A factory farm is a large, industrial operation that raises large numbers of animals for food. Over 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised in factory farms, which focus on profit and efficiency at the expense of animal welfare.
Factory farms pack animals into spaces so tight that most can barely move. Many have no access to the outdoors, spending their lives on open warehouse floors, or housed in cages or pens. Without the room to engage in natural behaviors, confined animals experience severe physical and mental distress.
Daily life in a factory farm is one of pain, frustration and misery—and animals are not the only ones suffering. Human health and our environment are being hurt by factory farming, too.
Farms that are not properly maintained can be breeding grounds for salmonella and E. coli, which are passed to humans through meat, dairy and eggs. To combat these unsanitary conditions, animals are fed large doses of antibiotics—but bacteria is constantly adapting and evolving. Antibiotic abuse creates the potential for dangerous, new drug-resistant strains of bacteria to develop and spread among people.
Waste runoff from factory farms pollutes the water, land and air in neighboring communities, compromising both human health and quality of life. At the same time, these businesses consume massive quantities of precious, finite resources including water and fossil fuels.
This corporatized, industrialized form of agriculture has largely wiped out America’s independent family farms—with catastrophic consequences for animals and people alike. While we fight for stronger laws, we can make a difference today through more humane farming, welfare-conscious shopping and reduced consumption of animal products.
While most Americans expect our laws to protect farm animals, the reality falls far short. Animals raised for food are among the least-protected class of animals in our nation.
The U.S. has no federal laws protecting farm animals while they’re actually on the farms where they are raised. Two federal laws cover farm animals during transport and slaughter, but tragically, all poultry species are excluded, making these protections inapplicable to 95% of land animals killed for food.
Because federal law fails to protect most farm animals, state laws are these animals’ last defense.
The majority of U.S. states expressly exempt farm animals, or certain farming practices, from their anti-cruelty provisions, making it nearly impossible to provide even meager protections. Exemptions usually include common agricultural practices that, while common, are often shockingly cruel.
Although some states include farm animals in at least some of their anti-cruelty laws, such laws are rarely enforced in favor of farm animals. Over the past few years, "ag-gag," or anti-whistleblower bills, have been appearing in state legislatures across the country. While crafted to appear reasonable, these measures are designed to prevent the exposure of troubling practices at agricultural facilities.
On the bright side, an increasing number of states are banning certain cruel practices, such as extreme methods of confinement and the docking of cows' tails.