Lectura 1 the_new_perception_of_animal_agriculture_and_its_analysis.pdf

D. Fraser need for genuine analysis The new perception of animal agriculture: legless cows, featherless chickens, and a 2001. 79:634-641. J Anim Sci the World Wide Web at: The online version of this article, along with updated information and services, is located on at Universidad De Concepcion - on March 4, 2009. Downloaded from The “New Perception” of animal agriculture: Legless cows, featherless chickens, and a need for genuine analy
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  D. Fraser need for genuine analysisThe new perception of animal agriculture: legless cows, featherless chickens, and a  2001. 79:634-641.  J Anim Sci  http://jas.fass.orgthe World Wide Web at: The online version of this article, along with updated information and services, is located on  at Universidad De Concepcion - on March 4, 2009.  jas.fass.orgDownloaded from   The “New Perception” of animal agriculture: Legless cows, featherlesschickens, and a need for genuine analysis 1 D. Fraser 2  Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver V6T 1Z4, Canada  ABSTRACT:  A growing popular literature has cre-ated a “New Perception” of animal agriculture by de-pictingcommercialanimalproductionas1)detrimentalto animal welfare, 2) controlled by corporate interests,3)motivatedbyprofitratherthanbytraditionalanimalcare values, 4) causing increased world hunger, 5) pro-ducing unhealthy food, and 6) harming the environ-ment. Agricultural organizations have often respondedwithpublicrelationsmaterialpromotingaverypositiveimage of animal agriculture and denying all six of thecritics’ claims. The public, faced with these two highlysimplistic and contradictory images, needs knowledge-able research and analysis to serve as a basis for publicKey Words: Animal Production, Animal Welfare, Environment, Ethics, Food Supply, Sustainability ©  2001 American Society of Animal Science. All rights reserved.  J. Anim. Sci. 2001. 79:634–641 Introduction When it was published in 1964, Ruth Harrison’s book  Animal Machines  opened an intense debate about theethics of modern animal agriculture. The book focusedprincipally on the welfare of animals kept under inten-sive production systems, such as battery cages for hensand single crates for veal calves, and it also raised ques-tions about the safety of eating products from animalsraised under such unnatural conditions. The book trig-gered enormous public concern, and the welfare of farmanimals has remained a highly contentious issue eversince. In subsequent years, other writers raised addi-tional concerns about animal agriculture, including itseffects on world hunger and the environment (Lappe´, 1 This article is dedicated to the memory of Ruth Harrison, whosedeath in 2000 deprived animal agriculture of a sincere, compassion-ate, and informed critic. I am grateful to Dan Weary and JaniceSwanson, to the reviewers, and to many other colleagues for helpfulcomments and discussion, as well as to the Natural Sciences andEngineering Research Council of Canada for financial support of this research. 2 Correspondence: Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and Centre for Applied Ethics, MacMillan Bldg., 2357 Main Mall (phone: 604/822-2040; fax: 604/822-4400; E-mail: December 29, 1999.October 6, 2000. 634 policy and individual choice. Scientists and ethicistscould provide such analysis. In some cases, however,scientists and ethicists have themselves produced mis-leading,polarized,orsimplisticaccountsofanimalagri-culture. The problemsin such accounts includethe rep-etitionofunreliableinformationfromadvocacysources,useofunwarrantedgeneralizations,simplisticanalysisof complex issues, and glossing over the ethical prob-lems. The New Perception debate raises important andcomplex ethical issues; in order to provide useful guid-ance, both scientists and ethicists must consider theseissues as research problems that are worthy of genuineinvestigation and analysis.1971) and the tendency toward corporate-level controlof commercial animal production (Singer, 1975). Thusby 2000, the year of Mrs. Harrison’s death, the debatethat she did so much to stimulate had expanded to in-clude a much broader set of issues.