What makes our industrial livestock sector tick? A sincere desire to feed a hungry world? A commitment to do so in a way that doesn't damage Earth's delicate life support systems? A devotion to the humane treatment of animals? An innate duty to produce a product that's safe for all of us to eat? Or are there darker forces at play?
by Larry Powell
|Photo credit - FAO|
Flying in the face of warnings from the world’s top medical authorities, intensive livestock producers, from Manitoba to Manchuria, continue to give enormous amounts of antibiotics to their herds.
This overuse (sometimes in humans, but overwhelmingly in animals raised for food) is contributing to the growth of “antimicrobial resistance” or AMR. These are “superbugs” which can no longer be controlled by the best, front-line antibiotics we can throw at them.
Many of these “miracle drugs,” are critical in the treatment of deadly human infections. Few, if any alternatives are available. And, partly because hardly any new ones are being produced, AMR is now widely recognized as a world health crisis.
Thousands of Canadians are already dying each year as a direct result of AMR. And, if nothing is done (and nothing is), hundreds of thousands of citizens of this country, and tens of millions worldwide, will succumb by mid-century. This grim expectation has prompted some observers to call AMR, “the other pandemic.”
So why does this industry press ahead with such outrageous behaviour?
Is it for the benefit of their customers, who buy and eat the meat produced in these factories? Hardly. It's so they can fatten their animals up faster, ward off disease and keep them alive long enough to reach market weight, be slaughtered and find their way onto our dinner plates.
Is this supermarket meat cheaper than that produced in organic, free-range or "re-generative" operations?
Of course not! After taking into account the lower price you may pay at the counter, just think about the frequency with which these industrial producers are at the public trough, sopping up taxpayer subsidies.
Not to mention the terrible price we are all paying for the environmental degradation they cause.
Sadly, the "Progressive" Conservative Government of Brian Pallister in the Canadian province of Manitoba, is now firmly ensconced, not as a fair-minded regulator, enforcing enlightened rules that actually protect you and me from the excesses of this industry, but as its enabler. Under the preposterous guise of “reducing red tape,” it's been busily scrapping those regulations so that commerce can have its way.
Never mind that many rural Manitobans (“real farmers,” critics might say) simply don't want giant hog factories on their doorsteps. Yet, they're having their wishes - and those of their duly elected local councils - overturned by "laissez-faire," anti-democratic, disaster-capitalists who occupy the halls of power in Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, Canada's swine producers are on the verge of breaking a long-standing promise to stop using “gestation crates” by 2024 - three years from now. These steel “torture chambers” have, since the dawn of the factory farm, confined pregnant sows to such tiny quarters they’re unable to fulfill normal instincts to forage or explore and often go mad.
In 2014, “The National Farm Animal Care Council” proclaimed, giving more freedom to the animals than the crates provide, actually made scientific sense. But, as the dollar cost of doing away with them dawned on the industry, no longer is it either sensible or scientific. So millions of helpless animals will have to wait, not four, but eight more years before they might see even a modicum of relief from a miserable existence - and even then, only if the industry keeps its promise this time!
Meanwhile, the Pallister government will soon pass laws making it illegal for whistleblowers to see first hand what happens behind the walls of “Big Pig Inc.” It's all under the preposterous guise of protecting these “farms” from diseases which protesters - who might want to expose the transgressions documented here - might “track in” on their boots! So, in an effort to make this all go away, the Government is rushing to impose Draconian rules to shield the industry from any pesky revelations which might embarrass them.
Because of their crowded, intensive and confined nature, factory barns themselves are already “petrie dishes” (aka “the cruise ships of the terrestrial world”) for a plethora of animal diseases. This legislation is nothing but a rush by this government (probably at the behest of industry) to mimic repressive “ag-gag” laws elsewhere. These have proven to be both an affront to democracy and an assault on freedom of the press.
Then there’s “CP Foods” (CPF), the biggest conglomerate of its kind you’ve never heard of. It took over controlling interest in HyLife a couple of years ago. HyLife is that made-in-Manitoba company which is now Canada’s largest pork-processor.
Six years ago, the Guardian revealed that CPF (A Thai-based company), was buying fishmeal from suppliers who either owned, operated or bought from Asian fishing boats manned by slaves.
Several slaves who escaped told the newspaper tales of being beaten, tortured, drugged and starved, sometimes for years.They had also witnessed many of their comrades being executed and dumped at sea. One was reportedly tied to four boats and torn apart, limb-from-limb.
Incredibly, CP Foods admitted that slave labour was part of its supply chain!
Will these new corporate citizens now in our midst be "greasing the wheels" of government with hefty donations to the Conservative Party of Manitoba, as three founders of HyLife were doing for many years before?
And surely these new players on the block will feel entitled to the same kind of generous subsidies the Government has been bestowing on the rest of the industry for so long - from the pockets of hard-working Manitobans, of course!