Livestock farmers and animal rights activists are two groups that seem like they’d be natural adversaries, but these days that looks to be changing. According to Vox, many small farmers would greatly prefer to be able to raise animals more sustainably and in better conditions, but have been forced into a less humane model due to business conditions within the industry. Despite the fact that they raise the animals for slaughter, their preference for more humane conditions has made these farmers unlikely allies with other groups that want animals raised in better conditions and, in some cases, want to do away with animal consumption entirely.
The trouble, Vox reports, is that a significant number of animals intended for the dinner table are raised by small farmers who do not have the facilities, training, or ability to butcher and process their own animals. Instead that task is done at meatpacking facilities owned by large corporations, and because of unchecked business consolidations there is now effectively a meatpacking monopoly. This means small farmers are paid less for their livestock and forced to accept contracts with such bad terms that they are all but forced to increase production. To do that, farmers must raise more animals in smaller amounts of space, which is both inhumane and requires the increased use of antibiotics, as crowding animals can lead to outbreaks of certain illnesses.
All of these are issues important to animal rights activists, who, with increasing buy-in from the farmers themselves, are combatting a system so convoluted and shockingly inhumane you’re almost guaranteed to be surprised by the details. Vox’s story, written by journalist Ezra Klein, touches on many of the ways that our food system fails farmers, consumers, and the animals that we eat, and is worthy of a full and comprehensive read. You can find the story here.