Welcome to the Peterson Farm Blog!

We are glad you are here! This blog was created for us to address the many questions people have about farmers and modern day agriculture. We hope that our blog will be a source of answers for people who are searching for the truth! Feel free to leave a comment or question and we will do our best to get back to you. Thanks!

Introduction: All I Do Is Farm (The Blog)

Greg Peterson: Advocate for Truth

  1. GMOs
  2. Livestock Production: Animal Welfare
    1. Introduction: Why do we raise animals for food and products?
    2. The Life Cycle of Beef Cattle
    3. The Life Cycle of Dairy Cattle
    4. The Life Cycle of Swine
    5. The Life Cycle of Poultry
    6. The Welfare of Livestock Today
    7. Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, Wildlife
  3. Family Farming, Industrial Farming, Factory Farming
  4. Organic Food and Conventional Food (Coming Soon)
  5. Chemical Usage in Agriculture (Coming Soon)

The Peterson Farm Bros Beef With Chipotle

  1. Part 1: The Peterson Farm Bros Beef With Chipotle
  2. Part 2: The Definition of a Family Farmer
  3. Part 3: The Definition of a Humanely Raised Animal
  4. Part 4: The Definition of Ethical Behavior

Introduction: Why Do We Raise Animals for Food and Products?

  • Why do we use livestock products for human use and consumption? 
  • Should I feel bad when I eat meat because an animal died to become that meat? 
  • Why can’t animals be set free to live as long of a life as possible?

Livestock animals (Cattle, Horses, Chickens, Turkeys, Pigs, Sheep, etc.) have been a huge part of human existence since the beginning of our civilization. Humans have used animals for meat, milk, eggs, labor, and clothing for thousands of years. Millions of people around the globe take care of livestock every day! (See video below)

But do we really need animal agriculture? Must innocent animals lose their lives for human benefit? Why can’t we just rely on fruits, veggies, and grains to feed and clothe the masses? Here are 10 reasons why animal agriculture exists and why it is ethical.

1. Animal Products are the Reason Most Livestock Animals are Born

The fact that humans eat and use animal products is the main reason most livestock animals are alive in the first place, even though in certain cases the process theoretically ends their lives as well. If you believe animals like cows, pigs, chickens, or sheep deserve a chance at life, you must believe in the use of animals for humans, because without us, 95% of these animals would never be born in the first place. Farmers help bring these animals into this world and give their lives meaning and purpose as they leave it (food and products). The only question that remains is whether or not the quality of life for these animals is worth them being born in the first place, which will be addressed in the subsequent “animal welfare” blogs found on the home page of our blog.

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2. Livestock Infrastructure Produces Billions of Pounds of Food & Products

Meat, milk, eggs, and thousands of other food products come from animals. Animal products are found in a vast amount of foods consumed today. Furthermore, animal by-products are used extensively in almost every walk of life. While you may be able to avoid eating animal products, it is nearly impossible to avoid using animal by-products. The infrastructure of the livestock industry has allowed for thousands of these products to be made affordably, efficiently, and sustainably.

If we did away with livestock products, we would have to reinvent the infrastructure of our food supply and product supply, which would prove to be extremely costly. Thousands of farmers would have their current farming methods they have developed over centuries taken from them. Technology is what has allowed 1 farmer to feed 155 people today instead of 27 people in 1950. Livestock technology is a huge part of that. If we were to abandon animal agriculture, we would see a drastic decrease in food production and an drastic increase in food prices. This would be taking us in the opposite direction of producing enough food to feed a growing population.

3. Millions of Grassland Acres Would Go to Waste Without Livestock

Millions of acres of land are not suitable for crop production (due to slope of terrain, soil type, rainfall, etc.) and are therefore grazed by livestock animals. In fact over 13 million square miles are grazed by livestock animals around the world. These animals help maintain the ecosystem of these grass acres and convert the grass into food for humans. If we took those livestock animals away, the millions of acres of grassland would become unproductive instead of providing billions of pounds of food each year. If our goal is to feed 9 billion people by 2050, this would be a huge step backward in reaching that goal.

