Ugly Side of Factory Farming

By Dania Sheikh

THE advancement in science and technology post World War 2 has simplified our lives in various ways but the convenience brought about by it also raises a lot of inconvenient ethical, environmental, and health concerns. One such issue that many are conveniently ignoring is our meat consumption habits.  We are constantly looking the other way even as we know that the cheap and easy availability of meat, poultry, and dairy products has become possible only because of the new and detrimental ways of animal rearing.

I was keen to know how this industry operates in J&K. My visit to the Joint Directorate of Poultry Animal Husbandry Department located in Hariparbat and my interactions with the local butchers in the Kothdhar area gave me some insight about it.

The mutton sold by most butchers in the valley comes from outside J&K, mainly from Kasipura Mandi in Delhi. They are brought in trucks, about 100-150 sheep are kept in one truck and the transportation time is about 1-2 days. There are some sheep husbandries in the state as well but the enormous demand necessitates its import from outside the state.

 As far as chicken is concerned, the dearth of poultry farms in the state makes the locally grown chicken quite expensive which is why it is mainly imported from outside the state. The chicks which are brought from outside that state are transported when they are barely 1-2 days old and then there bred here in farms.There are various broiler projects in the valley for the production of broiler chicks.The chicken in the poultry farms are commercially designed (cross bred) to maximise egg and chicken production.

The introduction of new breeds like KCL (Kashmir Layer Chicken) and Ravery (Rhode Island Red) have greatly enhanced the production of both eggs and broiler chicken.The mode of the operation of the poultry farms in the state is the same as it is elsewhere.The process involves Incubation of the eggs, candling on the 18th day to assess the growth of the embryo, chicks typically hatch at the 21st day and then they are kept in the brooder for some days before they are given to the poultry development officer for rearing .These chicks which are reared for commercial purposes are kept inside rooms, where each chicken is given a space of 1-2 square km and the temperature and lighting is controlled, these chicks are manually fed. Commercial intensive farming involves the provision of nutrient dense diet to chicks so that they attain the market rate of 1.5 kg in a span of 30 days, earlier it used to take 56 days for the same. Semi intensive farming in which chicken are kept outside in free spaces and natural light for some hours of the day and free range farming in which they are kept outside in open spaces and natural environment is rarely practised as it takes longer to breed chicken in this manner and it lowers the profit margin.

The purpose of this article is not to demonize meat-eating but to apprise people of the harms caused by its overconsumption and the risks of being complicit in propagating an unethical model of production in the factory farming setup. The focus here is on our food habits but it’s important to mention that it is not just our food choices but our entire lifestyle, the clothes we wear, the products we purchase, and our modes of communication that have detrimental consequences for the environment, animals, and humans.

Meat is central to our dietary habits, it is an inseparable part of our cultural heritage and cuisine.  Islam permits its consumption but the manner in which it is being produced in the contemporary era contravenes our Islamic principles. The demand for factory processed meat has grown exponentially. It is important to underscore that its consumption is high across all communities and regions. Two articles, “Provincialising Vegetarianism: Putting Indian Food Habits in Their Place” and “Deepening Divides: The Caste, Class and Regional Face of Vegetarianism” published in Economic and Political Weekly reveal that vegetarianism is a myth in India. According to the survey in the articles, only 3 in 10 Indians and more realistically 2 in 10 Indians are actually vegetarians. This demonstrates that we are all complicit and hold equal responsibility in addressing the issues that arise from factory farming.

There are compelling, pragmatic and ethical reasons to reduce and if possible, eliminate the consumption of red and factory processed meat, poultry, and dairy products. Factory farming completely disregards animal welfare. It is also a major contributor of greenhouse gases, and the consumption of factory processed meat, poultry, and dairy products has a hazardous impact on our health as well.

To begin with, the environmental impact of factory farming is huge, it is almost at par with the energy sector. A Green Peace report reveals that the livestock sector,” raising cows, pigs and chicken generates as much greenhouse emissions as all the cars, trucks and automobiles combined”. Opponents of factory farming argue that the resources i.e land, water, and grains used for raising livestock could be used to feed 3.5 billion chronically hungry people. A modification of our food choices is essential to combat climate change. Infact,  according to a report by the University of California, a switch to the Mediterranean diet which comprises chicken and fish a few times a week, beef once a month, and plant-based food on most days could bring down global warming by 15 % by 2050.

The repercussions of high consumption of red and factory processed meat have a debilitating impact on our health as well. Several studies establish a link between high meat consumption and health problems like heart diseases, strokes, and cancer. The use of steroids for accelerating the animal's growth not only harms the animal but also leads to antibiotic resistance among humans. Additionally, the environment in which these animals are reared is contaminated with harmful gases such as methane, hydrogen sulfide, and ammonia which adversely impact the animal's health and eventually the consumer's health as well. There is a dire need to reduce the consumption and if possible eliminate the consumption of factory processed meat, it could help significantly in alleviating the global disease burden.

The ethical issues that arise from factory farming are morally indefensible. Barring some exceptions even the companies that market their products as Halal neglect the Islamic guidelines on how animals should be treated. The recitation of Tasmiyah (Bismillah) and Takbeer (Allahu Akbar) is not enough. The pre-slaughter life and protocols of nurturing should be taken into consideration as well. The unnecessary pain and affliction that these animals are subjected to in the factory farms don’t align with our Islamic principles as well.

The mode of operation of factory farms is horrific and appalling. Animal welfare is completely disregarded by this industry which is fixated on maximizing its profit, adopting an ethical alternative could seriously disrupt the unstrained profit that is being generated by their existing modes of production.

Certain animal advocacy groups like Mercy for Animals with headquarters in the US and operations in India have been successful in convincing over 100 food companies including Starbucks, Chipotle, and Subway to comply with the ethical standards like outdoor pasture access, restriction on transportation time and ban on the use of cages, crates, and steroids.

The commercial intensive farming in which the main motive is profit maximisation is a practise laden by cruelty as it deprives animals of their natural habitat and and keeps them in confinement for their entire lives.The capitalist greed has corrupted our society to such an extent that it has led to a normalisation of such indiscriminate practices and sadly this grisly intensive farming is the norm now and free range farming is the exception.

A gradual switch to organic agriculture is a viable option. According to the International Federation Of Agricultural Organic Movements, “Organic agriculture can be defined as the following; Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and is adapted to the local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects.” Organic agriculture combines tradition and science to benefit the environment and promote a good quality life for all”

As consumers, we have the power to put an end to such unethical practices which are outrightly assaulting animal rights, consumer rights, and degrading our environment. Ethical consumption could resolve the myriad problems that arise because of capitalist creed.


Views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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