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    Livestock Farming Raises Animal Rights Concerns

    Most kept in small cages allowing for little movement

    Most eggs in India come from intensive facilities, not roaming village chickens, a transition which is happening in much of the developing world.
    Most eggs in India come from intensive facilities, not roaming village chickens, a transition which is happening in much of the developing world.

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    As large-scale livestock farming spreads throughout the developing world, so does concern about conditions for the animals raised in these facilities.

    Animal welfare groups in the United States scored big last month when fast-food giant, McDonald's, and major meat processor, Hormel, agreed to phase out the use of confining pens for pregnant pigs.

    Changes are taking place in countries such as India and Brazil as well, where several companies have announced they would source their eggs only from farms that do not use cages.

    Village chickens vs. mega-farms

    These developments are happenening at a time when livestock production is changing rapidly in many parts of the world.

    Meat consumption has grown sharply along with rising prosperity. More meat is now produced in the developing world than in the high-income countries.

    In India, 80 percent of egg production takes place in battery cages, small wire pens which animal welfare advocates say barely give hens enough room to raise their wings.
    In India, 80 percent of egg production takes place in battery cages, small wire pens which animal welfare advocates say barely give hens enough room to raise their wings.

    But when you think of where meat, milk and eggs come from in some developing countries, you may have the wrong idea.

    “You’ll think of these villages and these chickens running around underfoot," says Chetana Mirle with the Humane Society International. "But really, even in a country like India, 80 percent of production takes place in battery cages.”

    Battery cages are small wire pens typically used at large egg-producing facilities that animal welfare advocates say barely give hens enough room to raise their wings.

    Going the wrong way


    They are banned in the European Union, and the U.S. state of California is phasing them out. But their numbers are increasing as intensive livestock farms begin operations all over the developing world.

    “Instead of going the right way, they are doing what is being currently banned in other parts of the world,” says Tozie Zokufa, South Africa representative for the animal welfare group Compassion in World Farming.

    Although animal welfare groups are more numerous in Europe and the United States, “As the consumption of products of animal origin is increasing in Brazil or Thailand or Indonesia, just to name a few, people are increasingly becoming more aware of how the food is produced," says livestock expert Daniela Battaglia with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

    "They are increasingly asking for more values to be respected," she says, including respect for the environment and workers’ rights, as well as animal welfare.

    Like the cry of a child

    Zokufa used to be a government meat inspector in South Africa. One day while inspecting a slaughterhouse, he saw that a pig was not stunned properly before it was killed.

    “And the cry. The cry of that pig. It was like a little kid, a little girl,” he says.

    Zokufa says that experience made him stop and think. He saw animals being treated much better at slaughterhouses exporting meat to Europe and decided he wanted to change the way meat was produced for South Africa.

    “I knew that I couldn’t do it in the position that I had at the time because I was just flowing with the system,” he says.

    So he joined Compassion in World Farming, which opposes large-scale, intensive livestock operations.

    Small farms or big?

    Zokufa believes the better course would be toward small-scale farms that let animals roam free. He says they are better for the animals and the environment, and provide more jobs as well.

    But a recent report by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization says there is no viable alternative to intensive livestock operations for feeding growing urban populations. Those farms simply produce more with fewer resources.

    Intensification does not have to be a bad thing, says the FAO’s Daniela Battagila.

    “You [do] not necessarily have to choose between food security and taking care of the animals," she says. "The two things can go hand in hand. Or even better, one can contribute to the other.”

    FAO is promoting simple, low-cost techniques, such as more humane livestock handling and slaughtering procedures.

    That could mean not only better conditions for the animals, but a better quality and more abundant supply of meat for the growing number of developing-world consumers who are demanding it.


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Amanda
    March 16, 2012 2:22 PM
    Organic foods seem to be a better choice. And the organic farming needs our support. To pay a little bit more money will make us a healthier and more environmental word.

    by: sjs
    March 14, 2012 11:05 PM
    Animals are being abused very very badly and widespreadly,especially in China.

    by: Eileen Chapman
    March 14, 2012 8:17 AM
    Great Tozie...It is good to know you're doing such fine work spreading the word. I have listened to the broadcast and don't quite understand why there has to be increased supply for the grownig demand when clearly, as you know, man would be considerable healthier, eating much less meat. Why do most people think they HAVE to eat animals! It amazes me.

    by: emilie
    March 13, 2012 9:01 PM
    who is he addressing as his audience in this article?

    by: Bea Elliott
    March 13, 2012 4:53 AM
    "Meat consumption has grown sharply along with rising prosperity." And actually in more progressive nations meat consumption is decreasing due to the known health issues, environmental impacts, awareness of unsustainability and concerns for the animals.

    "Meat" will be like tobacco - The more affluent countries will eschew their consumption - While U.S. and other wealthy nations push their poisons on to other nations.

    by: Robert Makoi
    March 12, 2012 8:10 PM
    Zokufa is right, therefore he should teach sahara desert animal farmers how to raise livestock in the grass-less sandy soil!

    by: BTF
    March 12, 2012 11:52 AM
    Anyone concerned about factory farm cruelty should OPPOSE recently introduced federal legislation, HR 3798, that would keep laying hens IN battery cages forever, while eliminating the rights of voters! Check out StopTheRottenEggBill.org to learn more and take action.

    by: animal farm
    March 12, 2012 10:48 AM
    And God created the animals and he saw that they were good and tasty so god created man to rule over the animals and man created the meat grinder so he could eat pink slime and profit from it also.

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