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4. Livestock Animals Roaming “Free” Is Not Plausible

Currently there are over 11 billion birds, 87 million cattle, 67 million pigs, and 5 million sheep used in U.S. livestock production today. Farmers breed these animals, feed these animals, and protect these animals. They are domesticated. If livestock production ceased, the incentive for farmers to spend their lives caring for these animals would be gone. Farmers would no longer be there to take care of these animals, they would no longer be maintaining fences, caring for the sick, protecting them from predators, etc. Animals would either die out, live in the wild, or live in a zoo. In the wild, livestock animals would no longer be producing food, products, and labor for humans, they would become road hazards and would get into yards, gardens, and public places. They would be a nuisance. The reason these domesticated animals have survived over the generations is based on their importance to humans. Even if sanctuaries were built for large numbers of animals, only a small percentage of the amount we have today would exist.

5. Animal Food Products Taste Amazing

Although tastes and preferences vary tremendously throughout society, most people would agree that the best tasting foods involve animal products! A world without burgers, steaks, eggs, milk, and ice cream would be a sad scenario.

6. Livestock Food Products Provide Essential Nutrients

While it is entirely possible to consume a diet free of livestock products, it can be quite difficult. Many people in this world do not have the extra money, time, or discipline to spend avoiding products from animals. Meat, dairy and eggs contain essential nutrients such as protein, calcium, potassium, B vitamins (niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and B6), vitamin E, iron, zinc and magnesium. Again, the infrastructure of livestock production has allowed for these products to be low in cost and easily accessed.

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7. The Livestock Industry Employs Millions of People

If animal agriculture did not exist, millions of people would have to find a job doing something else. This includes jobs in animal production, processing, sales, nutrition, and health. As many know, finding a job can be a struggle no matter what industry you are a part of. Livestock farmers and ranchers have developed and passed down skills and talents over hundreds of years learning how to take care of livestock animals. Colleges and universities around the world have trained thousands of people in different areas of livestock production (see below). Abandoning all of that would be a waste of time and resources and would leave many searching for a job, possessing skills that are no longer needed.

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8. The Livestock Industry is a Huge Part of the Economy

The livestock industry provides massive economic benefits to many different countries around the world. In the United States, the numbers are as follows:

  • 1,851,000 jobs
  • $346 billion in total economic output
  • $60 billion in household income
  • $15 billion in income taxes paid, and
  • $6 billion in property taxes paid

(Source: http://igrow.org/livestock/profit-tips/economic-benefits-of-the-livestock-industry/#sthash.O9ARKhNT.dpuf)

Many countries are struggling economically, but agriculture is usually one of the bright spots in an economy. If animal agriculture were removed from the economy of a country like the U.S., it would be devastating.

9. Many People Rely on Animal Agriculture for Survival

Hundreds of thousands of farm families around the world rely on livestock animals for their survival. There are places where livestock animals are the only thing a family owns besides their home. In wealthier societies, we do have a choice of whether or not to eat meat, but in many places that is not an available choice.

Source: http://bit.ly/1LuXlF7

Even in wealthy countries, livestock animals can provide the majority of a farm family’s income due to location (surrounded by pastureland), amount of land owned (not enough to make a living on crops), and climate (grow crops in the summer, livestock in the winter). Families could relocate and adapt to make a living apart from animal agriculture, but it would be unfair and extremely costly to them.

