals are allowed to find their own food and roam about and thus, distributing their own waste in quantities that the land can manage to dispose of naturally. This has seen an increase in global warming and depreciation of natural resources. According to research that has been done, the amount of fossil fuel energy inputs used in IFAP facilities to the unit of food energy produced is at a ratio of about 3:1 (Kanaly et al., 2010).
The other ethical issue that arises from focusing on productivity of the facilities is the social-economic status of the people that were dependent on an integrated farming system before the IFAP facilities started. The rural people who depended on farming both plants and animals concurrently could no longer do so. Their production ability of animals for meat has long been challenged and rendered unviable by the IFAP system. The farmers cannot make any profit because the competition of the market has seen a reduction in meat prices. The land has also been made un-arable due to the changes in weather conditions and the deterioration of the soil, air and water resources that are adjacent to IFAP facilities (Kanaly et al., 2010).
The IFAP facilities claim that the system is adopted to increase food production. The fact that the population of people in the world is rising cannot be refuted. It is, however, questionable if the IFAP facilities’ intention is to make food more available to the people. This is not a concern because those farms can be used to produce vegetables for human consumption. The question that remains is whether the meat produced by the facilities has a value in health terms as food item for human consumption. According to researches, vegetables and plants are healthier for consumption than meat, especially the one that the IFAP facilities are producing. The IFAP facilities use the animals as machines to convert fodder into fat stored in animal meat. It is satirical that only about 10% of the nutritional value remains in meat for human use. This implies that, it would be healthier to eat the plants that are used as fodder for animal fattening (Kanaly et al., 2010). Animals raised in the system adopted by IFAP facilities are not eaten by people for health reasons or for the purpose of increasing their food availability; on the contrary, such meat is mostly considered as a luxury item of food. This system, therefore, has not been adopted to provide people with a healthier eating alternative or for food production increase for the increasing human population (Silbergeld et al., 2008).
It is not reasonable to state that the animals are contented and that their mortality rate has reduced because they do not suffer death when they are not intended to. The fact that the animals live a pleasant life with more than enough provision of food does not rationalize the consumption of animals raised in factories where the animals are so packed and limited in movement that their life is more cumbersome than beneficial to them. The human rights activists are justified to demand the rightful treatment of animals, even when they are reared for consumption (Kanaly et al., 2010).
The concerned industry has also experienced unfair competition of the market share with the giants driving the small scale farmers out of the business. The IFAP facilities will do anything, not with the consumer in mind, to get the larger of the market share. To maintain their profits margin, unethical business practices are evidently applied. Some of the IFAP facilities are situated in lands which are not suitable for such facilities. They not only misuse the land contrary to the law but also endanger consumers’ life with their only business focused system (Kanaly et., 2010).
Most researchers have come to the conclusion that most farms have no knowledge of the ethical implications of their establishments and that the ethical issues discussed above are unintentional. The researchers have also established that in most countries, there are no laws regarding the rights of animals when they are on a farm. Thus, taking everything above mentioned into consideration, it becomes vivid that the failure to deal with the ethical concerns could bring about increased environmental dilapidation, neglect of animal rights and welfare policies, degeneration of public health, and detrimental effects on social-economic status of people who depend upon small scale meat production. This could also lead to a persistent lack of confidence and sustainable development in the animal agricultural sector (Silbergeld et al., 2008).