I was told by someone that factory farms are a myth, and that 97% of farms are family farms. I have no desire to refute this claim, as whether or not I do means nothing. The fact remains that there is a HUGE industry boom worldwide in terms of animal agriculture.
It seems like a utopia to believe that all farms look like the red barn with cows on the outside and chicken frolicking freely, with a man in overalls standing by to treat the animals with tender love… but that’s a load of crap for most farms. In reality, there is a huge demand for animal products, so while some small family farms do exist, the majority incorperate factory-like methods, such as keeping thousands of chickens in the same area, giving them only 1.75 square feet per chicken to move around.
Family farms, like factory farms, also routinely debeak chickens, snip the tails off cows, and castrate male cows and pigs, all brutally and without anesthesia. Often times ripping off the genitalia during castration with their hands, or putting a rubber band on the genitals until they simply fall off. Even the smallest farms do many of these practices. Mal chickens are also routinely exterminated en mass because they are useless to the industry.
Besides, smaller Family Farms are decreasing as they get out-competed by larger farms. The larger the practice, the more opportunity for negligence and abuse to occur, which is why when it comes to animal welfare, smaller farms are better than larger ones.
Now this does not mean that all farms are bad. Temple Grandin spends her life making slaughterhouses more and more humane for the animals, and she shows that many animals are slaughtered as humanely as possible, as it makes sense for the companies bottom line to make sure the animals are devoid of stress before slaughter. However, many factories do have abysmal living conditions for cattle, pigs, and especially chicken and turkey.
But also, family farms are not magically awesome for animals, as we see time and time again that animals in family farms are still treated poorly often enough. The buzzword of Family Owned is as useful as the Buzzwords of Free Range, Organic, Healthy, and Humanely Raised. These could mean very little as there is few legal definitions stopping anyone from placing these on their food products.
In terms of animal ethics, the best thing you can do is reduce or eliminate your meat consumption. By doing so, you reduce the risk of your diet contributing to farmed animal suffering to zero. We live in a society where vegetarian and vegan meat replacements can be found in pretty much every store, from Walmart, to Kroger, to Dollar Tree. I just found Almond milk at my local Dollar General as well, so that might be a product sold at all dollar general’s soon.
Even IF Family Farms were this pinnacle of perfection, consuming meat is highly unnecessary, so why risk animal suffering at all in first world countries?