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Death on a Factory Farm

by: Jill Richardson

Tue Mar 17, 2009 at 17:30:00 PM PDT

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I'm horrified. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I don't think anyone - no matter how carnivorous - wants their meat treated in such a cruel manner before it reaches their plate. I don't think this is a case of PETA vs. meat eaters. I think this is everyone vs. factory farms.

I'm specifically referring to the HBO special aired last night, Death on a Factory Farm. I believe it will be replayed, and you can see several clips from it here.

Below, I've included my own opinions and those of several others who wrote about Death on a Factory Farm.

Jill Richardson :: Death on a Factory Farm
As for me, I've always been hesitant to get into the world of animal rights. I didn't want to identify with people who throw paint on fur coats. And before I went veg, I just didn't want to think about it. I couldn't. I shared in the guilt.

But then, while writing my book, I realized I had no choice. My goal was writing a comprehensive plan for fixing the food system and I knew it wouldn't be complete without addressing animal welfare. So I started researching. And... wow. The descriptions I found about what goes on in factory farms and slaughterhouses were so grisly that I did not even include most of it in the manuscript of the book. I wanted to strike a balance, including enough to drive home the need for reform without grossing out readers so much that they wouldn't read my book.

I understand when people say that we can't have slaughterhouses that are so humane that they don't kill the animals. Animals raised for meat aren't pets. I get it. But there's certainly a lot of room between treating an animal as I treat my pet cats and the atrocities shown in the HBO documentary last night. And you know what? If treating the animals decently is less efficient and prices go up and we all have to eat less meat? FINE.

Here are some other reactions:

If that was the only way to get my food, I think I might rather starve...

My ideal vision of livestock farming does not include animals sitting in their own waste, confined in pens that don't allow them to move or encourage sores to form on their bodies, being picked up by their legs and tossed several times the length of their bodies, allowed to slowly starve, left to be cannibalized by their fellows, or strangled over a course of several minutes while hanging from a chain. - Natasha Chart

It's not something you see every day: a large sow hanging by its neck from a forklift, kicking and swinging through the air until it's dead.

That scene, surreptitiously taped at an Ohio hog facility, is the central image in both the HBO documentary "Death on a Factory Farm" and the court case that it chronicles. It doesn't get any easier to watch as the film goes on, and the prosecutors keep showing it. If it upsets you, then you'll also be disturbed by the shots of sows left to die in fetid pens and the sound of deformed piglets' heads being smashed. - New York Times

As for actions on the farm, you can see for yourself - many of the practices were extreme and unacceptable. What's more the workers (and owners) needed some serious attitude adjustment in terms of animal handling and treatment...

Again, this is not a one-industry issue, and it's long overdue that animal agriculture seriously and cohesively works together on this subject. - Pork Magazine

Folks who tune in to watch will undoubtedly be disturbed by the graphic footage, but they may be equally shocked to learn that most animal cruelty laws don't extend to farm animals. - Kerry Trueman

Also, there's an interview with the creators of the documentary Break Room Live, the internet TV show with Marc Maron and Sam Seder.

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I stopped a couple years ago... (4.00 / 4)
eating supermarket "factory" meat.  I didn't see the TV program you are referring to - we are culturally deprived w/out cable TV - but written descriptions were enough to make me (and my wife) stop eating factory meat. We still eat meat, more as condiments, if we can get it from local farmers.  But I can imagine the horror of seeing actual images of meat factories.  In fact, I did see on national TV news the image of a "downer" cow at a California plant and its mistreatment.  I have no empathy whatever with that kind of cruel, bloody, profit-seeking. Factory meat producers should simply be outlawed, period.

I first learned about this (4.00 / 3)
reading Marion Nestle's book on what to eat.  (I think it was called "What to Eat."  That's when I gave up eating factory meat.

Every time my husband bitches about the cost of groceries, I just say "I don't want to eat something that's lived its life standing in its own poo."  That usually shuts him up.  Actually, it usually shuts up anyone who comments on my meat pickiness.  

I'm really lucky to live in northern ca.  we have an abundance of farms that allow animals to live as they were meant to.  

Thanks for the diary.  I could never stand to watch the show, but at least now I have the flavor of it.

I support industrial ag (4.00 / 1)
But what this farm did was despicable.  

important (4.00 / 1)
Most of us don't really know how our food gets to the grocery store. I started buying local 3 years ago and now rarely get meat outside of local farms. Half a cow will feed our family for a year - generously. Sites like are very helpful in finding local farmers.

Besides being better for the animal and for us, supporting local farms does so much more for our land and our economy -- another side benefit from the few extra dollars a week we spend buying the good stuff. I realize I'm preaching to the converted here, but it can't be said enough.

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