The Marriage of Food and Science: Promises and Problems
Food is an inevitable component of human life. We need it for survival and development. In that sense, human beings have developed a palate for both plant matter and their fellow animals. However, the demand for food has grown rapidly, presenting unique challenges that science has focused on solving (Plange). One of the challenges is that the production of meat products is the labor intensive process. Many hands are required in tendering for the animals, and processing their meats. Various labor issues may be observed in farms and factories concerned with such products. However, many Americans have expressed greater concern for the welfare of animals in factory farms rather than the human workers that earn their living in such environments. This essay seeks to discuss why such views are commonplace.
It is important to note that factory farms are motivated by profit in their operations. They seek to nurture as many animals as possible, in the efforts of generating maximum revenue from the sale of meats. The welfare of animals there thus takes the backseat. Americans have, therefore, developed ethical questions concerned with the treatment of such animals. Farm workers are involved with the animals on a daily basis. Any wrong doing on the farms, therefore, deems them guilty in the eyes of the American public. In maximization of profit, common knowledge states that an organization needs to minimize its expenses. In line with that, the factory farms spend as little resources as possible in nurturing these animals. Studies by Mercy for Animals, a non-governmental organization, have highlighted practices in farms around the United States. In Minnesota, an investigator anonymously documented animal abuse at one of Walmart’s pork suppliers. A worker was seen to slam conscious piglets into the ground, headfirst. The same worker was seen to rip off the piglet’s testicles and tails without using any form of painkillers. In another case, expectant pigs were confined to filthy, confined crates. The unethical practices maintained in production of ‘foie gras’ have also been documented by the organization. On exposure of such practices to the American public, the workers have been judged guilty as charged. Americans develop empathy for the animals being abused, rather than the workers perpetrating the cruelties. Labor issues that may affect the workers have been deemed secondary to their unethical actions in the name of profit making in the factory farms (Mercy for Animals).
As meat consumers, most people are concerned about the nutritive content of their foods. The manner in which farm animals have been raised, therefore, holds great importance to them, since it has a direct correlation to their health status. Factory farming involves practices that raise concerns on the potential health concerns of consumers. The United States is an individualistic society. Consumers, therefore, view their concerns as of greater value than farm workers and their labor issues. There are many examples that highlight the use of potentially toxic substances on the animals. In order to mature the animals quickly, factory farms usually inject them with hormones. Factory farms also use pesticides and antibiotics in preventing or eliminating infections from the reared animals. However, these substances are not passed out as waste by the animals. They remain in their bodies even after death. When consumed by human beings, food that contains these hormones may cause bodies to develop mutations. Humans may, therefore, develop cancerous growths or other illnesses as a result of consuming these meat products. A typical fowl from the supermarket consists of more than twice the fat and a third less protein than a bird 40 years ago (“Public Health”). Consumption of such meat products would, therefore, be unhealthy for the American public. Americans are, therefore, more concerned with the welfare of animals than that of human workers, as their wellbeing is directly correlated to that of the animals being reared in the factory farms (“Public Health”).
Factory farms incorporate a large number of animals. It is estimated that around two thirds of the world’s farmed animals reside in such organizations. These animals, therefore, release a lot of waste on the environment. Such wastes are harmful to the environment in areas that factory farming is practiced. In the United States, wastes from chicken, cattle and hogs have polluted more than 35,000 miles of rivers. These effects have been felt in more than 22 states. Similarly, factory farms have contaminated the groundwater in 17 states. These contaminations have diverse effects on the populations residing in such areas. For example, they cause respiratory trouble, skin infections and depression (Plange). Toxic water supplies have also caused fatalities. A study by the American Journal of Agricultural Economics highlighted that the infant mortality rate increased by 7.4% following a growth in livestock numbers (Michael). Similarly, nearly 73% of ammonia air pollution has been found to be caused by animal agricultural production. The presence of factory farm animals, therefore, has considerable influence on the quality of human life. Americans view that implementation of adequate safeguards into factory farming practices will reduce their footprint on the environment and public health (“Public Health”). By nurturing farm animals while in consideration of their welfare, the American public can also benefit from improved quality of life. As stated earlier, the United States has an individualistic society. The citizen’s concerns are, therefore, of paramount to labor issues.
American citizens maintain a greater regard for animal welfare than that of the workers who tend for them. This is a result of the ethical concerns that have been raised regarding practices maintained in factory farms. Furthermore, these farm workers have consistently appeared as the perpetrators of unethical practices. From the analysis of literature, it has also emerged that the welfare of animals has a strong correlation to the quality of human life. American citizens, therefore, hold the welfare of such farm animals into great consideration. The presence of an individualistic society in the United States further solidifies this argument. Despite the importance of farm workers, the American public views that ethical and health concerns come beforehand.
“Public Health.” GRACE Communications Foundation, 2013. Web. 20 Nov 2013. <http://www.sustainabletable.org/270/public-health>.
Michael, David. “Factory Farms Increase Infant Deaths | Journal of Natural Food and Health.”Journal.livingfood.us, 2009. Web. 20 Nov 2013. <http://journal.livingfood.us/2009/03/05/factory-farm-stink-is-killing-infants/>.
Mercy for Animals. Undercover Investigations: Exposing Animal Abuse. Digital video. 2013. Web. 20 Nov 2013 <http://www.mercyforanimals.org/investigations.aspx>.
Plange, Joseph. Food Inc Documentary. Digital video. 2013. Web. 20 Nov 2013 <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7X6gl8xiEXY>.
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