10. Livestock Animals Are a Huge Part of Our Culture

Animal agriculture is a huge part of human history and culture. Livestock farmers and ranchers view working with animals as more than a job. It is a lifestyle that is deeply ingrained in who they are and their purpose here on earth. Millions of children have been raised taking care of livestock to teach them how to do chores, develop a work ethic, and spend time with their family. You can see that in our video, “Takin’ Care of Livestock” linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tc1X0CMDDNY&feature=youtu.be

Bottom line: You can choose to avoid animal products for a variety of reasons. You can work to improve animal welfare. And you can continue to ask questions to help keep livestock farmers and ranchers in check. However, the practice of animal agriculture is a very important part of society and the people who are involved in the industry should be supported when they are doing a good job. To see what the current state of the livestock industry looks like, please read the rest of our blogs detailing the life cycles and welfare of different livestock animals. And please, feel free to leave questions at the bottom of this page!

  1. The Life Cycle of Beef Cattle
  2. The Life Cycle of Dairy Cattle
  3. The Life Cycle of Swine
  4. The Life Cycle of Poultry
  5. The Welfare of Livestock Today
  6. Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, Wildlife

The Life Cycle of Beef Cattle Production

Stages of Beef Cattle Production

1.   Beginning Stage (Bull + Cow = Calf)

2A. Grass Finished (Middle Stage – Final Stage)

2B. Grain Finished: Backgrounding (Middle Stage)

2C. Grain Finished: Finishing Lot (Final Stage)

  1. Harvest and Processing (End Stage)

Beginning Stage (Bull + Cow = Calf)

Size: Typically in large pastures with 50-100 head of cattle

Location: All over USA

Family Owned: 99%

Diet: Mama Cow’s milk until old enough to eat grass

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Birth Weight – Sell Weight: 150 lbs – 450 lbs

Time in Cycle: 6-8 months

The beginning stage of life for both grass-finished and grain-finished cattle is the same for the first 8-10 months of the animal’s life. All beef cattle eat grass for at least the first half of their lives.

All beef cattle are born to cows. The natural way for a cow to have a calf is unassisted in an open field or pasture. However, if a rancher knows a cow is about to give birth, they will often bring the cow into a barn or shelter for two reasons. The first reason is to protect both the cow and the newborn calf from extreme cold, rain, or snow. Calves are often born in the winter and going from a cozy womb to the freezing cold can result in sickness or death. The second reason is to make it easier for the rancher to help the cow give birth in case there are problems. Often times a rancher will have to “pull” a calf from a cow in order to reduce the pain and sometimes even save the lives of both the animals.

After birth, the calf will be ear-tagged or branded for identification and will nurse off of its mother for the next 6 to 8 months. Eventually the calf will start to graze grass alongside its mother until it is weaned from milk entirely. Up to this point, the lives of all beef cattle are the same. From here they will either become reproducing cows/bulls or they will be fed out for beef consumption.

Life Cycle of a Cow/Bull

Size: Typically in large pastures with 50 to 100 head of cattle

Location: All over USA

Family Owned: 99%

Diet: Grass, Forage, Roughage (Grazing)

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 1,500 – 2,000 lbs

Time in Cycle: 5 – 10 years

Once calves on grass pasture are weaned off of their mothers, they are sorted into groups based on their gender (male bulls, female heifers). Cows are heifers that were bred by bulls and had a baby calf. Cows have a 9 month gestation period and typically have a calf every 12 months. All cows spend their entire lives (Approx. 7-10 years) grazing on grass or forage and mothering baby calves. When they are no longer able to have calves, cows are harvested for beef (see final stage).

Bulls are calves that are not castrated and bred specifically with dominant genetics to produce superior offspring when fully grown. There are typically 2 or 3 older bulls per cowherd of 50. Bulls can sense when cows go into heat and will mate with them at that time. Ranchers also artificially inseminate cows with bull semen when they are in heat to help guarantee the cow will have calf.

2A. Life Cycle of Grass Finished Beef (Middle to Final Stage)

Size: 100 head – 3,000 head

Location: All over USA

Family Owned: Approx. 99%

Diet: Grass, Forage, Roughage (Grazing)

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 450 pounds to market weight

Time in Cycle: 6-8 months – 3 years

Once calves on grass pasture are weaned off of their mothers, they are sorted into groups of bulls and heifers. Some become steps B and C (Bulls and Cows). The others will be castrated (if they are bulls) and will spend the remainder of their days grazing on grass until they are fat enough to harvest.

