Intensive, industrialised, factory - they're all words that describe modern farming methods. Intensive because as many animals as possible are crammed together in the smallest possible space. Industrialised because feeding, watering and dung clearing are often performed automatically. Factory because the philosophy of mass production is what lies behind it all.
It all began in Europe and the US encouraged by respective governments but has now spread to almost every country in the world, even the poorest of the developing nations. Like a recipe for a cake, there are no variables but a well-honed formula that standardises production and keeps prices low. Victims include humans who develop killer degenerative diseases as a result of eating too much saturated animal fat, animal protein and cholesterol.
Can you conceive of the mentality that looked at restlessly strutting chickens, descendants of jungle fowl, and decided to cram them five to a wire cage no bigger than a microwave oven - so small that not even one hen can stretch her wings? Then they piled thousands of cages one on top of another and forced the hens - through selective breeding, constant lighting and food unnaturally high in protein - to produce an egg almost every day of their short lives, when their ancestors laid just 20 a year.
So many egg shells that calcium is leached from the hen's bones, causing them to break from osteoporosis. This system produces about 60 per cent of all eggs in the UK. Barn egg production is equally squalid - no cages but sheds with upwards of 15 hens to a square meter. The sad little by-products of all egg systems are day-old male chicks, too scrawny for meat and incapable of laying eggs so 40 million are cruelly gassed with CO2 or minced alive every year in a macerating machine.
The fate of meat chickens is little better. As many as 30,000 or more are crammed into a single shed to stand in their own excreta for the six weeks of their obscenely short lives. Huge, waddling babies, forced to grow so unnaturally fast that their hearts can't cope and many die from heart disease. Legs break under their ballooning weight and despite this ordeal, these perversions of nature account for almost all chicken meat eaten. Ducks, turkeys and Guinea fowl all endure similar conditions - and geese are heading the same way.
What sane person would look at highly intelligent animals such as pigs and force them into overcrowded, concrete cells? No bedding, no enrichment, filth and squalor and absolutely nothing to do - unable to fulfil even their most basic natural instincts. And as a bonus, cut off their tails and crush their teeth without anesthetics in an attempt to control the resulting aggression.
A special barbarity is reserved for sows - female breeding pigs.
Until recently they spent their entire lives encased in metalbarred
crates little wider then their bodies, ensuring they could never turn
around or lie down properly. In Europe, continual campaigning has led to
the abolition of these stalls while the sows are pregnant and the
world's biggest pig producer, US-based Smithfield, has announced that it
will follow suit - eventually. Sow stalls have been replaced with yet
more barren concrete and filth except for 70 days a year when sows are
confined in metal farrowing crates while they deliver and suckle their
annual 2.5 litters. No wonder they go mad, gnawing at their bars in the
bleak and desolate despair of mental collapse.