In recent years, documentaries such as Indigestible: The Film, Cock Fight, and Food Inc. have raised awareness on the dark side of the agribusiness. These films show how factory farming is inhumane and is ruining the concept of the traditional American farmer. The purpose of these films is to make America realize we must make our practices more sustainable now in order for our children’s generation to survive.
Factory farming refers to farming practices on large farms owned by large corporations, where livestock are seen as a products rather than living, sentient beings. Things like quality of life for the animals are not a concern if the farm is producing our food at a high and fast rate.
This practice became necessary as our population kept expanding. As people migrated to the cities, there were less people buying their food from local farmers and more people buying from supermarkets. At a certain point, the factorization of the farming process was the only way to meet the demands of a growing population.
In these terms, factory farming was a solid economic move. That is why foods at the supermarket are so much cheaper than the local farm. Many of America’s low-income families would starve without factory farming. With that being said, there are several negative consequences that may outweigh these benefits.
One of the biggest issues with factory farming is the quality of life for the livestock. Food Inc., Cock Fight, and Indigestible: The Film all show how livestock are raised in extreme confinement and are fattened up to unnatural levels in order to produce more meat.
The cows in particular spend their lives ankle deep in their own manure, which causes the spread of deadly diseases such as E.coli.
Another issue exposed by these films is the exploitation of the American farmer.
Fusion TV’s Cock Fight shows how chicken farmers go into hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt to start their farms and how big meat production companies (like Tyson and Purdue) turn them into modern sharecroppers. The companies own the livestock and the farmer is just the cog in the wheel that maintains the product quality.
It also shows how these companies intimidate any farmers who speak out with termination of contract.
Under these conditions, the American farmer can no longer support his family. The companies are getting rich off of rising prices, while the farmers can barely feed their families.
Factory farming is also terrible for the environment. Food Inc. (available on Netflix) discusses how genetically-modified corn and soybean have essentially eradicated natural corn and soybean seed.
The most important issue that arises with factory farming, however, is sustainability. On one hand, the implementation of the factory farming process was a short-term fix to sustain a growing population. However, it is clear that this is not the option for long-term sustainability.
The only way to achieve sustainability is to revert back to traditional and organic farming practices. There would be negative aspects to this decision as well; however, it is these practices that have sustained humanity throughout our entire existence.
The aforementioned documentaries and many more like them show how films can spark a discussion for change. The vegetarian and vegan movement in the last decade owes its popularity to these films. Perhaps there is a filmmaker out there right now working on the documentary that will be the tipping point that sparks a reorganization of the agribusiness.