2B. Life Cycle of Grain Finished Beef (Middle Stage)

Size: Between 500 and 2,000 head

Location: Typically Midwest/Western USA

Family Owned: Approx. 90%

Diet: Grass, Hay, Roughage with increasing amounts of silage and grain

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 450 pounds – 850 pounds

Time in Cycle: 6-8 months – 12-14 months

Once calves on grass pasture are weaned off of their mothers, they are sorted into groups (Large, small, bulls, heifers) and sold to the next producer. Calves are bought and sold all over the country, which provides a very competitive market, resulting in lower costs. A lot of the calves in the east are shipped out to the west where weather, food supply and conditions are better suited to grow them. The calves spend their next year of life at a backgrounding feedlot like ours. When calves arrive at a backgrounding feedlot, they spend the first couple of days recovering from the stress of being sold, traveling up to several hours, and adjusting to a new place. Our new calves are greeted with a bunk full of feed and hay and a smaller pen that opens into shelter from the elements. The smaller pen helps keep them close to their food and water so they know where to find it. We also pitch hay by hand to help them get used to us. Within the next week, calves are typically vaccinated to help prevent them from possible sickness during their stay. The calves are then ear tagged if they were branded or re-ear tagged if they were already tagged.

The next 3-5 months for cattle in a backgrounding feedlot is spent eating. At the beginning of their stay the diet will be primarily grasses and forages with only a hint of grains being introduced. By the end of their stay, cattle will be consuming about 75% forages and 25% grain. Watch the video for more on what we feed our cattle in a backgrounding lot. Each day, cattlemen will survey each animal to determine if they are sick. If cattle happen to get sick in a backgrounding feedlot, they will be administered antibiotics to help them fight the sickness. They will be separated from the rest of the herd until they recover. The risk of sickness is more prevalent in a feedlot compared to on grass, but only a small minority of the animals ever has to deal with sickness.

When the animals have reached the weight of approximately 850 pounds, they are once again sorted by weight and sold to a finishing yard to be fattened for market. Most cattle are not shipped as far in this step as they were in the previous step, resulting in minimal stress on the animal.

2C. Life Cycle of Grain Finished Beef (Final Stage)

Size: 3,000 + head

Location: Midwestern to Western USA

Family Owned: Approx 50%

Diet: Silage, Grain

Sickness Treatment: Antibiotics

Weight: 850 pounds to 1300 pounds

Time in Cycle: 4-6 months

The finishing stage of grain-finished beef usually takes place in large finishing yards in the west. This stage is similar to the middle stage in most everything but diet. Cattle once again recover from transfer, are given a second vaccination, and are given antibiotics if they get sick. The primary differences between finishing yards and backgrounding lots are the size of operation and the diet content. Most finishing yards have a large capacity for thousands of animals.

Slaughter/Harvest of All Beef Cattle (End Stage)

When cattle are at a finished weight (Approx. 1300 pounds) they are taken to a processing plant to be harvested and made into beef as well as many other products. If you would like to learn more about this process, please watch the following video (it is somewhat graphic in nature):

The Welfare of Livestock Today

Up to this point, you have read about – why farmers raise livestock – and – what life in each segment of the industry looks like. This blog will discuss the welfare of livestock and will answer the question, “Does the current system of livestock production make it worth it for an animal to be born in the first place?” as discussed in the introduction.

When discussing animal welfare, the thing most people seem to be confused with is the difference between an animal that is “uncomfortable,” and an animal that is “suffering/abused.” We will discuss those definitions below.

When are livestock animals “uncomfortable?”

