The rallying cry from animal rights and anti-farming groups is familiar: farmers are monsters; they are faceless, nameless, profit-driven organizations who care not about animal suffering, nor animal welfare; farmers are those that care only about the bottom line.
Understandably, the inevitable parallel drawn between farmers and the “industry” has farmers standing aligned with their pitchforks raised in the air in protest, with some even going so far as to lose sleep (more sleep than lost by late night birthing checks, milking or veterinary call-outs, at least) over the denigration of the way of life they are so proud to be a part of.
So it begs the questions: What is a farm? What is a factory farm? And finally, what is the difference between the 2 and why can consumers not adequately differentiate?
A factory farm is defined as “a system of large-scale industrialized and intensive agriculture that is focused on profit with animals kept indoors and restricted in mobility.”
Opponents of farming and animals rights activists inherently focus their attacks on the pillars of “for profit“, “restricted in mobility” and surprisingly, “kept indoors“. I say surprisingly, because for anyone who fancies themselves as a stockman, farmer or even animal lover, it only seems reasonable and humane that animals would be granted shelter from nature’s elements, if it should be available. However, these same activists seem to conveniently forget the part of the definition that refers to “a system of large-scale industrialized and intensive agriculture”. So why is this???
Simply put, it is so much easier to lob grenades at a target who is financially or technically unable or unprepared to lob them back. Taking on the “factory farms” has become a crusade against all farming and against animal husbandry practices in general, no matter how humane they may be or on what scale they take place.
Now I understand that to a city dweller with a limited number of pets (if any) a farm with 50 dairy cows or 25 sheep or 20 laying hens or 100 broiler chickens or 12,000 bushels of grain or 150 cow-calf pairs may SEEM a bit like a factory farm… It may seem like an operation that exists solely for profit… It may appear as though those animals are restricted in mobility, especially if you try to think of 50 Holsteins crammed into a typical suburban backyard… But this is where the line between perception and reality exists.
At current prices of $5-10/bushel for grains, that farmer is grossing $60,000 to $120,000. That’s gross (literally) because it does not account for the expenditures to realize that income, which reduce the net (take-home / profit) by as much as 50%. That hardly sounds like a “for profit” motivation to me! The comparison between grains and livestock rearing on the family farm is stark. Family farms simply do not exist solely “for profit” or because they embrace “industrialized” methodologies.
So please continue to accuse us of being monsters who lie, distort the truth, show only the happy moments and delight in the torture, suffering and pain of animals while profiting from their exploitation… Because the truth is on our side; we are farmers. We know the truth about what we do; we live it every day.