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Factory farming - anything but innovative

News Section Icon Published 17/08/2012


A story has emerged on leading tech/ethics blog Fast Company, talking about technological innovations in factory farming. We don't believe that it tells the full story, and decided to air our views (our comment is currently pending approval). Here they are:

Thanks for choosing to look at the issue of factory farming, but there are three fundamental problems with the article.

  • Factory farming as impersonal

    To describe factory farming as impersonal is a severe understatement. At Compassion in World Farming, we look at the true cost of factory farming from a number of environmental, economic and social perspectives, and it’s clear that factory farming is a failing system of food production. From the rampant wastage of precious resources to biodiversity loss and pollution to the unbridled use of antibiotics (particularly in the US), factory farming is a whole lot worse than "impersonal".

  • Factory farming as innovative

    To frame anything to do with factory farming as "innovative" is dangerous territory indeed. The term "innovation" is synonymous with "doing something better", and we have a tonne of evidence showing that factory farming does nothing better. We need to look at the whole value chain to understand the problems inherent in factory farming – tinkering at the edges won’t change its fundamentally inefficient nature. Efficiency isn’t just about producing the "cheapest", lowest-quality meat and dairy as quickly as possible – you have to factor in the external costs of production. And you talk about "ruthless efficiency", but this is only half right. Factory farming – efficient? Nope! Ruthless? Absolutely. Ruthless in its treatment of animals, ruthless in its treatment of farmers, ruthless in its use of the earth’s precious resources and ruthless in its treatment of the public and the habitats in which we live.

  • Factory farming as inevitable

    You say that whether we like it or not, we’re moving into an era of techno-farming. This is a huge assumption, and implies that we are all powerless individuals, incapable of choosing the food and farming that we want. Well, we don’t believe that. We think that food is one of the most important things in our lives, and we all have the choice – three times a day – to vote for a better food future. A future that shirks the archaic notion of factory farming in favour of positive, practical solutions that deliver delicious, nutritious, humane food for all.

We're not alone

And we’re not alone in thinking this; people and organisations with wildly different interests – from animal welfare to environmental protection to international development to food safety – are all united in their view on industrial livestock farming – it doesn’t work. There is a better way. Technology has a clear place in farming, but it must be used to do good things better, not do bad things worse.


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