“Debate,” however, is perhaps too mild a term. Thetreatment and use of animals has long been a subjectof passionate disagreement in Western culture (Preece,1999), dating back at least to ancient Greece (Sorabji,1993) and involving deeply rooted cultural values (Fra-ser, 2001). Perhaps as a result, modern disagreementabout the ethics of animal agriculture has often takenthe form of highly simplistic and emotionally chargedpronouncements, either condemning animal agricultureas thoroughly bad or defending it staunchly. These sim-plistic portrayals misrepresent the complex realities of animal agriculture, but they do raise genuinely im-portant issues.In this article, I describethe polarized positions takenby the critics and defenders of animal agriculture, andthe themes that emerge in their claims and counter-claims; I then comment on the role played by scientistsandethicistsinthisdebate;finally,Iarguethatresearchandanalysisbyscientistsandethicistsarebadlyneededtomovethediscussionbeyondsimplisticandmisleading portrayals and to arrive at a genuine understanding of the issues.  at Universidad De Concepcion - on March 4, 2009.  jas.fass.orgDownloaded from   New perception of animal agriculture  635 Contrasting Images of Animal Agriculture  At an agricultural fair in 1992, a woman stopped out-side the dairy exhibition and explained to a nearbyfarmer that she did not want to go in and see the leglesscows. She understood, she said, that modern cows hadbeen bred without legs, and were kept on conveyor beltsthat moved them from one side of the barn, where theywere fed, to the other side, where they were milked. Thefarmer, somewhat mysti fi ed, coaxed the woman inside,where she was relieved to see that cows still lookedroughly like cows (  Farm and Country , 1992).Had the farmer been spending his time in a libraryrather than a milking parlor, he might not have beencaught off guard. When Jim Mason and Peter Singerpublished their book  Animal Factories , they quoted ani-mal geneticist R. S. Gowe as saying,  “ at the AnimalResearch Institute [in Ottawa] we are trying to breedanimals without legs and chickens without feathers ” (Mason and Singer, 1980, p. 35). The Animal ResearchInstitute was not, of course, trying to breed such mon-sters, and Dr. Gowe denies making the statement, al-though he allowed that it might have been a  “ heavilydoctored ”  version of an ill-advised jest about the powerof genetic selection (R. S. Gowe, personal correspon-dence, 1992). Any humorwas evidentlylost on popularauthor JohnRobbins (1987, p. 64), who invented a story around thequotation in his  Diet for a New America :  “  You may havethought, as I did, that God pretty much knew what Hewas doing when He designed animals. But the folks atthe Animal Research Institute . . . have a better idea.The director of the Institute, R. S. Gowe, enlightenedmeonthesubject. . . .SaidGowe,proudly, ‘ attheAnimalResearch Institute we are trying to breed animals with-out legs, and chickens without feathers. ’ ” The inventing of stories continued in  67 Ways to Savethe Animals , whose author (Sequoia, 1990, p. 45) de-scribedanimalproductionasaworld “ . . . whereanimalshave become the immobilized machine parts of greatautomated assembly lines in darkened factories — toolswhose sole purpose is to convert various feedstuffs, in-cludingsomequitetoxicsubstances,into fl eshforhumaneating . . . , ”  adding that this is  “ exactly how more than fi  ve billion animals are raised for food in this countrytoday. ” In sharp contrast to legless cows on assembly lines isaviewofanimalagriculturepromotedbymanysupport-ers of the animal industries. For example, the  “ Kid ’ sWorld ”  Web page of the North Carolina Department of  Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDACS, 2000)refers viewers to its  “ Barnyard Palace ”  site, featuring photographs of cows in a green, spacious  fi eld, a calf ina grassy outdoor enclosure, and a sow nursing her litterunrestrained in a straw-bedded pen. In the same vein,the  “ ForKids ”  Web site of the National Pork ProducersCouncil(2000)offersa “ FarmtasticVoyage, ” inwhichthechildren of a third-generation farming family, picturedholding piglets, assure visitors that  “ the main job of a pork producer is to make sure the pigs are healthy,comfortable, and well fed. ”  