"The philosophy of the organic movement is considerably more enlightened than the ‘more of the status quo’ mentality. This philosophy has two main tenets: conquer our dependence upon non-renewable resources and chemicals which harm eco-systems, and minimize waste and inefficiency and return all organic waste to the soil to enhance fertility. Accordingly, organic agriculture has advantages over its commercial counterparts, including reduced soil erosion, greatly ameliorated soil health, far less contribution to global warming, and dramatically reduced water pollution. There are, as Robbins highlights, nutritional advantages too, for the amount of nutrients in organic foods compared to their comnmercial/industrial counterparts are much higher. Moreover, organic agriculture generally attaches much more significance to animal welfare than does its commercial, industrial counterpart, albeit it still views livestock as essential to the organic cycle. The primary strength of the organic movement, in my view, is its recognition that the status quo is ecologically unsound and ethically unacceptable. Flawed, however, are its implications that our food production must continue to depend on the slaughter of animals and that this is in some way natural and necessary.
Moreover, so-called ‘free range’ animal produce assumes at least two things: first, that animal produce is healthy, and second, that ‘free range’ really means free-range. Even if animal produce could make us healthy (and in view of the mounting evidence to the contrary, this is not a particularly convincing proposition), animals fed an all-organic diet would make for an end product that is too expensive for most people.
Furthermore, if corporations were to take free-range seriously by not just removing cages but purchasing access to pasture, then it is a matter of locating those communities “able to pay for the bodies of animals who, when living, took up the most space. That flunks the straight – face test. From both an animal rights and an environmental perspective, space for animal agribusiness doesn’t need to be expanded; it needs to be phased out…There is nothing sustainable, let alone kind, about animal agribusiness.”
Michael W. Fox agrees, noting that free-range animal agriculture is incompatible with anything like today’s level of meat gluttony on the part of the affluent. The grasslands and marginal lands of the world are insufficient to maintain the many millions of sheep, cattle and other ruminants needed to supply animal produce to everyone who has a penchant for it.
Even if free-range meat was within the financial means of most of those who insist on eating animals, a move from factory farms to pastures will require the annexation of land presently occupied by free-living animals. In other words, the purchasing of such pasture would shove free living animals of the world – those living on nature’s terms, those who might have a chance to keep their territory and thus their freedom as Lee Hall describes - to the margins of the land. According to Dennis Avery, if the United States raised its chickens today on free range, it would mean taking from wildlife a land area the size of the state of New Jersey. If hundreds of millions of pigs were raised on free range, it would mean not only millions of square miles of wildlands converted to pasture, but also massive soil erosion as the pigs rooted and wallowed. There "seems to be little point, then, in ending factory farming if there is no more habitat for free-living animals" opines Lee Hall. In short, free-range is sophistry: Domestic animals are bred to be slaves, so they are never really free, and animals with the capacity to live life on their own terms would increasingly be pushed to the brink of extinction and beyond.
There is, furthermore, yet another way that free range can harm animals and it is something that most people are unaware of - namely, government predator control programs. It is likely that we would see an increase in predator ‘control’ programs for managing free-living animals whose very presence is considered a threat and ‘overabundance.' According to Lyman, the American government's Animal Damage Control division already cruelly and indiscriminately kills more than 250,000 wild animals annually to protect ranchers' stock. Methods of killing include gassing, trapping and burning animals alive in their dens.
In short, while it is correct to phase out factory farming as rapidly as possible, replacing the factory farming model with free range is environmentally and ethically problematic. As Hall forcefully argues,
"[W]e just cannot afford to waste any more time attempting to reform animal farms…Designing campaigns around more space for animals destined to wind up on plates at trendy restaurants and pricey grocers is environmental malpractice. Joining their energies and educating relentlessly, the environmentalist and the animal advocate could effectively shield what little pristine environment is left in the world, and what freedom is still possible for animals who call it home. Thinking and working together, they could replace the fantasy of sustainable and humane animal farming with a plain-speaking movement that gets to the point: We just don’t need to buy what animal agribusiness is selling."
This undeniably requires a paradigm shift, one that dislodges the notion that meat is an ethically and environmentally acceptable and necessary diet staple. However, as Albert Einstein once perceptively surmised, the significant problems of the world cannot be solved at the same level of consciousness at which they were created."
People reviled today for their activism will be tomorrow's angels, and people respected today for their power will be tomorrow's demons. History will absolve us and condemn them. ~ Paul Watson