A while back, I wrote about the harm in using words such as “natural” or “organic”. Today I’ll expand it a bit by talking about how it affects those who cannot speak for themselves, the animals.
In a recent Washington Post article, Peter Whoriskey delves into the world of “organic vegetarian” egg farming in the UK and US. He explains that the Federal Organic Program has limited the amount of synthetic meat replacements allowed in chicken diets to still be counted as “organic”. To me, this is a twofold shock. First that they allow any synthetic materials in anything called “organic”, since the purpose of the word is that they’ll try and trick you into believing it’s “all natural”. Secondly because chickens are raptors, omnivores.
If a chicken is without a source of methionine, they will get it where they can, which in nature would mean that they’ll peck on the ground until they find insects. In farms, they most often don’t have that ability, so they’ll turn cannibalistic and will peck at each other instead.
To prevent the chickens from eating insects, thereby making them lose the vegetarian status, the birds are kept inside on farms rather than outside on pastures. To keep them from losing the “organic” status, they are kept on a low-methionine diet. What you really buy when you buy eggs marked as “organic vegetarian” is animal abuse in a box. Everything people complain about in chicken farming, all rolled into one. Cramped space, mutilation, inside from birth to death, malnourished.
What is worse is that since the chickens “need to be organic”, synthetic medicine cannot be used. That rules out antibiotics, so many of the birds go around with open, infected wounds. Well, I say go around, what I really mean is stand stationary, hoping that the flock doesn’t decide to squish them.
This practice is not unique to chickens, or even birds. If you want to eat “organic”, you have to be ready to put yourself first, the farmer’s pocket second and the animals last. PETA reported last year that “organic” farmers feed their cows faeces in cramped feed-lots, since that is the only “natural” feed that is cheap enough to fatten them before slaughter. Since the faeces is “natural” and “not synthetic”, the meat can be labelled as “organic”. That’s the lucky ones that are taken to slaughter. If you want “organic” milk, you’ll have to settle with cows that are stationary their whole lives in a cramped slot, bathing in their own waste, forced into pregnancy once a year, giving birth in the slot they stand in and then having their calves taken away at birth. Their udders become infested in most cases, and again, no medicine is given because then they cannot label the milk “organic”.
Pigs, like chickens, are omnivores that need meat in their diet. To prevent the “organic” pigs from cannibalistic behaviour while the farmers malnourish them, their tails and ears are cut off. To prevent them from scavenging and digging for leftovers, rodents or insects, their noses are pierced (without anaesthetics) with a huge ring, often resulting in infection that goes untreated.
Due to the no-drugs-policy, the animals are never anaesthetised, not even when slaughtered, which often is done by hanging the animal upside down, slitting their throat to let them bleed to death over the course of a few minutes. The slaughtering machines used by “non-organic” slaughter houses could contain traces of chemicals, so those are not to be used. The animals are not fed on their way to slaughter, a trip that can take up to three days in some cases.
My question is “how could this happen?”. What made the masses believe that “organic” farming is more humane than factory farming, when the circumstances are so bad that even the most hardcore animal rights movements in the world recommend factory farming over “organic”?