And children ’ s books such asthe  Amazing Milk Book  (Ross and Wallace, 1991) and Cows in the Parlor  (McFarland, 1990) are replete withimages of animals grazing in green pastures and re-laxing under shady trees.Of course, these various images, both positive andnegative, do not result from efforts to describe animalagricultureobjectively.Insteadtheimageswereselectedor constructed for rhetorical purposes, to create eitherapproval or disapproval. When we look beyond thesesuper fi cial images and examine the various substantiveclaims that have been made about animal agricultureby its opponents and defenders, we see a similar processwhereby facts and arguments have been marshaled toput animal agriculture in either a negative or positivelight. The New Perception The view of animal agriculture promoted by its criticsand opponents involves six interrelated claims (Table1), which, for simplicity, I will call the New Perceptionof animal agriculture.First, in the New Perception, animal agriculture isportrayedashighlydetrimentaltoanimalwelfare.Criti-cisms range from the view that intensive housing robsanimals of   “ all pleasure in life ”  (Harrison, 1964, p. 3) toclaims that farm animals  “ suffer from birth to death ” (Sequoia, 1990, p. 45), are  “ literally driven mad ”  (Rob-bins, 1987, p. 88), and  “ experience the same mental an-guish that would drive many humans to suicide ”  (Pen-man, 1996, p. 25). Modern systems of animal productionareoftendescribedinstarktermsusingurban-industrialimagery: farms are said to have become  “ factory farms, ” where animals take on the role either of machinery orof oppressed workers. Moreover, unusual or aberrantpracticesaresometimesdescribedascommonortypical.Regarding pig production, for example, Newkirk (1990,p. 87) states that  “ 70 to 90% ”  of market pigs are kepttethered by the neck; Achor (1996, p. 83) claims that “ sows are often strapped to the  fl oor ”  for parturition andnursing; and Robbins (1987, p. 93) states that  “ often ” swine are  “ simply given raw poultry or pig manure ” to eat.Second, the New Perception portrays animal agricul-ture as mainly controlled by large corporations ratherthan by individuals or families. Some writers simplystatethatlargecorporationshavetakenoversubstantialsectorsofanimalagriculture(Marcus,1998)orthat “ fac-tory farming  ”  is  “ threatening the family farm with ex-tinction ”  (Dolan, 1986, p. 67). Other critics acknowledgethe continuing role of individual producers but portraythem as  “  victims ”  overwhelmed by agribusinesses (Ma-son and Singer, 1980, p. 97) and forced by economicnecessity to  “ follow the lead of the multinational agri-chemical conglomerates ”  (Robbins, 1987, p. 97). A third theme is that animal producers are motivatedpurely by pro fi t, not by any compassion for animals or  at Universidad De Concepcion - on March 4, 2009.  jas.fass.orgDownloaded from   Fraser 636 Table 1 . Six features of animal agriculture as depicted by the New Perception and by neotraditional portrayals New Perception Neotraditional portrayals1 Detrimental to animal welfare Bene fi cial for animal welfare2 Mainly controlled by large corporations Mainly controlled by families and individuals3 Motivated by pro fi t Motivated by traditional animal care values that lead to pro fi t4 Causing increased world hunger Augmenting world food supplies5 Producing unhealthy food Producing safe, nutritious food6 Harmful to the environment Not harmful, and often bene fi cial, to the environment traditional ethic of animal care. For example, Coats(1989, p. 21) states,  “ now humane treatment is seen asunnecessary,irrelevant,andincon fl ictwiththemaximi-zation of pro fi t. ”  And M. W. Fox (1997, p. 24) character-izes some contemporary animal production as  “ doing business without regard for moral or ethical concernssuch as animal suffering. ”  In support of this view, somecritics portray animal producers as callous individuals “ wholongagocametoacceptbashingananimal ’ sbrainsout . . . as all in a day ’ s work ”  (Robbins, 1987, p. 91).Fourth,NewPerceptionwritingoftenportraysanimalagriculture as causing increased world hunger by using grain and land to produce animal products for thewealthy instead of providing basic necessities for thehungry. Common claims are