Marxist Animalism

August 2020 Forums General discussion Marxist Animalism

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    Private financial backing for the world’s 35 largest meat and dairy companies totalled an estimated $478bn (£380bn) between January 2015 and 30 April this year.

    Dr Tara Garnett, an Oxford University food systems analyst, called the funding and production of intensive animal protein to provide cheap food “a systemic problem created and maintained by powerful financial interests and by absent, unhelpful and damaging governance”.

    Scientists have repeatedly expressed alarm over the environmental impact of large-scale food and dairy production and are calling for a transformation of the global food system, comparing the environmental impact to that of big oil. They say the current model is responsible for up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and 70% of freshwater use, with huge reductions in meat-eating essential to avoid climate crisis.

    The report by the UK-based campaign group Feedback describes meat and dairy production as a “fundamentally extractive business model” propped up by “vast flows of private finance”. It adds: “There is no version of industrial animal agriculture that is compatible with climate justice and a zero-carbon future.”

    Feedback’s executive director, Carina Millstone, said the environmental and biodiversity damage from intensive meat and dairy production was “as bad if not worse” as that of major oil and gas companies.


    Humans and monkeys do not speak the same language, but their ways of thinking are much more similar than previously assumed. This is confirmed by new research results from the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University.

    In an experiment with 100 test subjects from different age groups, cultures and species, the researchers found out that indigenous Chimane people from Bolivia, adults, preschool children from the US and macaque monkeys all have an affinity for so-called recursion which is a cognitive process that takes place in the brain when, for example, a person is arranging words, sentences or symbols that express complex commands, feelings or ideas.


    Fast food giant KFC has laid bare the realities of chicken production after admitting to poor welfare conditions among its suppliers.

    More than a third of the birds on its supplier farms in the UK and Ireland suffer from a painful inflammation known as footpad dermatitis that in severe cases can prevent birds from walking normally.

    Nearly all the chickens reared for KFC are fast-growing breeds that take just 30 days to reach slaughter weight. The push for high growth rates and maximum amounts of breast meat has exacerbated health and welfare problems for birds, including inability to move and liver and heart failure.

    One in 10 KFC chickens also suffer hock burn caused by ammonia from the waste of other birds, which can burn through the skin of the leg – a condition typically associated with inactive birds.

    While the overall number of birds that die or are culled because of disease, injury or lameness is falling, the weighted mortality rate on KFC farms is still around 4%. In a flock of 10,000 birds that means around 400 birds dying or being culled.


    As slaughterhouses across the nation have been forced to close by the virus, gruesome stories have emerged of the mass killing of millions of chickens and pigs who can no longer be brought to market. Chickens have been gassed or smothered with a foam in which they slowly suffocate. Among other methods, pigs – whose cognitive abilities are similar to dogs – have been killed by a method known as ventilator shutdown, in which the airways to a barn are closed off and steam is introduced. A whistleblower’s video shows thousands of pigs dying as they are slowly suffocated and roasted to death overnight.

    Although the pandemic has focused attention on these incidents, they represent a tiny fraction of the daily abuses heaped on farmed animals. The billions of animals slaughtered every year in the United States are intelligent, sensitive beings capable of feeling a range of emotions. They are driven to raise their young and form complex social structures, both impossible under the conditions of modern farming. Instead, they live short, painful, disease-ridden lives. Chickens, who make up over 90% of the animals slaughtered every year, suffer the worst. Their deaths are subject to effectively no federal regulation, meaning the birds are frequently frozen, boiled, drowned or suffocated to death.


    “About 70 billion land animals are produced globally for food each year, an estimated two-thirds reared in intensive conditions.”

    “…through the trees, we spotted the lake. At the same time the smell reached us: an appalling stench, one of the worst smells I have ever encountered in my life. This was no lake. It was an open cesspit, a vast lagoon full of waste from the pig farm. Floating beneath the surface were the bodies of pigs in various stages of decomposition. Through the filth we could see snouts and curly tails. Everywhere was the detritus of factory farming – plastic syringe casings, needles and white clinical gloves – floating in the rancid pool and discarded on adjacent farmland. It was the first time I’d ever stepped on to a factory farm. It was a moment I would never be able to forget….”

