When I was a kid, I loved visiting my grandparents’ farm in South Dakota. There chickens ran around the farm yard and cattle roamed in the pasture, coming to the well near the house for occasional drinks. My grandmother would milk a cow or two and I was permitted to help her separate the milk from the cream by hand cranking the separator machine. I pitchforked manure into a spreader wagon so the fields could be fertilized, I ran corn cobs through a machine that stripped the kernels from the cob, and then the cobs were gathered to be used in the kitchen to heat the cook stove and to warm the house. And I helped collect eggs from the hen houses.
All that vanished
So, when my son returned from a stint in California where he volunteered at a place called Farm Sanctuary with stories about the abuses suffered by farm animals, I was in disbelief. That simply wasn’t true, couldn’t be, I argued. Didn’t he know how my grandparents farm was?
It’s just not that way anymore, he said. The more I learned about today’s agriculture, the more I realized how much I didn’t know, how much things had changed from the era when the American farm was a bucolic world. Unfortunately, my son was right! The factory farm, developed to shove the maximum amount of dollars into corporate hands, damn what it does to animals and birds, has become among the most notable blights on American life. Milk cows are impregnated constantly and when their calf is born, the youngster is ripped away from its mother and the cow is sent back again and again to serve as a milk-producing machine. Pigs are shoved into cages called gestation crates, euphemism for tiny jails, where they bear their young and live out their “productive” lives for as long as they turn a dollar. Chickens are mutilated, shot up with antibiotics and then locked in “battery cages” so they can “efficiently” produce eggs. Turkeys on factory farms are generally raised in massive poultry factories where they are confined from hatching to slaughter. Recently, as bird flu swept across many mid-western turkey farms, millions of the birds were destroyed to prevent the further spread of the disease.
But the disease of factory farming doesn’t stop at the farm
After lives spent confined in cages, after they are no longer productive milk producers; in short when they have become economically useless, the birds and animals are shipped off to killing factories where they, yet again, suffer the terror of assembly-line death.
The old American farm isn’t what it used to be. That reality was made clear in a wonderful little book called Old MacDonald has no farm . . . ee-i-anymore. The story of American agriculture largely has become one of vile disrespect for animals, abuse of birds and worship of the almighty dollar. Some people are working to expose this ugly underbelly of American life, but entrenched agricultural interests use their massive financial power to crush these whistle blowers. My hope is that when people come to realize just what is involved in factory-raised animals and birds, a reality that I once also was ignorant of, they will reconsider their life styles. Buying the products of factory farms makes one a willing participant in the orgy of abuse.
Until later . . .