Saturday, March 2, 2013

Scratching the Surface of Factory Farming

Shame is defined by Merriam-Webster as "a painful emotion cause by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety". That is to say, shame is a negative emotion felt as a result of not being up to the positive standard that has been set by society, typically an objective view. When an individual lacks in some way, shame is achieved. This is a human emotion and there is no individual who has never felt shame. It is normal and healthy to some extent. This is because humans are prone to do things often without knowing better or because of insensitivity at times.

Jane Bolton wrote an article for Psychology Today titled What We Get Wrong About Shame.  In this article she discusses the information, as well as misinformation most individuals have acquired regarding shame. She uses one case in which a patient of hers felt because she felt shame, she must have done something shameful, therefore, her entire life was shameful. However, this is inaccurate. Shame is simply an emotion one faces in reaction to doing, seeing, or knowing something they feel to be shameful. This does not mean the act is in fact shameful, however.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who have been conditioned to not take notice of the shame involved in an action they are taking part in. Such as someone who overcharges elderly customers for the sake of making more money. He may know what he is doing is wrong but in order for him to make more money, he may choose to take advantage of those who do not know better. On one hand, he could feel shame and do it nonetheless. In other cases, he may be so concerned with paying his own bills that he will not see any fault in his actions.

One case in particular which comes to mind when I think of shame in American history is the common practice of factory farming. Merriam-Webster  explains factory farming as, "a large industrialized farm; especially: a farm on which large numbers of livestock are raised indoors in conditions intended to maximize production at minimal cost." The definition alone does not appear to be all too shameful, however, upon further research it is clear where these farms do wrong.  I do not only find the actions of these farms shameful but also how normalized they have come to be. Whether citizens are unaware of the horrible conditions or simply choose not to care, there is still a major epidemic across the country and the world that occurs right within these farms.

Before delving into the abuse that the animals involved in factory farming face, the impact it has on each person must be discussed. Factory farming, the way it is currently done, has been used for at least the past 20 years. These factories have replaced the small family-owned farms and are now huge corporations that tuck away thousands of of animals into small areas, where they are tightly packed together. This affects us all because between the methane released by these animals and the pollution from their manure, the air and water can be turned dangerous and make sick those in surrounding communities. Within the larger factories there is about 500 million tons of manure produced each year, according to Rather than this massive amount of manure being dealt with immediately, it is placed in pits or lagoons and eventually used as fertilizer. Unlike smaller farms, these large scale factory farms do not prevent the polluting of water because of the size. So much is applied to land each time that it ends up in outside areas and pollutes the air and water. This would be not be as worrisome except, in mass quantities, you now have the release of nitrogen, phosphorus, and possibly even bacteria. These lagoons and pits have been known to leak, as well, along with the overflow of manure, which then spreads into nearby streams and water. This will then be consumed and lead to terrible consequences for the rest of the population, along with killing local wildlife.

The dangers of this manure doesn't stop there. All the chemicals held within the stacks of decomposing manure causes skin rashes, breathing problems and headaches, and long-term exposure has led to neurological problems. Beyond the manure, the animals themselves can spread disease. Due to overcrowding, therefore, stress in these factories, diseases are spread very easily. Having all these cattle in one, overpopulated area leads to bacteria spreading onto the hides and then brought inside the slaughterhouses. Even one cow that has been contaminated can bring about the contamination of thousands of pounds of meat.

The concerns do not end there. They even go as far as changing the effectiveness of antibiotics in humans. Being that spreading disease is so common in these factories, much of the livestock is treated with antibiotics to prevent illness and promote weight gain. These bacteria then become strong and antibiotic resistant. This leads to bacteria that are stronger than antibiotics once they reach humans. This goes along with the fact that chickens often receive arsenic-based additives in their feed, this is used enhance the flesh's pinkness and increases growth. Cattle are fed with animal byproducts, this increases the risk of mad cow disease.

When it comes to the animals themselves and their well-being, this is at risk as well in these factory farms. Most of the hogs and chickens in these facilities never have seen the outdoors. Cows on the other hand are outdoors but they are crammed into feedlots, as most factory farms use, rather than more humane methods. They are not allowed access to grass or open space. Even in the case of "cage free", there is little time outdoors. This is because the laws regarding what can be labeled as "cage free" are very vague. It not uncommon for a "cage free" chicken to have an open cage for 2 hours and be considered "cage free". At this point, the chicken may be unaware or too unhealthy to leave their cage anyway. These practices are all done to maximize profit. However, they also maximize animal stress and misery.

The final group to suffer due to factory farms is farmers! Every year there is less of a need and less of a presence of smaller farms. Most farmers are unable to maintain their farms and income when their competition is so large and powerful. They cannot keep up. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in 2007 more than half of family farmers lost money on their farming operation. The few but large companies that are able to dominate this field have much control over what money farmers receive and control over the general going ons of the farms. The amount farmers receive for their work and livestock has been steadily decreasing throughout the past two decades. The change from many small, independent farms that were charging fair prices into a lesser number of huge farms occurred rapidly. The Department of Justice allowed these large meatpackers to become a monopoly, influenced by money they were to make more of and faster.

What these large companies and departments don't realize is that the previous system benefited everyone. By simply separating these large factories into smaller, more personal farms, the animals, communities, and farmers can be treated much better and be much healthier. Individual farms have the time, and if given funding, the money to take their time to ensure all animals are treated humanely and all goods are then the best they can be. Those who are currently purchasing these products from factory farms are either unaware or uninterested in the effects of those they are giving their money to.

In this unfortunate case, shame is lacking in those who are supporting a dangerous and unethical practice. Through education and understanding, more people can understand, rather than make light of, the inhumane and unhealthy actions that go on behind the scenes of factory farming.


"How Factory Farms Impact YouFactory Farm Map | Factory Farm Map." Factory Farm Map. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2013. <>.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. “2007 Census of Agriculture.” AC-07-A-51. December 2009. Table 5 at 14.

Bolton, Jane. "What we get wrong about shame." psychology today. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <>.

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