October 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Today something on Twitter caught my eye, and got my dander up, so to speak. There is a lovely hashtag floating aroung the twitterverse that I find confusing and aggravating: “#EndFactoryFarming”.
First off – what the heck is a factory farm? I’ve read multiple blog posts and articles, with no resulting explaination. If anything, urbandictionary offers the clearest example, and even that is asinine (and hardly a credible source).
Factory Farming (courtesy of urbandictionary): Raising farm animals for human consumption solely for profit, without regard to humane farm practices, human and animal health concerns, environmental sustainability, or farm worker safety.
ex. Before Wilbur was rescued from a factory farm he was kept with 19 other pigs in a tiny concrete pen without any access to the outdoors. His tail was cut off without anesthesia when he was just a little piglet and soon after he developed respiratory disease from the lack of clean, fresh air. The stench of feces and urine inside the factory was overwhelming, but it’s all Wilbur knew. Being a normal pig, Wilbur is as smart as a dog or a three year old human, but he couldn’t figure out how to free himself from factory farming. Lucky for him, some kind people rescued Wilbur and now he gets to live out the rest of his life on a beautiful farm with mud puddles to play in and grass to roll around on.“
Oh. My. I can’t handle the ignorance.
First off, I grew on on a 90 sow farrow to finish operation in the middle of Michigan. Is that large? No. Is that small? No. Our farm was pretty middle-of-the-road in terms of hog production numbers, until my Junior year of high school when Mom and Dad decided to sell the sows and focus on feeder hogs and beef cattle. Now, I help my boyfriend run a small show pig operation, where we farrow 8 sows that provide 4-H projects and breeding stock to people in our area. Want an idea of what that looks like? Check out www.truevisiongenetics.com.
Let me clarify that in both cases – 100 sows and 8 sows – the pigs were raised the same exact way. Sows give birth in farrowing crates, which are metal structures that provide the sow with plenty of room to stand, lay down, and roll over, while protecting the piglets from being crushed. I’m sorry to let my personal bias to affect this post, but I truly can NOT agree with the folks out there that think that farrowing crates are awful. Have you ever seen a baby pig bitten in half by it’s Mama? Guess what – I have. And it is NOT a pretty sight.
Within a maximum 3 days of birth, baby pigs are processed. This means castrating the males, clipping needle teeth, giving iron shots, and sometimes clipping tails. These processes are intended protect the piglets and their mom from the harm that the pigs sharp teeth can inflict, as well as reducing the risk later on in life to the animals and their handlers. I understand that all can sound a little shady, but let me ask you this – do you remember the first time you visited the dentist or got your first vaccinations or booster shots? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the answer is no.
After about 21 days in the crate on their mom, pigs are weaned. They are removed from their mom and placed in an indoor pen where they have plenty of clean straw and the temperature is regulated by heat lamps or fans, according to the weather. As the piglets grow they are moved into larger pens with fewer pigs, ensuring that each pig has the space that they require. Once the pigs are about 220 pounds we decide their fate… if they will enter the food system, or become breeding stock. Those that are deemed “market hogs” are trailered to their future destination, while breeding animals are moved outdoors into “sow lots”, which are large dirt or concrete pens. I have never once seen a sow lot that did not include a shelter for the animals, supplied with warm bedding.
Is every hog farm out there like ours? No. Are there some that use questionable practices? Yes, I understand that. But please, PLEASE refrain from using radical terminology that no one understands, and do not blame the majority for the actions of the minority. And if you think that Charlotte’s Web should serve as the model of hog production, do you really want your food source to be a farm infested with rats?
Do you have a better definition of “Factory Farm” available? If so, please share.