By Erik Marcus
Sixty thousand chickens were found dead this week at a North Carolina factory farm, a result of a failed generator powering the facility’s ventilation system. This sort of tragedy is totally preventable, and, as we’ll see, the owners of this farm ought to be criminally prosecuted.
It’s also far from the first time an equipment failure has killed thousands of animals—a similar incident killed 3800 pigs less than a year ago. So let’s look the causes behind these tragedies, and what it would take to keep another incident like this from ever occurring.
One of the points I regularly make in my writing is that while factory farming is loaded with horrific cruelties, very little of it is a result of outright sadism. Instead, nearly all the pain and suffering that farmed animals endure is a result of efforts made by factory farms to cut costs to the bone. It turns out that many of these cost-cutting practices entail the infliction of great amounts of suffering.
We see the link between cost cutting and animal suffering in veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates—which allow factory farms to pack the most possible animals into a single facility. We see it again in practices like tail docking, beak searing, and dehorning: these painful mutilations are performed to reduce injuries that occur when animals are overcrowded. And we see it yet again at slaughter: the horror stories that regularly emerge about birds and pigs being dropped into scald tanks or butchered alive have everything to do with packing plants that rush slaughter in an effort to minimize labor costs.
All of the above examples are well-known to anyone who has spent any time learning about factory farming. But, as with each of the above items, this week’s death of 60,000 chickens likewise has its roots in industry cost cutting.
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