that grain fed to livestockin the West could be shipped to hungry people in othernations (Coats, 1989) and that hungry countries exportfood to wealthy nations for livestock feed instead of re-tainingitfortheirowncitizens(Rifkin,1992).Commonlycited statistics are that an acre of land can produce 165pounds of beef or 20,000 pounds of potatoes (Robbins,1987; L. Fraser et al., 1990; Newkirk, 1990) and that, if  Americans reduced their meat consumption by 10%,there would be enough grain to feed 60 million peoplewho starve to death each year (L. Fraser et al., 1990;Newkirk, 1990).Fifth,theNewPerceptionportraysanimalagricultureas producing unhealthy food. Gold (1983, p. 85) statesthat  “ overconsumption of animal products contributesstrongly to . . . obesity, heart attacks and cancer of thebowel. ”  Other critics link animal products to a widerange of diseases including   “ migraine, arthritis, infantcolic, diabetes, and cataracts ”  (Fox, 1997, p. 122). Con-cerns are also expressed over residues of   “ drugs, hor-mones, and antibiotics ”  in meat (Dolan, 1986, p. 80);pathogenic bacteria in animal products (Sequoia, 1990);and inadequate or corrupt inspection by governmentagencies (Mason and Singer, 1980).Finally, the New Perception portrays animal agricul-tureasharmfultotheenvironment.Commonthemesarethat livestockcause water pollution andglobal warming (Rifkin,1992);thattropicalcountriesaredestroyingnat-ural rainforest to produce livestock for export (Singer,1990); that overgrazing and feed grain production causesoil degradation (Lappe ´ , 1982); and that livestock pro-duction accounts for most loss of topsoil in the UnitedStates (Robbins, 1987; Sequoia, 1990). According to onecritic, cattle  “ are destroying the very biosphere itself,threatening the future stability and viability of entirebioregions of the world ”  (Rifkin, 1992, p. 191). Although the six claims constituting the New Percep-tion are in part empirical claims about the nature of modern animal agriculture, they also contain a strong moral component. Traditionally, animal agriculturegainedmorallegitimacybecauseitwasperceivedtohavecertain positive attributes and was associated with cer-tain positive images. These include images (with deepBiblical roots) of people caring for animals (Preece andFraser, 2000), of wholesome agrarian living (Thompson,1998),ofstewardshipoftheland,andoftheself-relianceand independence traditionally associated with smallfarm owners. Animal agriculture was also perceived asa useful activity that produced food from grassland andother resources that would not otherwise be used forhumannutrition.Theportrait ofanimalagriculturecre-ated in the New Perception seeks to replace these posi-tive images with largely negative ones: big business;industrialization; destruction of nature; waste of re-sources;victimizationofanimals,farmfamilies,andcon-sumers; and greed — both for pro fi t (among producers)andforthepleasuresofthepalate(amongconsumers) — exercised at the expense of others. Neotraditional Portrayals In response to the New Perception, agricultural orga-nizationshaveoftencreatedpromotionalmaterials,typi-cally disseminated in advertisements, brochures, videorecordings, and Web pages, portraying animal agricul-ture as conforming to traditional positive images and tolong-established values of animal care and environmen-tal stewardship, while also taking advantage of modernknowledge and technology. These  “ neotraditional ”  por-trayals put animal agriculture in a thoroughly positivelight and contradict each of the six elements of the NewPerception (Table 1).Neotraditional portrayals depict modern farming asthoroughlybene fi cialforanimalwelfare.Domesticcattleare said to  “ live in the lap of luxury ”  (NCBA, 1998a).Con fi nement housing, instead of causing animals to suf-fer, is said to be designed  “ to protect the health andwelfare of the animals ”  (AIF, 1988, p. 9) and to aid  “ inprovidingpropernutrition,cleanwaterandregularcare ” (Herscovici, 1996, p. 20). Controversial practices arestoutly defended. For example, farrowing crates are de-scribed as  “ protective restraint ”  for sows, used partly  “ to  at Universidad De Concepcion - on March 4, 2009.  jas.fass.orgDownloaded from 


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