Industrial Agriculture and Animal husbandry

We are all aware that the release of methane – cow farts and the like – is among the most potent of greenhouse gases. Yet the ‘wisdom’ of modern farming practice is to raise huge herds of cattle to feed Macdonald burgers and the rest. Vast areas of the Amazon rain forest – that hotbed of biodiversity – have been cleared for the monoculture syndrome that drives the over production of cattle and other herd animals creating problems not only of extra methane but also bowel cancer as the consumption of meat slows the digestive process down. People become more aggressive because they are eating food which is filled with fear. Animals know when they are about to be slaughtered. Especially in the modern scenario of centralised abattoirs. The smell of death hangs heavy around them.

But industrial agriculture is a massive money-maker for some. At its heart lies the arms industry which likes to keep factories going producing agricultural fertilisers and pesticides so that at a moments notice, and probably quietly at the back door, huge arms production can take place. The same is true of the nuclear power industry. It is a way to maintain control of radioactive materials in the event of nuclear war.

So much is clear and evident. Vested interests promote the agricultural large scale production myth in the hope that we will ignore Dr Vandana Shiva’s remark that 65 % of all food production is by small farmers. Already market gardening is based on the production of industrial seeds, many of which – F1 varieties – are infertile, meaning you have to buy them again next year if you want a crop to harvest.

Modern agriculture demands huge investment from the farmer into machinery. Huge tractors roll past my door and force me off the country roads I live on. They carry vast weights of rolled hay on forks at their front hanging high above the car owner cowering in the hedge. The production of haylage – a combination of silage and hay and wrapped up tight in big black plastic bags -cannot be moved by hand. The sad thing is that the food, while relished by cattle, causes scouring in the animals that leaves a sickly stench hanging over the land that was absent in my youth. It is addictive, that’s why the cattle love it. But it destroys their innards. This is the food that many people are eating. Is it any wonder that they attack each other with knives and guns?

What relationship is possible between the animals and their owners when the farmer has 1200 head of cattle. What thoughts fill his head as he gazes on the creatures in his fields. Even the phrase ‘his fields’ is anathema to life and nature. He cannot enjoy the animals, nor find the simple pleasure in them that as a child I so much enjoyed. He can only see steaks on hooves and, projecting such thoughts on to his herd, what do they feel in return towards the human race? Are you the man who has come to kill me? Is a question I have so often been asked by creatures as I lean over a field gate.

What happened to animal husbandry? The idea of looking after animals for their well-being. The only sop we find to that idea today is ‘farmer X has had to put the whole of his herd down due to swine fever, foot and mouth, avian flu.’ and the only lament we are supposed to feel is ‘poor man what a loss of money and income that represents’.

Which brings me to the question is farming an industry and why not? I maintain it is not. Industry produces things. Agriculture produces things. Therefore they are the same. This is the mentality which lies behind the language used in modern commerce. But there is a vast difference. Industry makes things. Agriculture grows them. A single seed planted may produce a healthy plant bearing a dozen or more of the same seeds, or, depending on the crop, many pods of many seeds. Show me a single industry where a single small thing can replicate many hundreds of small things equally capable of replicating themselves many times over.

No! Industry consumes vast quantities of several things to produce endless quantities of (often useless) other things. There is no similarity between industry and agriculture or horticulture, other than in the minds of the bankers and accountants who drive this ambitious projection of one vast money making monoculture.

Lets change the language and change the narrative. Do you really want to eat something that makes you ill because the creature it was taken from was equally ill? The human longs for the taste of blood. It is so ancient it drives the species to procreate. It is the taste of the egg the sperm is chasing. No wonder they long for raw bloody steaks. But as for money – where does that come in?

Author: Keith Armstrong

Dance teacher, writer, film-maker, educationalist, enthusiast.

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