I'm 41, raised in a Mid-Michigan suburb, and a HUGE animal lover. I've been surrounded by farmland my whole life, from home to travelling up the upper two-thirds of the lower peninsula and the east side of the upper peninsula. I've never had any actual experience on a farm, and I never thought past the peaceful views of lazy cows in pastures as I drove around the state. I never even connected those cows to the hamburgers I ate. The first time I ever thought about where my food came from was when I read about the woman in Utah who was charged with agricultural operation interference. When I started researching how farm animals live and die, I was appalled by what I saw and read. I stopped eating all meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products until I could learn more.
Over the past two months I have come to the following conclusions:
Even the most common-sense animal advocacy groups lie by omission, pick and choose small parts of legislation that they want you to be aware of without giving you direct links to the legislation in it's entirety, slam you with the most shocking pictures and videos, and fill their emails with more donation links than actual information.
It is very difficult to find factual information on the subject. Mostly you just find both sides of the issue calling each other names and saying things they either don't or can't back up with facts. There seems to be very little credible data, I am assuming because there really isn't much regulation of the industry.
I have come to grips with the fact that there really is no nice way to end the life an animal raised for human consumption. Even the most humane ways will always seem awful to "regular" people. And I'm sure it's not a very pleasant thing to have to do even for the average farm worker.
I still have issues with the lack of outside regulation of the industry. I also believe that worker conditions/pay are one of the main problems; high turnover rates indicate to me that it is difficult not only to get and keep "good" people, but to ensure that workers are properly trained, thus leading to both intentional and unintentional animal cruelty.
I think that the Ag Industry has made a huge mistake in attempting to criminalize whistle-blowing. Although I am not a huge fan of animal activist groups, I believe they are necessary at this point to expose not just random acts of cruelty, but more so bring to light the much bigger issues of lack of regulation and the problems with retaining good workers Also, it's a pretty big bonehead move to either come near to or actually infringing on the first amendment. I thank them for doing that though, otherwise I may never have been spurred to do some research.
I do not, nor have I ever, been against raising animals for food. I realize that those animals will never have "good" lives. But I do expect them to be treated as humanely as possible. And until the industry is more transparent and regulated by credible outside sources, and I can read some cold, hard facts based on those sources, I will do my best to not have any meat or dairy products in my food (unless it is obtained through hunting by someone I know - meat, obviously, not dairy products...and not beef lol). As for poultry, which to me has the very worst industry standards, I doubt that I will ever eat them or eggs again.
As an afterthought, I'd like to give one example of why I say there is no reliable info out there. A quote from this article:
"Take those tight gestation crates used for sows. They're designed not to make pigs crazy, but to keep mothers from accidentally suffocating their children, says Tony Bolen, a Wisconsin veterinarian. "The mothers lay on a lot of piglets if they don't have them," he explains."
My first thoughts after reading that were: How long after birth are the piglets taken away from their mothers? How long after giving birth is a sow impregnated again? How long is the gestation period? Basically, for what percentage of the sow's life does she actually have piglets with her that she might lay down on and crush? Besides, I'm pretty sure "gestation" crates are for sows who are pregnant, not nursing piglets. What an incredibly irrelevant and misleading quote.
Oh yeah, and a big thanks to Big Ag for bringing the existence of the American Legislative Exchange Council to my attention. ;)