I enjoy pretty much everything there is that has to do with the outdoors. Some of my most peaceful moments have been while walking through the forest, sitting on a beach, or boating (minus the loud engine). Accordingly I have a great respect for nature and enjoy learning about the plants and wildlife therein. My plan is to continue that learning process and hopefully enhance it by sharing what I learn. I intend for this blog to serve many purposes, but in the immediate future it will be a place for me, and hopefully others, to share ideas about reducing our individual impact on this planet, protecting wild spaces, and in general just to comment on the things we enjoy most in the great outdoors. I welcome all opinions as otherwise you cannot consider every aspect of a subject. However, I would ask that every opinion be expressed in a respectful way and considered with an open mind. Often there is no single right answer. Thanks.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Factory Farming: Chickens

As mentioned in my post "Factory Farming: Environmental Impact" I want to share some information I  learned about the treatment of animals in the farming industry.  Rather than throwing it out in one long post I have decided to break it up and cover the animals in separate groups.  So for this post I will talk about chickens, both egg laying, and those raised for meat.

Some examples of the poor treatment of egg laying hens mentioned in Gene Baur's book, Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds About Animals and Food, and also the chooseveg.ca website include the following:
  • beak tips are cut off with no anesthetic so chickens do not peck at, and injure each other
  • hens are housed in battery cages in which birds have space equivalent to an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper
  • at hatching facilities baby chicks are sorted.  Females go to laying facility, males chicks are discarded -sometimes ground up in a commercial size garberator or left to suffocate in a large plastic bag
  • one farm in California disposed of 30,000 unwanted hens by putting them through a wood chipper
  • the life expectancy of a chicken in a natural setting is about 10-15 years whereas a factory egg laying hen is often sent to slaughter at 1-1.5 years of age when production drops off

Discarded male chicks. 

Battery cages in Guelph, Ontario
The two pictures above I copied from the For the Animals page on chooseveg.ca.
After reading the above information I was grateful that our family already pays the extra money and buys Island Gold Organic Free Run Eggs.  According to the carton the eggs "are produced by hens fed a special diet of all-natural, organically grown grains that are free of pesticides, herbicides or preservatives.  The hens are free roaming and have access to outdoors, weather and environment conditions permitting."  I also went to the Burnbrae Farms website as they are the parent company for Island Gold.  The website does have a section about social responsibility and I did ask for, and promptly receive, a copy of their Animal Welfare Policy.  It is brief, easy to read and contains information about the beak treatment, housing practices, and use of antibiotics and hormones, among other things.  Given the amount of chatter I hear about antibiotics and hormones in food products I was particularly interested to note that steroid and hormone use has been illegal in the Canadian Egg Industry for over 50 years. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Factory Farming: Environmental Impact

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur, which was the book I mentioned in my post A Couple of Recent ReadsI started the book with some trepidation and, as I suspected, it was not an easy book to read.  There were some heartwarming stories of animals rescued from stockyards and other terrible situations, but the information provided about the conditions in which most farm animals live was eye opening to say the least.  In this post I want to take a look only at the environmental impacts of factory farming, but I cannot simply ignore the despicable conditions that most farm animals are raised in so I will cover those in subsequent posts. 

The book focuses on factory farming in the United States, but I was curious about the environmental impacts closer to home.  Without too much trouble I found an article published on September 25, 2007 in the Vancouver Sun called Factory farming cruel to animals and hard on the planet, too.  The article refers to a study released by the BC Agriculture Council which found "high to very high environmental risk" levels of nitrates in the soil of some Valley Farms.  The article also refers to unnamed studies that point to agriculture as being the source of nitrates in the Abbotsford aquifer.  Also mentioned was the high levels of ammonia from livestock manure which are released into the air and react with other chemicals to form particulates harmful to respiratory health.  The issues of ammonia and nitrates are also mentioned in a more recent article in the Vancouver Sun entitled Agriculture fuels the Fraser Valley's White Smog published on August 30, 2010.