    “… The whirring of machinery, the clinking of chains, the animal cries, the shouts of workers, the steam, the blood and offal; carcasses swinging on the line. The animals may be stressed, but you wonder also what impact this has on the workers who do this, day in, day out…”

    “…In the age of hyper-cheap food you can pick up a whole chicken for a few pounds, and a pint of milk for less than a bottle of water. Yet these prices fail to reflect the true cost of production. The terms dictated by supermarkets and processing companies put too many farmers in the grotesque position of losing money on the foodstuffs they’ve spent weeks, months or years producing.

    “…And despite the furore around the spread of megafarms, size isn’t an indicator of the welfare standards they maintain; in fact larger, more modern units are often superior, with hi-tech systems and good veterinary care… But when things go wrong – fires, floods, disease outbreaks, equipment breakdowns, pollution – the bigger the farm, the bigger the consequences…”

    Despite what I’ve seen, experience tells me that the majority of livestock farmers are decent, hardworking folk who do their best to make a living in an industry where money doesn’t readily flow down to the small guys, and where margins are often so slim that any unforeseen event can prove catastrophic…Many of these farmers are as much victims of the system as their livestock.”

    “…It’s the sheer scale of production, driven by insatiable demand, that is the problem, fuelling bigger farms and more intensive systems – the more animals you can squeeze in, the more food you can produce, the more money there is to be made…this has unavoidably created a system which has turned farm animals into mere commodities. “Meat machines”…industrially produced chickens are no longer referred to as birds but as “crops”, in the same way as you might refer to a field of lettuces or tomatoes. Chicken producers can be referred to as “growers”, not farmers, and it comes as no surprise that they are not paid for individual birds, but for the weight each “crop” of chickens achieves.



    Williams slaughters local livestock in his small abattoir next to the farmland in Machynlleth’s bucolic Dyfi Valley where he keeps his own cows and sheep. All the livestock he slaughters is grass-fed on farms within a 20-mile radius, most fewer than 10 miles away.

    “I house the animals the night before so they’re rested; they’re on clean straw and water and it is short work from field to abattoir,” he says. “Because of the nature of the task, one of the most important things is there must be no cruelty involved whatsoever.”

    “Wil has got a field so the animals have no stress,” says Joy Neal, from nearby Glandyfi. “He is kind to the animals and provides good meat for local people and I think he is much appreciated!”

    These small businesses aren’t profitable enough to compete with supermarkets, and a growing burden of paperwork and regulation hasn’t helped.

    Sustainable Food Trust (SFT) founder Patrick Holden explains, “We’ve destroyed that latticework of localized infrastructure which used to be in place…Abattoirs are particularly critical because you can’t have local and welfare friendly meat of any description unless you have local abattoirs.”

    Local operations cannot compete with industrial farming on price. But there are myriad costs that don’t show up on supermarket price tags, both environmental and in terms of local economies that suffer when food production shifts to large, centralized operations.

    “Big retailers talk about economies of scale but what this really means is that these large food systems are an extractive industry, they’re mining the social and human capital that used to be a feature of resilient food systems,” Holden says. “It’s a short-term gain and a long-term cost and we’re just beginning to wake up to that now.”

    And the factory-farming model isn’t just bad for animal welfare. It relies heavily on antibiotics due to the risk of disease when animals are packed together in large numbers, and huge quantities of grain and protein-rich soya that is grown in agrochemical-dependent monocultures, leading to soil degradation, pollution and biodiversity loss.

    “If you look at industrial systems of rearing animals they do contribute to the emergence, spread and amplification of disease,” says Peter Stevenson, of Compassion in World Farming.

    Animal farming is responsible for 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions and cattle raised for meat and dairy accounts for 65% of that. Yet done right, rearing livestock can contribute to healthier soils that take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and keep it in the ground. Eating meat less often, and sourcing from ethical produces when we do, can dramatically reduce its environmental impact.


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