by Kirk T. Schroder, Ellwood's Food Advocate
Vegans and Farmers, what do they have in common? According to a Vox article, both groups share a common hatred for the way the agricultural industry has evolved over the years into the consolidated factory-farming industry that it is today.
Although most animals are still raised on family farms that are claimed to be independent, the companies that buy these animals from individual farmers have dwindled significantly. Lindsay Abrams, a journalist, explains that essentially all the meat we consume is produced by 4 mega-producers. Despite wild differences in ideologies between farmers, who raise food for consumption, and vegans, who don’t eat meat, both parties agree that the processes that the corporate meat giants are perpetuating are beyond cruel for a variety of reasons.
These mega-producers impose inherent harm to the environment and cause excessive amounts of harm to the animals they slaughter purely for their own convenience. Factory farming is one of the largest contributors to deforestation, water pollution, and air pollution. Mercy For Animals has taken it upon themselves to investigate the treatment of animals in these facilities and have seen, “cows kicked, punched, and dragged by the neck; piglets’ tails cut off with dull blades; chickens stabbed and stomped to death; and fish skinned and cut open while still conscious and able to feel pain.” These atrocities are happening routinely, and even family farmers are outraged with this unnecessary cruelty.
Aside from the environmental and animal harm that mega meat producers cause, they are also taking advantage of the individual farmers that they purchase their livestock from. When the meat industry was operated by a plethora of smaller producers, the farmers had more say in how the industry was run. If the prices offered or practices demanded by some producers were not favored by individual farmers, they could choose to work with other companies. Now, under the monopolized leadership of the meat industry, the only choice farmers can make is abiding by the corporate agenda or going bankrupt. Farmers have no option but to accept unethical practices and rapidly declining prices to stay alive.
Vegans and farmers alike have come together and are calling for change through the Farm System Reform Act. The 2020 revision of this Bill was introduced to both congressional chambers but has not been addressed yet. This bill would prevent big meat corporations, like Tyson and Smithfield, from continuing to drive prices down and restore fairness for farmers in the meat market. Additionally, the bill would immediately prohibit the use of concentrated animal feeding operations until they can be regulated by the EPA. Farmers that were forced into using an unethical system will be able to buy- out of these operations and will also be protected from retaliation. Furthermore, corporation owners will be held responsible for the environmental damage they have either caused or forced farmers into causing.
The Farm System Reform Act of 2020 will enforce long-overdue policies on the American meat market that will prevent farmers from being further exploited by the monopolized meat producers. This bill will also mitigate some of the effects of environmental degradation and animal cruelty within the industry. It is surely not a long-term solution to the multitude of deeply ingrained issues that plague the agricultural industry, but the Farm System Reform Act of 2020, if signed into law, would pave the road for further improvements in America’s agricultural industry.