All beings experience some level of “uncomfortable” for a portion of their lives. This goes for humans, livestock, wildlife, pets, etc. The desire of most humans is to minimize being “uncomfortable” in their lives. The same goes for livestock producers and animals. While livestock owners do care for their animals for ethical reasons, they also care for their animals for financial reasons. If an animal is not comfortable, they will not produce well. Research has shown if animals are stressed, the finished product (meat, milk, or eggs) will not be as high of quality. It doesn’t make any sense to restrict comfort on a livestock operation.

Like I said, there are times in life where humans are uncomfortable and can’t do much about it. For instance:

  • When you have to spend time outside in the heat, cold, rain, snow, or wind
  • When something minor is wrong with you physically
  • When you are doing a job you do not enjoy (for some people a career!)
  • When you are put in claustrophobic situations
  • When you are waiting in line
  • When you break up with a girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Dentist and doctor’s appointments
  • Awkward situations

The list goes on and on. The fact is, humans spend part of their lives in a place they do not necessarily enjoy. However, this time we spend being uncomfortable does not mean we cannot enjoy life. We simply wait it out until it gets better (which is usually very soon).

The same goes for livestock. There are times in the lives of animals where they are uncomfortable and there’s not much a farmer can do to change it. However, that does not mean the animals do not enjoy their lives. For instance:

When they are stuck out in the heat, cold, rain, snow, or wind

Farmers do everything they can in order to maximize the level of comfort for animals. In fact, the indoor “CAFOs” (confined animal feeding operations) that people get the most upset over provide some of the best comfort you can find – temperature control and protection from the elements. In northern climates, the extremely cold weather makes bringing animals inside an obvious choice for their welfare. It is the best decision, both for the producer and the animals. Animals (especially cattle) that are kept outside during extreme weather usually adapt fairly well. Cattle are basically wearing a leather coat at all times and regulate their body temperature by how much they eat. When it gets cold, they eat a lot!

Our cattle eat more in the winter to stay warm. They are provided with wind break and plenty of food.

Our cattle eat more in the winter to stay warm. They are provided with wind break and plenty of food.

When they are packed together in tight places (transport, handling)

Transporting, handling, sorting, and doctoring animals can be uncomfortable as well, but these times represent a fraction of the animal’s lives. Livestock get transported for (at most) a few hours (at most) every 2-3 months. They are handled every few weeks, depending on a variety of factors. They are doctored only when needed. For some, this can be 5-6 times in their life. For others, they may never need to be doctored. This goes for humans as well. Overall, even when you add all of these things together in their worst-case scenario, it represents less than 1% of the life of an animal.

Cattle being loaded into a trailer. They don't particularly like the process, but it is a huge part of the efficiency of the industry.

Cattle being loaded into a trailer. They don’t particularly like the process, but it is a huge part of the efficiency of the industry.

When they are in annoying situations (muddy pen conditions)

Many “undercover videos” of livestock farms show animals living in the worst possible conditions you can think of. Mud and slop up to their knees and dark, damp buildings. While a lot of the videos are heavily edited or acted out to make the conditions look much worse than they really are, pen and housing conditions can go downhill if not maintained or if weather conditions are extreme. However, walking around in mud and slop is not “suffering/abuse.” In some cases, it would fit into the “uncomfortable category.” In other cases, mud and slop can be somewhat of a comfort to animals, especially cattle and pigs. Pigs prefer laying in the mud and so do cattle on hot days. Even cattle in pasture will go tromp in a pond or muddy area to stay cool and relax. In outdoor conditions “mud and slop” would be a mix of wet soil and manure. On the other hand, when this occurs inside of a building, it is most likely 100% manure getting on the animal, which is a little gross, but animals do not have the same standard of clean as humans have, as evidenced by the cattle and pigs who bathe and drink out of the same ponds they relieve themselves in. In any case, producers should do their best to keep their pens/housing clean and I believe the vast majority do so.

Cleaning our cattle pens to prevent build-up of manure.

Cleaning our cattle pens to prevent build-up of manure.


