A set of photos exposing the wastelands that are factory farm feedlots in North America (CAFO’s), has been recently released by Artist Mishka Henner. Henner came across these satellite images while researching photos of oil fields. These images reveal the reality we’re now faced with, having more than tripled the globe’s population in little more than a single century. Worldometers.info is a website where you can view (in real-time) ebb and flow in an array of different topics, anything from population growth, to social media, and world resources usage… government, environmental, you name it, it’s tracked. Total number of malnourished and obese people in the world, how many tweets and blog posts published, and almost anything in between.
As a result of literally more than tripling our planet’s human population in actually less than a century (86 years to be precise), we are now needing to produce food for seven billion mouths. Imagine not only that amount of humans needing nourishment, but the absolutely staggering amount of animals needing to be ‘raised’ (and somehow: fed) for human consumption. Imagine the amount of food product needing to be produced in order to feed the billions of animal mouths we’ve mass-farmed. Imagine the land destroyed in the over-production of food product for these billions of animals. Imagine the land destroyed due to accumulation of the urine and feces of billions of animals. Imagine the precious, and already threatened groundwater contaminated via the seepage and flooding of these gargantuan cesspools (pictured above). Imagine the hole in our ozone from the ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and methane gas clouds that are inevitably produced. Imagine the hormones needed to grow billions of animals at a rapid pace for human consumption. Imagine these hormones and antibiotics pumped through these animals bodies in order to keep them from disease (and loss of profits) while they stand, their entire lives, knee deep in their own shit. Imagine lives lost to E. coli and Salmonella from the contaminated meats these unsanitary conditions produce. Imagine not only the toll all of this is taking on our already-reaped planet, but also on our bodies as we consume product we truly know nothing about, or at the very least turn a blind eye to.
Image from FactoryFarmMap.org depicting concentrations of these factories in the United States alone. These factories exist on a global scale, but are highly concentrated in the U.S.A for obvious reasons. You can visit here for interactive maps and additional information.
The NRDC’s website has a wealth of information on this topic for further reading.
My current read is Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer. You’ve probably seen his name around as he is also the author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, now a major motion picture. Foer has a way of writing about the subject of factory farming that gives both the vegan-activist and the flesh-eating-meat-and-potatoes-type: equal voice. As the book sets out to show you the horrors of factory farming and our lack of knowledge surrounding the subject, it also gives the reader “a case for eating dogs”: (a recipe for ‘stewed dog’) and an example of how odd it may be that we give certain animals more importance than others, and how our culture has decided that certain animals have the mental capacity to be “man’s best friend” while others do not. This, by the way, has been scientifically disproved. An article published just last month, reveals the truth about bird’s brains and how similar they are to that of a mammal’s. Social reasoning, problem solving, and long term memory are examples. Not so shocking really, or at least I don’t think so.
The topic of factory farming in our current day and age is so wide scale that I can hardly get my brain around it, let alone discuss it properly in a blog post. But I feel strongly enough about the issue to at least touch on it over my morning latte. Don’t worry, the milk in my mug was produced ethically and responsibly, and no landmass or animal was mistreated in the process of bringing it to my grocery store and then fridge. Right?
The milk in question….
And to think: we haven’t even touched this morning, on the subject of animal abuse and cruelty in these factories, or the reliability of labels such as ‘organic’ or ‘free range’… just the basics. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Did you know that a several-foot-wide window in a hen house containing thousands of birds, allowing just a few birds to “see to the outdoors” is considered ‘free range’?
Everything you look at, pick up, and purchase, in your grocery store is worth taking a closer look at and questioning (even if it’s just for the sake of not turning a blind eye, and knowing what you’re eating). A steak isn’t the only thing coming from factory farms. Eggs, milk, cheese. The list is endless, and these are just the obvious ones.
Question it. Get concerned about it. Even Google it! Make yourself aware so that you can make the best informed decisions possible, for your psyche, your health, and the health of the planet. And don’t put such a weak value on produce! When we think of proteins, the general population discounts vegetables and legumes. Healthaliciousness.com gives you a list of vegetables and legumes highest in proteins. Soybeans are at the top of the list no matter which charts you’re looking at, but I’m not an advocate for this particular item due to their high concentration of estrogen. But estrogen and other hormones in our food products is an entirely different subject, and a story for another day!
“Humans are the only animals on earth who have the ability to choose not to eat something for reasons of conscience.” -Safran Foer.
We still have to eat and we can’t survive on celery alone, but pay attention. Look. Read. Get informed. You may not be able to cut meats and other products out of your diet completely (for whatever your personal reasons), but making better informed decisions and at the very least, again, knowing what you eat– can only do good. For all.
Don’t just look. See.
Other websites of interest: