Factory Farming in America

The New York Time’s Coverage of Factory Farming

The New York Times has published sixteen articles on factory farming from late 2011 to early 2014. There was one article published in 2011 (on December 1, 2011), five articles published in 2012, and seven articles published in 2013. In 2014, there have been 3 articles published on the issue thus far.

In 2012, three of the five articles on factory farming in the New York Times were published in the first half of April, and four of the five articles were op-eds. Out of all sixteen articles, half of them imply crisis. Nicholas Kristof, a well-known op-ed columnist, wrote four of the sixteen articles. Three of the four articles by Kristof have questions for titles to engage his audience.

 The single article published on factory farming in 2011 was titled Dutch Seek Space for a Growing Appetite for Pork, and did not pertain to the United States. The article describes the development and early stages of factory farming in the Netherlands.

A Chicken Without Guilt was the first op-ed on factory farming published by the New York Times in 2012. The article compares factory farmed meat products to meat substitutes and imparts that advances in food technology help to produce more appetizing “fake” meats.

A second op-ed, Arsenic in our Chicken?, was written by Nicholas Kristof . The article focuses on a pair of studies by Johns Hopkins University scientists that suggest that poultry on factory farms are routinely fed caffeine, active ingredients of Tylenol and Benadryl, banned antibiotics and even arsenic. Although the specific health effects of such trace elements remain unknown, these studies raise serious questions about the long-term costs of factory farming.

Is an Egg for Breakfast Worth This?, also written by Nicholas Kristoff , reveals that modern egg farms are rife with abuse, disease, and bad sanitation. The article expresses strong support for new federal standards that will provide more and cleaner space for chickens.

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photo courtesy of National Geographic

The last article from 2012 I will mention is Farm Use of Antibiotics Defies Scrutiny by Sabrina Tavernise. According to the article, scientists say there is a troubling lack of hard data on the relationship between routine antibiotic used in animals and antibiotic-resistant infections. Tavernise says farm animals consume 80% of the antibiotics sold in the United States. However, producers of meat and poultry are not required to report how they use the drugs.

Although there were seven articles published in the New York Times on factory farming in 2013, I will only be touching on two that imply crisis and two that don’t. The first article published in 2013 was Taping of Farm Cruelty is Becoming the Crime (emphasis on the word “the”). State legislatures across the country have proposed or enacted legislation making it illegal to secretly videotape animal cruelty at livestock farms. According to new ag-gag bills, animal cruelty isn’t the crime. Videotaping it is. According to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), these new laws represent an attempt to hide animal cruelty on factory farms in order to keep Americans in the dark about where there food is coming from.

The next article from 2013 I would like to point out is Tracing Germs Through the Aisles. According to this article, the scientific community broadly agrees that overuse of antibiotics on animals in factory farms is a major culprit for causing growing resistance to drugs.

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photo courtesy of National Geographic

I briefly mention the article Rescued Hens Fly Cross-Country, No Flapping Required, to Fine New Lives, because it has the most positive title of all the articles published in the New York Times related to factory farming. The article says that 1,200 California farm hens, past their prime egg-laying years, were saved from being euthanized and flown on a chartered plane to Elmira, NY.

I also want to highlight the op-ed article Are Chicks Brighter Than Babies? because I wrote about the cognitive abilities of farm animals in a previous post. The interesting title of this op-ed, written by Nicholas Kristof, intrigues his audience and encourages people to read the article. Research shows that chickens possess more intelligence than many people previously assumed. Kristof believes that creatures of such intelligence should not be condemned to live in conditions that exist in factory farms.

There have only been three articles published by the New York Times on factory farming in 2014 thus far. The first, Chipotle Blurs Lines With a Satirical Series about Industrial Farming, was published in January. The article, which I mentioned in a previous post, covers Chipotle’s release of a four-part comedy miniseries called “Farmed and Dangerous” that satirizes factory farming.

In February, the New York Times published an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof that deplores the treatment of pigs at many factory farms, especially Iron Maiden Farms in Kentucky, where secret video footage taken by an employee reveals brutal conditions in which animals are kept. Kristof holds that cheap pork is not worth animal cruelty, overuse of antibiotics, and environmental pollution.

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photo courtesy of Center for Food Safety

The most recent article in the New York Times on factory farming, The Unhealthy Meat Market, was also written by Nicholas Kristof and published on March 12, 2014. The title of this article surprised me because it isn’t a question like the rest of the titles of Kristof’s work. The Op-Ed examines detrimental effects of modern meat production practiced by Tyson Foods on both animal and human health, and the economy.

Factory Farming and Pollution

In November of 2011, Oprah Magazine published an article written by Kathy Dobie titled One Woman Takes a Brave Stand Against Factory Farming. The article focuses on waste on factory farms and how it makes its way into waterways, pollutes the air with toxic fumes, and has a negative impact on people and the environment.

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photo courtesy of the Sleuth Journal

The title of the article and the article itself are pretty positive. The portion of the title that reads “Against Factory Farming” presents a clear position on the issue. At one point in the article, factory farms are even referred to as “the enemy.”

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photo courtesy of Oprah Magazine

The article in its entirety is similar to a story, which interests people and makes them want to read it. However, there are too many unimportant details in the story that make the article extremely long. The length of the article may discourage people from even beginning to read it.

The article is about an ordinary woman – a farmer from a small town – who readers can relate to. On the other hand, Lynn Henning’s dedicates so much of her life to fighting against factory farms and has even helped start an organization and won a prestigious award; these three factors may alienate readers who believe there’s no way they could make that much of a difference.

In the article, the author quotes Henning:

“You’re not being told the truth about where your food comes from. This is affecting people across the country and [around] the world and it’s huge because this is our food supply, [our land, our water, and our air].”

The author included these statements in her article to invite her audience to question the situation and seek more information on the subject, as well as to reveal what a serious issue factory farming is. According to the author, there are 12 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) within a ten-mile radius of Lynn’s home. These CAFOs house about 20,000 cows and 10,000 pigs between them, “which produce more waste than the city of Chicago. All within [a] small, rural area.” This information emphasizes the severity of the problem.

Halfway through the article, the author describes driving past a house where “waste is spread right up to a backyard with a swing set and a slide.” She also mentions that an elderly couple living across from a CAFO called Lynn to tell her they were contemplating suicide.

“Their well was contaminated, they couldn’t go outside, couldn’t open their windows. They had to wear face-masks. Their children wouldn’t visit because the stench was so bad, and they couldn’t sell their house because no one else wanted to live there.” According to Lynn, “they felt they were worth more dead.”

The author included these accounts with the intention of triggering an emotional response. She wants readers to feel sympathy for the residents of this small town in Michigan.

Overall, I have found that the goal of this particular article is to inspire readers to tale a stand against factory farming and do the best they can to help the situation.

 

Promoting Sustainable Farming in America

In 2012, Chipotle Mexican Grill launched an advertising campaign entitled “Food with Integrity” with the slogan “Cultivate A Better World.” Chipotle’s website states that Food with Integrity is their “commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment and the farmers.” Chipotle began using sustainably raised ingredients about thirteen years ago. The goal of the campaign is to inspire a demand for change. However, the campaign may be bias because of Chipotle’s underlying desire to promote its fast food restaurant.

Chipotle commissioned the making of a short film entitled “Back to the Start,” as well as the film’s soundtrack.


video courtesy of Chipotle

Although Chipotle’s ultimate motive in launching this campaign might have been to promote its restaurant’s organic food, the film also succeeds in promoting sustainable agriculture in America.

In 2013, Chipotle launched another short film entitled “The Scarecrow.”


video courtesy of Chipotle

This video can only be found on YouTube. In many instances, “The Scarecrow” has been praised as an innovative piece of marketing and applauded for its anti-factory-farming message. An article in The New Yorker discusses the possibility that Chipotle is a “‘giant corporation,’ tugging at our heartstrings not because of genuine interest in sustainability or animal welfare, but to make us buy burritos.” However, the end of the article does state that Chipotle’s attempt to source ingredients that avoid harmful practices seems sincere.”

Chipotle has also recently begun to utilize a stealth marketing strategy: the release of a four-part comedy series called “Farmed and Dangerous” that satirizes industrial-scale farming:


video courtesy of Farmed and Dangerous

In contrast to “Back to the Start,” there are no references to Chipotle in these episodes. The miniseries is available on Hulu, an extremely popular media-streaming website, under TV-comedies. However, according to a New York Times article covering the series, Chipotle hopes that “preaching the gospel of sustainable agriculture will translate into consumers buying their fast food at Chipotle.”

Promoting an End to Animal Cruelty in Factory Farms

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) runs its own campaign on Factory Farming. According to the HSUS, its goal is to “reduce the suffering of animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk.”

There are a number of news articles and videos about factory farming on the Humane Society’s website. The first news article was released on January 27th, 2014, so the campaign is relatively recent. There are only 10 news articles in total, most of which cover progress in the fight against animal cruelty in factory farms. The Humane Society discusses the promotion and passage of legislation in favor of animal rights, the closing of establishments with abusive practices, and in one instance, the rescue and relocation of factory-farmed cows. The intention of the HSUS in highlighting victories in the fight to end animal cruelty in factory farms is to inspire hope by showing that the situation can change, and people can make a difference.

Laura Marano, star of the Disney Channel’s “Austin & Ally,” is featured in the Humane Society’s  “Meatless Monday” poster campaign.

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photo courtesy of the Humane Society

Meatless Monday encourages people to go meat-free one day a week to help animals and the environment. The poster campaign launched at Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, CA. According to the Humane Society, “Laura joined students for a Meatless Monday lunch and spoke to a culinary class about the benefits of enjoying more plant-based meals.” Thousands of posters were mailed out to schools across the country, and some of the nation’s largest school districts now participate. The advantage of bringing a famous icon on-board is the ability to influence a wider audience.

The Humane Society’s videos function to raise awareness by exposing the practices of factory farms through footage caught on camera by undercover investigators. These videos also promote a return to what farming used to and should be.


video courtesy of the Humane Society

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most well-known animal protection organization. It’s no surprise that there is an apparent bias in favor of ending factory farming ingrained in the HSUS’s media coverage of the issue.

Factory Farming: Cruelty to Animals

Have you ever wondered where your food comes from or how it gets made?

Factory farming is a reality in our country that not many people are aware of because the food industry uses supermarkets and fast food restaurants to create a veil between producers and consumers. According to Farm Forward, factory farms and their associated industrial slaughterhouses produce “cheap” meat, eggs, and dairy by externalizing their costs. Costs to the public from the ecological damage and health problems created by these practices are never reflected in the prices that consumers pay.

Farm animals are remarkable creatures that experience pleasure and have complex social structures. Pigs are known to jump for joy, and cows develop friendships as well as grudges over time. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), chickens can complete complex mental tasks such as comprehend cause-and-effect relationships and understand that objects still exist even after they are hidden from view.

So why do we, as a nation, allow the poor quality of life and inhuman treatment of these animals?

I have found that there has been very little media coverage on this issue so far. In the Belly of the Beast, an article published by Rolling Stone in 2013, provides detailed accounts of undercover investigation in factory farms:

Animals are held in captivity, so tightly packed that they can’t turn around or lie sideways. They never see the light of day and their eyes water constantly from the stench of their own waste. They are fed food containing growth-promoting drugs and sometimes-even pieces of garbage. Sometimes, they are unable to support their own unnaturally bloated bodies, causing them to collapse with their legs crushed and broken beneath them. Animals who are depressed and have no hope don’t fight back. They cry out with piercing shrieks of pain and fear, begging for mercy as they are dragged away to be killed.

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photo courtesy of Rolling Stone

Rolling Stone is a prestigious magazine that has the ability to influence the awareness and opinions of a lot of people. Mary Beth Sweetland, the investigative director for the Human Society of the United States (HSUS), coordinated the infiltration operation discussed in the article. A bias arises from the investigators’ role as animal rights activists. The article frames factory farms as unjust and secretive. According to the author, Paul Solotaroff, these activists are our only lens into what goes on in factory farms. The Humane Society is “keeping an eye on the way American meat is grown.” Such a task is rightfully the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the agency is so short-staffed that it typically only sends inspectors to slaughterhouses, where all they do is check a small sample of animals before they are put to death.

The descriptions of what undercover investigators witnessed in factory farms are meant to inspire pity in the hearts readers. Rolling Stone takes this one step further by guiding us to imagine ourselves as factory farmed animals:

“You are a typical egg-laying chicken in America, and this is your life . . .”
“You are a typical milk cow in America, and this is your life . . .”

The use of the word “typical” implies that most of our nations farmed animals are raised under the conditions of factory farms. According to Farm Forward, factory farming now accounts for more than 99% of all farmed animals raised and slaughtered in the United States.

The entire article is written in the present tense to communicate that factory farming is a huge problem in America today. However, the solution is simple. Animals Australia’s video Here’s How We End Factory Farming explains how you can help:

video courtesy of Animals Australia

Choose kindness over cruelty and free animals from factory farms!