To summarize, if we had to go to the dentist every day or take a ten-hour car ride once a week, we would not enjoy life as much. But a dentist appointment every year or so, and a road trip every few months is not so bad. Animals spend the majority of their lives feeling comfortable. Being uncomfortable sometimes is a part of life, and that is the same for humans as it is for animals.

When are animals “suffering/abused?”

As humans, we should know the difference between suffering and being uncomfortable. We’ve talked about what being uncomfortable as a human looks like. Here are some examples of human suffering:

  •             Deprivation of food or water
  •             When something major is wrong physically
  •             Sickness or disease
  •             Physical, Emotional, or Mental Abuse
  •             Slavery, Deprivation of Human Rights

Animals are similar to humans in this category, however they are not exactly the same when it comes to emotional needs and animal “rights.” Abuse leads to suffering, and in livestock, suffering can lead to death. When livestock producers lose animals to death, it can be extremely costly (an animal is typically worth thousands of dollars) and can put an operation out of business. Therefore, just like with comfort, producers must do everything they can to avoid abuse or suffering.

Deprivation of food or water

Livestock, except in extreme situations, are always well fed and well watered. This is especially true of “CAFOs” and confined operations. Pastured livestock may run out of food or water, especially in times of drought, but animals confined on the farm generally always have ample supplies of food and water in storage. If a producer does happen to run out of resources, they will transport or sell their animals to another location so they do not suffer or die (would result in thousands of dollars of losses).

Even cattle on CAFOs are always provided with adequate food and water, something many humans in the world do not have.

Even cattle on CAFOs are always provided with adequate food and water, something many humans in the world do not have.

When something major is wrong physically

Animals on livestock farms do sometimes injure themselves or develop physical problems. Farmers will discover animals that have internal or external injuries that are causing them pain or suffering. The farmer will do everything they can to save the animal as long as it is possible and cost efficient. However, an injury can sometimes result in the animal being put down or harvested for meat earlier in life than planned. Is this abuse? No, on the contrary, it is relieving the animal of pain. Is the death of an animal for meat unethical? No. (Refer to the introduction of these blogs)

Sickness or disease

Humans get sick. It is a part of life. In order to truly live, we put ourselves at the risk of getting sick. Nearly all humans will experience some sort of sickness in their lives. We do all that we can to prevent sickness and disease and that includes eating right, exercising, and getting vaccinated for certain diseases.

The same goes for livestock. In order to raise animals for food, livestock producers risk these animals getting sick. However, unlike humans, there are many animals that do not get sick during their life. Livestock operations do everything they can to prevent sickness and disease, and that includes providing animals with the right nutrition and vaccinating them for certain diseases. The overwhelming majority of animals on livestock farms spend the overwhelming majority of their lives free from sickness.

Our cattle are handled within a few days of arriving on our farm to receive vaccinations to prevent them from getting sick.

Our cattle are handled within a few days of arriving on our farm to receive vaccinations to prevent them from getting sick.

Now, it is true that in some cases (beef, dairy) having animals on open pasture instead of confined in a pen can prevent sickness. However, it is also true that in some cases (swine, poultry), keeping animals confined inside year round can prevent sickness. It is not a simple equation as to whether or not you should keep animals on open pasture or confined in a building. Each farmer has to make a decision based on the type of livestock they own, the climate they live in, and the resources they have. One type of method might be the “best,” but it might not be practical for everyone, and doesn’t mean the other methods are “bad.”

Physical, Emotional, or Mental Abuse

This category (and the next) is where animals differ somewhat from humans. It is important to remember that while we do compare animals to humans to make discussion points, animals are not humans! You will find this very obvious the more time you spend around them. Animals have different physical needs, different emotional needs, and a different level of pain tolerance than humans do.

