Animals do not have to be raised in CAFOs. In fact the industrialization of animal agriculture really just took hold in the last fifteen years. There are better ways to raise animals than to keep them confined to small spaces, housing thousands of animals in one building, never allowing them to see sunlight, or to engage in normal instinctive behavior.
Hogs can be raised using hoop barns. Hoop barns utilize deep bedding which allows the animals to nest and burrow. The animals’ waste mixes with the bedding material which can then be composted, or dried and then disked into fields. This greatly reduces the potential for manure run-off which is a significant problem with the lagoon and land application system presently used by most hog CAFOs. Less confinement also helps the animals by reducing their levels of stress.1
Another benefit of giving the animals more space is that it reduces the likelihood of disease organisms spreading through the CAFO. This will allow the producer to reduce their reliance on prophylactic (given before there is a disease organism detected in the animal) and therapeutic antibiotics (given after a disease organism is detected). There should be no reason for giving nontherapeutic anitibiotics (given not because of an existing or a suspected disease or disease exposure, but, for purposes of growth promotion, feed efficiency, weight gain, or routine disease prevention in the absence of documented exposure.)2
Methane digesters can capture the gas given off by decomposing manure and use the gas to power generators needed on the farm. This is a much better solution than allowing the methane, a greenhouse gas, to escape into the environment. In addition, it lowers the farm’s reliance on imported fossil fuels, it lowers the level of odor given off by the facility, and it reduces the quantity of waste that has to be land-applied.3
Composting manure, especially cattle and poultry waste, can prove profitable to the farm, as there is a large demand for composted manure.4
The enforcement of all state and federal statutes and regulations pertaining to the discharge of gases, polluted waste, heavy metals, etc. would force the CAFO operators to assume the cost of their polluting activities, which until now they have passed onto their neighbors, both near and far. If the operators were actually fined for the innumerable permit violations they routinely commit, they would no longer consider such activities as economically viable.
The following practices should be banned:
- Gestation crates (where sows are kept for their entire 124-day gestation period.) The crates do not allow the animals to turn around or express natural behaviors, and they restrict the sow’s ability to lie down comfortably. Alternatives such as open feeding stalls and pens can be used to manage sows.
- Restrictive farrowing crates, in which sows are not able to tum around or exhibit natural behavior. As an alternative, farrowing systems (e.g., the Freedom Farrowing System, or Natural Farrowing Systems) provide protection to the piglets while allowing more freedom of movement for the sow.
- Any cages that house multiple egg-laying chickens (commonly referred to as “battery cages”) without allowing the hens to exhibit normal behavior (e.g., pecking, scratching, roosting).
- The tethering and / or individual housing of calves for the production of white veal. This practice is already rare in the United States, so its phaseout can be done quickly.
- Forced feeding of fowl to produce foie gras.
- Tail docking of dairy cattle.
- Forced molting by feed removal for laying hens to extend the laying period.5
In addition, the following practices should be improved for the health and welfare of the animals:
- Flooring and housing conditions in feedlots and dairies: cattle kept on concrete, left in excessive amounts of feces, and I or not provided shade and lor misting in hot climates.
- Flooring and other housing conditions at swine facilities: hogs that spend their entire lifetime on concrete are prone to higher rates of leg injury.
- The method of disposal of unwanted male chicks and of adult fowl in catastrophic situations that require the destruction of large numbers of birds.
- Hand-catching methods for fowl that result in the animals’ broken limbs, bruising, and stress.
- Body-altering procedures that cause pain to the animals.
- Air quality in CAFO buildings: gas can cause respiratory harm to animal health and to CAFO workers through exposure to gas buildup, toxic dust, and other irritants.
- Ammonia bums on the feet and hocks of fowl due to contact with litter.
- Some weaning practices for piglets, beef cattle, and veal calves: the shortening of the weaning period or abrupt weaning to move the animal to market faster can stress the animals and make them more vulnerable to disease.6
Many of these modifications can be done without causing an extreme financial burden to the animal producer and will produce healthier animals that are safer for human consumption.
1 A Report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. 55 (2008); Doug Gurian-Sherman. CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Cost of Confined Animal Feeding Operations. Union of Concerned Scientists at 2-3, 6, 23-24 (April 2008).
2 Amy Chapin. Airborne Multidrug-Resistant Bacteria Isolated from a Concentrated Swine Feeding Operation. 113(2) Environmental Health Perspectives 137 (February 2005); Mary J. Gilchrist. The Potential Role of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Infectious Disease Epidemics and Antibiotic Resistance. 115(2) Environmental Health Perspectives 313 (February 2007).
3 Pew Commission Report at 53.
4 Ibid at 55.
5 Ibid at 85.
6 Ibid at 86.