How the Industrialization of Animals Affects Human Life


Ever heard of a CAFO? It’s short for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, which is basically a hybrid of a factory and a farm where most of this country’s livestock is destined to spend some time on their eventual journey to your plate. Even though science has finally jumped on the common sense bandwagon by signing a declaration acknowledging every mammal’s inherent conscious awareness, the treatment of livestock in CAFOs is anything but humane. Currently in the industrialized livestock agriculture sector, even the most progressive welfare policies lag behind, are ignorant of, or arbitrarily disregard the science on sentience and cognition that many people believe to be common sense.

At the root of every CAFO is a concept known as industrialization, a process of creating systems geared towards production efficiency.  A consequence, however, of this strict focus on maximum productivity, aka $$$, is that livestock is transformed from a being respected and revered for its contribution to human life to nothing more than a line item on an income statement. Profits, losses, and economics replace values, animal husbandry, and ethics.

The sad reality is that this very same process is quickly consuming many aspects of life, not just the livestock industry. Industrialization introduces a thought process and philosophy that can alter—and I argue that it has completely transformed—society’s  perception and attitude towards the natural world and what constitutes a fulfilling and meaningful existence. Economic efficiency and effectiveness have become the sole focus and the qualitative factors that create intrinsic value and worthwhile experience have fallen by the wayside.

CAFO Life vs. Human Life

Industrialization has transformed the way human beings live. It is not surprising to see animal activists picket and speak out against CAFOs since the industrialization of this sector has led to inexcusably inhumane practices. Interesting, however, is that the industrialized lives of human beings—predominantly those living in urban areas—mirror that of livestock living in CAFOs. Sound absurd? Let’s look at some comparisons:

1) As a result of living in unnatural environments, industrial livestock must be over-medicated for the majority of their lives, pumped full of antibiotics and hormones just so that they can survive. Like the animals, humans are becoming sicker at earlier ages and requiring lifelong medication as they become obese and diabetic in adolescence. Maybe our living conditions have become just as unnatural as a CAFO? Why do more and more people need medication throughout their entire lives?

2) Life in CAFOs subjects livestock to extreme amounts of fear and stress, leading to abnormal behaviors that include cannibalism, violence, and even producing permanent genetic changes. The last few weeks of this year have brought some of America’s worst tragedies ever seen. The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School will never be forgotten. The firefighters gunned down in Rochester, New York on Christmas Eve will remain heroes for eternity. Both of these events are some of the most heinous acts ever witnessed in modern times. The public outcry has been immediate, significant, and warranted. The public demands more treatment for mentally ill individuals. Where is all the support for these mentally ill individuals? I argue that a better line of reasoning would be to question why the prevalence of mental illness seems to be on the steadily on the rise. Why are incidences ADD, ADHD, Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome becoming more common?

3) A funny thing happens when you feed livestock food that is not part of their natural diet: The animals get fat, chronically diseased, or die. Or all of the above. A funny thing happens when you feed humans heavily-processed, chemical-ridden, and engineered edible products: The humans get fat, chronically diseased, or die. Or all of the above.

Industrialization transformed life on Earth. It brought with it unprecedented innovations, technological advancements, and economic progress. Times have changed. Maximally producing anything for the sake of production is not the answer. The Dust Bowl, America’s major ecological and agricultural disaster in the 30′s, was poor agricultural practices that focused onoverproduction and ignored the principles of sustainable agriculture. The short-term objective of maximum production is never the right answer for the long-term viability of any product, industry, or aspect of life. Industrialization strips the authenticity, genuineness, and intent of an experience, thus transforming it into a superficial economic transaction focused intently on profit.

There is more to animal husbandry than maximizing profit per pound of cattle. There is much more to life than economics and productivity. As new problems arise and life-centered values reemerge at the forefront of public awareness, new solutions must replace the archaic and static industrial systems of the past. Yes, money and economics are important, but they cannot trump values, ethics, and the social bonds that define humanity. When they do… well… you see what can happen.


De-industrializing Life

The industrialized world has disconnected us from the game of life by taking our focus away from the process of living and placing it instead on the final score at the end of the game. Whoever came up with the quote ‘he who dies with the most toys wins’ missed the point. He missed the whole map by a long shot.

In a CAFO, animals are disconnected from their natural environment. The combination of closed quarters, highly stressed living, and poor diet leads to diseased animals that require mega doses of medication to simply continue to breathing. Is it so difficult to see our own systems have created the same fate for humans? We live in closed quarters, within four walls, and completely disconnected from one another and from nature. The most connected we feel to the natural is when we watch the National Geographic Channel.

It is time to reconnect with the world around us. To value something beyond mere economic profit and the almighty dollar. No, I am not saying money is evil. It is what it is. Money can be used as at tool for both good and evil. But valuing it above all else creates the problems currently plaguing our country and world. Life is more about the process than the end goal.

Reconnect with moments that define life. Don’t rush to the finish line and realize you missed the ride. Reconnect with nature by spending time outdoors. Take off your shoes and walk on the beach, or a park, or a hike. Reconnect with your food by eating  actual food. Grow it or buy it from a local farmer. Converse about it. Prepare the meal yourself. Turn off your television and sincerely reconnect with your friends, family and loved ones. Most importantly, reconnect with yourself. Movement is the language of the body. Listen to it through meditation.

Luke Sniewski is a writer, speaker, and fitness and lifestyle expert. He is the CEO/President of LEAF Lifestyle, a Santa Monica based personal training company. He has been featured in Livestrong, CalCPA magazine, LA Business Journal, Hollywood Reporter, and Hollywood Today for his works as both an entrepreneur and personal trainer. Follow Luke on Twitter.