Physical abuse is seen in some of the “undercover videos” about the livestock industry. This can include repeated beating of animals, making them bleed, etc. This is clearly physical abuse and should not happen, ever. However, many people think routine things farmers do to animals (prodding, branding, ear tagging, castration, docking, shearing, etc.) are physical abuse as well. Those things are pains that are necessary in order to raise these animals for food in a cost efficient way. They are better for the animal/producer in the long run. They only last a few seconds or a few minutes at most (if done correctly), and then the animal is free from pain. Humans undergo similar pains in order to live their lives efficiently. Doctor’s appointments, surgery, wisdom teeth, etc. Could livestock be raised without some of these things? Yes. Is putting animals through these things abuse? No.

Emotional abuse can be hard to measure in an animal. Livestock do show emotions such as excitement, curiosity, and fear. To abuse an animal emotionally would be to remove excitement and adventure from an animal’s life and/or to have them live in constant fear. If you’ve ever been to a livestock farm, you will see that the livestock are curious and get excited at various times. A sad animal is very easy to spot: Droopy demeanor, separation from the herd, and less of an appetite. This is usually associated with a sick animal. Animals do experience sickness on a farm (discussed above) and experience fear in certain situations (sudden movements, wild animal attacks, when they are cornered), but as with other forms of pain/suffering/uncomfortable feelings, these moments are few and far in between on the vast majority of livestock farms. Livestock spend most of their time happy and relaxed.

Mental abuse would be to remove a livestock animal from all other animals and deprive it of attention. Just like a pet, livestock animals prefer to live in community with other beings (preferably of the same species). On livestock farms, big and small, hundreds or thousands of animals are together to interact with.

***Physical, emotional, and mental abuse should never be tolerated in humans or in livestock farming. We should do everything we can to eliminate these things from our society. However, just as it is incredibly hard to completely eliminate human abuse in society, it is hard to eliminate animal abuse as well. There will always be bad apples, the 1% of the population that gives the rest a bad name. Screwed up people with screwed up minds that will abuse other beings. This is a result of the imperfect world we live in, and that is not going to change anytime soon. But we can fight against these things, and farmers are committed to stopping abuse. Please do not judge the majority of us by the actions of a few of us.***

Slavery, Deprivation of Rights

Opponents of animal agriculture believe that livestock farming can be compared to human slavery. I believe this is flawed because of the core statement of animal agriculture found in the introduction: “Most livestock animals would not have the opportunity to live if they were not born into livestock operations.” Humans, on the other hand, are capable of surviving, multiplying, and thriving outside of “slavery” and we can see that pretty clearly.

Opponents of animal agriculture also believe that animals are deprived of their rights when raised on livestock farms. I firmly disagree with this opinion as well. As I have mentioned already, humans are different than animals. Human rights are outlined in various constitutional documents. I think we all understand basic human rights. Animal rights on the other hand, don’t really exist in nature. Animals will rip other animals to shreds in order to survive. Nature can be pretty nasty. However, because we are humans and have a concept of what is right and fair, I believe there are certain “animal rights” that animals should have in the realm of livestock farming:

  •             Adequate food and water
  •             Adequate space
  •             Adequate comfort
  •             Adequate emotional contact (exploration, interaction w/ other animals, etc.)

I believe that this “quality of life” is provided on the vast majority of livestock farms and I have detailed that in this and in previous sections.

Summary

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Livestock farmers must treat their animals well to stay in business. Although animal agriculture is not perfect, I believe that the current state of animal welfare on livestock farms is adequate and ethical 99% of the time.

Livestock animals, regardless of the sector they are in, live good, enjoyable lives that make it worth being born. In fact, animals on farms live more enjoyable lives than a lot of humans, which I will talk more about in the next section.

However, this does not mean there aren’t improvements to be made. It also does not mean consumers cannot choose a specific way they want their livestock to be raised. I am not against “free-range,” “grass-finished,” “antibiotic-free,” demands, as we live in a free market society and if that is what you are interested in, you should be able to get it (and pay extra for it). However, as this blog outlines, other forms of livestock production are acceptable as well, and those producers should be allowed to make decisions based on that. Eating and using animal products will be a huge part of meeting the needs of a growing population and we will need all types of livestock farms to help meet those demands.

