Animal agriculture is hardly the low-scale and humble industry that it used to be. Due to the increased consumption and demand for meat, dairy, and eggs, farm operations have transformed from grassy, open fields to cramped and filthy sheds on factory farms. In the past, this upsetting reality was often unknown to the public, or worse ignored. Take chickens, for example. As if being piled on top of each other in factory farms, where they can barely spread their wings and are often forced to walk around on floors ridden with feces and urine wasn’t enough, these sweet creatures have been genetically altered excessively over the years. In order to maximize their value, “layers,” or chickens bred to lay eggs, have been genetically modified to lay over 250 eggs per year, a figure that used to be as low as two dozen per year for their ancestors. Meanwhile, “broiler chickens,” or chickens bred for meat, have been altered to be almost double the size of a chicken from 60 years ago. Chickens on factory farms are often abused by employees, as well.
Thankfully, as more exposés have surfaced revealing the abuse, genetic manipulation, and cruelty animals are subjected to on factory farms, people are becoming more knowledgeable on the issue and are even driving change. Food corporations and the FDA realize that people do not want to use their money to support these systems, and so they have been making modifications to the process to give animals a more humane life … or at least make it appear so.
If you’ve gone to a supermarket recently, you’ve likely seen “cage free” and “free range” labels on egg cartons and on chicken breast packages. While these phrases usually conjure images of chickens clucking around on grassy fields, soaking up the sun and laying eggs like easter treats for farmers to find, we’re sorry to say that this is hardly the reality. In reality, according to the USDA, in order to be referred to as a “free range” farm, “producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” And let’s be clear, being “allowed access” to go outside is much different than actually going outside. Sadly, because of the massive amount of chickens that are confined in a warehouse, many chickens go their entire lives without even stepping out of the door. What’s “free” about that?
This photo by Jo-Anne McArthur illustrates the ridiculousness of “free range” farms. In it, an animal cruelty investigator cradles a bird that has been left on a “free range” farm to die. This stark image completely contradicts the mental imagery companies who proclaim themselves as “free range” and “cage free” try to sell consumers. Those are just empty words, this image is proof.
It can be easy to grow resentful and bitter at all of the lies the food industry tries to feed us. Over the years, we’ve found out that milk is not as good for us as we’ve been told, that many factory farm workers don’t have the best interest of animals in mind, and now, that “cage free” and “free range” are basically meaningless terms used to coddle consumers. However, while it may be easier to shut down and shoo away these upsetting realities, it’s much more powerful to share the information, speak up, and tell the producers of our food that enough is enough. Each one of us has a tremendous amount of influence and we have the opportunity to use it for good every single day through our food choices, the items we buy, and the information we share. If you think that factory farm chickens deserve a life much better than the one they lead now, share this article!
Image source: We Animals/Facebook