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More Clarity About Family Farms

In "Move to Limit 'Factory Farms' Gains Momentum" in today's New York Times, we learn that farmers in Ohio have agreed to phase out gestation crates within 15 years and veal crates by 2017. I won't get into whether I find that to be a victory. Here are the sentences that I want to bring attention to:

The family of Irv Bell, 64, has been growing hogs in Zanesville, Ohio, since the 19th century. Where males and females were once put into a pen to mate, sows are now inseminated artificially and most are kept through their pregnancy in a 2-by-7-foot crate, in which they can lie down but not turn.

“I work with the hogs every day, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with gestation crates,” he said.

This adds another layer to yesterday's discussion about family. Irv Bell's farm is a family farm. It's also a factory farm. The marketing of an operation of breeding and slaughtering sentient nonhumans as a family farm (here, Bell straddles the line) is supposed to trigger some kind of compassion for the humans. Whatever judgments you might have about what Bell does and whether or not he finds anything wrong with what he does, you should put them aside. After all, he's part of a family business.

The important word in the phrase "family farm" is the same word that is important in "factory farm." It's the one that matters most to beings who simply want to live their lives without betrayal, disrespect, enslavement and slaughter. And all of those are implicit in "farm." It doesn't matter what word you put before it.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. TW #

    Thank you ! Family farm or factory farm, they both always end in violence against the voiceless victims.

    August 12, 2010
  2. Olivia #

    What strikes me as especially bizarre is the notion that one can (and should) "grow pigs" as one grows corn or apples or pansies. There is all the difference in the world between ambient fauna/sentient beings and nonambulatory, nonsentient flora. But farmers who breed animals for food believe it is in their economic self-interest to make no such distinction.

    August 12, 2010
  3. Donald Watson, the founder of veganism, had his revelatory moment while visiting his admired uncle's family farm, where the animals roamed free and the farmhouse had been built with hand-fired bricks made by his ancestors. Watson witnessed a pig, someone with whom he had always been friendly, slaughtered and scalded by his uncle and aunts.

    After that, he decided that uncles, and farms, should be re-assessed. He went on to coin the word 'vegan' and to spend a lifetime advocating for animals; he only recently died at the age of 95 having 'outlived' all his critics.

    (see for a copy of the interview with George D. Rodger where Watson recounts this story)

    It's the human betrayal that matters. Why do we interfere in the reproductive lives of animals and keep them at our expense to be slaughtered at our whim? Vegans are proving daily that we can live without animal products and animal use. And if we humans can thrive without animal products, it's unnecessary to slaughter and use animals.

    August 13, 2010

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