Industrial agriculture is a practice that started a few decades after World War II. It involves the use of chemicals and other technologies on a very high scale to produce large amounts of food. This practice has continued to rise, to the detriment of the environment and the animal population therein. Industrial farming is proving unsustainable, owing to the demerits it has registered so far. This form of agriculture is largely employed for monoculture—a type of farming where only one type of crop is produced on a very large scale.
Wheat, corn, rice, palm, and soy are produced this way, among others. It is worth mentioning that animal mass production facilities fall under this category. When this kind of agriculture was devised, many people saw it as a great way to produce food in large scale for the growing human population. After many decades, the environmental degradation is alarming. This article looks at how industrial agriculture has affected the animal population in the world.
How Industrial Agriculture Affects the Animal Population:
- Introduction of Harmful Chemicals to Animal Habitats
As alluded to above, practices like monoculture can be very harmful to the environment and the animals living in the area. This is because it takes a great deal of chemicals to grow one type of crop for several years—and monoculture is not a natural or organic way to grow crops. To this end, attacks by pests and diseases warrant the use of chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides. Animals will, in turn, drink water that is contaminated, leading to compromised health and death. These chemicals may also wipe out certain crops or animals that are vital to the ecosystem. As a result, animal population will naturally dwindle. Marine life continues to bear the brunt of this chemical invasion.
- Threat of Extinction Owing to Deforestation
At the very heart of industrial farming is the need for large chunks of land. With the demand for land increasing, humans do not hesitate to cut down forests to set up their industrial farms. Deforestation will render many animals homeless. Exotic species of animals who dwell in forests cannot survive elsewhere, and this only means a slow death. With a lack of food and skills to survive outside forest environments, more and more animals are falling victim to the effects of deforestation. The process affects a whole spectrum of animals, including birds, primates, elephants; the list goes on. Some scientists have stated that some animals become extinct even before humans have given them a name. This form of destruction is happening on all continents as industrial farms gain more ground.
- Accelerated Global Warming with Dire Consequences for Animals
Industrial farming uses a myriad of technologies and chemicals that promote global warming. To this end, greenhouse gases are contributed on a massive scale, acting as catalysts for the increasing temps. The effect is that ecosystems are no longer the same. Some crops will die, and many animals will lack food. This delicate balance is continually being tested. Animals and aquatic life simply will not survive when the conditions are not conducive, and this has led to many animal deaths. Global warming has also been characterized by famine and drought in some parts of the world. Wild animals, along with domestic ones, have been wiped out due to the lack of food in the recent times. As if this is not enough, droughts pave the way for floods, which also, in turn, drown animals. A good example is the East African drought of 2016/2017 and the subsequent flooding that has followed. Industrial agriculture has played a role in this.
- A Rise in Human-Animal Conflict
Because humans have encroached on lands that were previously animal territory to practice industrial agriculture, a constant clash has been witnessed. More and more people are competing with animals in a bid to secure food. Essentially, many animals are killed every day by human beings using weapons. This is because animals no longer have their migration paths easily accessible in their search for food. In many areas, animals will not hesitate to kill humans or any other threat they find on their way; wildlife such as lions and elephants have been greatly affected by this. Encroachment is a vice that has been sustained by humans in the search for more land to cultivate. The more lands open up for farming, the more the human population will be attracted to settle.
Is there a Way Forward?
Experts in this subject matter are doing a lot of work to bring awareness to the threat to animals brought about by industrial agriculture. One such passionate advocate on this topic is Professor Raj Patel of the University of Texas in Austin. Professor Patel gave a keynote address at the Extinction and Livestock Conference that took place in London a few weeks ago. According to Professor Patel, what is happening is nothing short of a mass extinction of various animal species. From the harm of mass monoculture in Brazil to the shrinking penguin population in South Africa, this has become a crisis.
According to this academic, the way forward is to be mindful—and become part of the solution. Professor Patel advises individuals everywhere to buy organic products that have been produced observing sustainability. It also helps to buy goods that have been cleared for fair trade. The professor further adds that all people should demand more from their employers and even the government where industrial agriculture is concerned. The good prof continues to urge humans to consider living with less material wealth as they turn from capitalistic ways. Professor Patel concludes by saying that when there is more sharing, more joy will be realized in the world.
Indeed, every person can play a crucial role in helping mitigate the problem. If animal populations continue to dwindle, this can have a ripple effect—and humans might not be spared in the process. In this respect, saving the animals could also mean that we are saving ourselves. There are many cutting-edge alternatives to producing food on a large scale without causing great suffering to the environment. Companies that engage in this form of farming have to think twice, as this practice is proving highly unsustainable going forward.