Conclusion: The Welfare of Livestock Compared to the Welfare of Humans, Pets, and Wildlife

Humans: Many humans live extremely luxurious lives. However, there is more human suffering in our world today than many realize. There are 30 million human slaves still living in the world. 80% of those involve sexual exploitation. There are 3 billion people living in poverty. 1.3 billion of those people live on less than $1.25 a day. There are 870 million people who are chronically undernourished. Each year, 4 million women suffer from domestic abuse and 3 million children suffer from child abuse. 3.5 million people in the United States are homeless. Millions also suffer every day from diseases, injuries, emotional trauma, and mental illness.

Livestock: There are over 10 billion livestock animals in the United States. These animals (including the “factory farmed” ones) are provided with plentiful food and water. Livestock animals are never homeless, undernourished, or sexually abused. Most of their lives are spent eating, standing, lying down, or sleeping. They are in most cases protected from predators, harsh weather, and each other (power struggles can result in injury or death). The goal of every livestock farmer is to minimize stress as it results in the greatest growth in production. So, while a few cases of abuse to livestock animals are reported each year, this practice is certainly not the norm, and would be considered extremely rare in every livestock circle. The majority of livestock farmers take better care of their animals than some parents take care of their kids. Disease, injury, and illness affect livestock animals in similar ways to humans, but farmers and veterinarians do everything they can to prevent these causes of suffering. As many are quick to point out, livestock animals are indeed slaughtered at the end of their lives, but today’s slaughtering methods are as humane as possible (no pain or stress to the animal) and provide food and products to millions of people around the globe.

Wildlife: Animals in the wild spend their entire lives hunting for food and water. They endure disease, injury, illness, and pain just like humans and livestock. They also must fend for themselves from the weather. Each wild animal (that is not on the top of the food chain) is at the risk of being ripped apart and eaten by predators and/or killed off by animals of the same species in power struggles. Human activity (Cities, roads, industry, etc.) threatens the existence of thousands of species each year. Millions of animals suffer and die in nature. The deaths of wildlife animals (excluding hunting) provide little to no benefit to humans in terms of food or products.

Pets: Most pets have extremely comfortable lives, similar to livestock. Food, water, health care, and protection from the elements are provided to pets. Pets spend most of their lives lying around in a stress free environment. However, 6-8 million pets are placed in animal shelters each year. 3-4 million of them are euthanized each year. The death of these pets provides little to no benefit to humans in terms of food or products.

In conclusion: We live in a world full of suffering. We should be doing everything we can to help to reduce and eliminate this suffering in every species around the world. However, we need to keep our priorities in check:

  • We should do our absolute best to take care of our pets, but they are more of a luxury than a necessity. (Their lives/deaths do not provide products to humans)
  • We should do all we can to protect the environment and ecosystems of wildlife animals, but how can we reduce the suffering that goes on naturally in nature? (The wild while natural and beautiful is also a gruesome, dangerous place)
  • Humans undergo the most suffering and abuse on the list. That is extremely sad to me. We should do our best to take care of our own and think of helping others more than we think of pleasing ourselves. Reducing human suffering should be of the highest priority!
  • Livestock animals, on the other hand, are among the creatures that undergo the least amount of suffering on this list. Yet so many people complain and point fingers at the treatment of these animals. Where is the uproar about human suffering? Why aren’t more people human activists? There are definitely ways we can improve our treatment of livestock animals and we should pursue those. However, to expect perfection in livestock production (or any of these categories) is unrealistic in an imperfect world. The use of livestock animals provide food, products, money, and labor to billions of people. Their lives (and inevitable deaths) are what many humans rely on to survive in poverty-stricken countries.

Most would agree that a human life is more valuable than any other life on the planet, but even if you disagree with that statement you must realize that if you want to reduce suffering here on the earth, it has to start with humans. It has to start with us!