Coronavirus Forces a Conversation About Industrial Animal Agriculture

Image: Harvard political review

We wrote the other week that the coronavirus epidemic is wreaking havoc on the meat industry forcing farmers to euthanize animals. This coupled with new research showing that the next global public health crisis could come to us through industrial animal agriculture has made it clear that we need to rethink large-scale animal farming.

As Forbes explained, animals in large-scale farms are oftentimes diseased, infected, and closely packed together providing a perfect breeding ground for viruses to move from a weakened host to a human. And headlines of farm animals being killed as a response to COVID has drawn new attention to the ethics of large-scale animal farming practices.

And Harvard Political Review stated,

Human benefit legitimates the erasure and subversion of animals’ inherent status as living beings. But this twisted reasoning is malleable, and we can still choose compassion over dominion.

Why This Matters: America’s per capita meat consumption has been on the rise. For reference, the average American ate roughly 220 pounds of meat in 2018, in what Popular Science called “an obsession.” We’re used to having access to cheap meat and as a society, we haven’t reconciled the destructive forces that allow meat to be an integral part of our diets.

Go Deeper: To address many of these very issues. Senators Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren introduced the Farm System Reform Act in the Senate which would prohibit new large factory farms from going into business and force others to cease expansions before halting operations entirely within two decades.

As Senator Warren said in a statement,

“For years, regulators looked the other way while giant multinational corporations crushed competition in the agriculture sector and seized control over key markets. The COVID-19 crisis will make it easier for Big Ag to get even bigger, gobble up smaller farms, and lead to fewer choices for consumers.”

The Need to Rethink Our System: As Food Dive wrote, due to the unsanitary conditions where we often raise and kill animals, public health experts have been warning about the potential for a pandemic for years.
  • It wasn’t a question of if an outbreak would happen, but when. And right here in the United States, we are engaging in a practice that’s a tinderbox for the next outbreak.

So how do we fix it? As Newsweek wrote of the Farm System Reform Act, the original bill introduced by Senator Booker in 2019 was intended to support smaller farms by countering the influence of large, monopolistic corporations that had “run roughshod over the marketplace,” according to Booker.

Ultimately, factor farming makes it nearly impossible for smaller, more localized animal farming to be profitable for farmers. As Food and Water Watch explained, “the rise of factory farming has been driven by three factors: unchecked corporate power, misguided farm policy, and weak environmental and public health regulations.” That’s why legislation is needed to level the playing field.

BTW: FWW has a good tool for helping to understand what factory farming actually means, check it out.

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