Factory Farms Are Awful for Animals, People, and the Environment

cows on factory farm

Factory farms are starting to get more visibility in the mainstream media. And the reasons are far from positive.

It is becoming common knowledge that factory farms are horrific places where animals aren’t treated as living, sentient beings but as products and pieces of the industrial food machine.

With more documentaries becoming popular on Netflix, more people are seeing the truth.

The truth is that factory farming is an abomination and needs to end.

Even people who eat meat believe that factory farms and their practices are not just bad for the animals but for the environment as well.

What are Factory Farms?

pigs on factory farm

Factory farms are essentially industrial animal factories that breed and raise animals for human consumption.

There are many types of factory farms out there and we’ll get to those shortly. However, there is a common pattern across all types of factory farms: they are built specifically to be as efficient as possible. Essentially, they are factories that produce the raw materials for many different products that are developed in the next round of factories.

But in this case, the raw materials are live animals and the second round of factories where the different products are created from the raw materials are slaughterhouses.

The meat industry knows that people don’t agree with how factory farms operate so they are hidden from the public eye.

In fact, the industrial food complex is so aware of the public’s distaste for factory farming the food lobbyists influence lawmakers to create ag-gag laws in order to punish the people looking to expose the horrors behind the barbed-wire fences of factory farms.

What Are Ag-Gag Laws?

Ag-gag laws are designed specifically to protect large corporations in the food industry.

Because food executives in the meat, dairy, and egg industries know that the general public would be horrified by what happens at their farms, ag-gag laws have been used to try to silence whistleblowers and animal rights activists that go undercover to expose animal abuse on factory farms.

Ag-gag laws are dangerous because they essentially give farmers and those behind the food industry a free pass at doing what they want to animals. These laws are designed to scare off activists or potential whistleblowers from taking videos, photos, or documenting in any way what happens on factory farms.

While the depth and consequences of ag-gag laws vary from state to state, there are places in the US where activists or whistleblowers can be charged as terrorists and imprisoned for years for simple exposing violent crimes and abuse happening on farms.

Prohibiting people from seeing what is happening on a farm, or any business for that matter makes it impossible to hold people accountable for their actions.

And when those actions involve the breeding and raising of countless sentient beings, it is even more important to have accountability so atrocities don’t occur behind closed doors.

Types of Factory Farms

Factory farms come in all shapes and sizes and tend to different industries altogether.

While there might be some differences here and there, the main things connecting all of these farms is the cruelty and suffering that the animals face while living a confined life awaiting imminent slaughter.

Another thing that makes these farms, regardless of what kind of animal is being raised, so similar, is how their main goal is efficiency. Just like a factory automated with gadgets and robots to speed up the production rate, factory farms employ similar tactics.

And finally, another commonality that factory farms all have is the fact that they are harming animals, the environment, and people at astonishing rates and depths.

Factory Farmed Cows for Beef and Dairy

Factory farms that raise cows for beef and dairy are extremely detrimental to the environment and human health in communities surrounding the farms.

At any given moment, there are approximately 1.5 billion cows on farms around the world. These cows are used for both the dairy industry and the beef industry.

Raising cows consumes an unsustainable amount of water. Beyond water usage for the cow’s drinking water, factory farms use high quantities of water for keeping facilities clean. This doesn’t even count the water that is necessary to grow the soy and corn that is fed unnaturally to cows around the world.

Other factors that weigh into the negative impact that dairy and beef farms have on the environment include the toxic dust kicked up from so many animals that spread beyond the farm into surrounding communities. Improper disposal of cow manure also plays a huge role in destroying local ecosystems, contaminating water, and ruining the soil.

Factory Farmed Pigs

There are just under one billion pigs being raised for food at any given moment around the globe.

A vast majority, 97 out of 100 of the pigs being raised in the US are on factory farms.

Pig farms are unusually cruel to the animals being raised for slaughter.

Many common practices found across pig farms are barbaric. Tail docking and tooth clipping happen and the farmers claim it’s to help the pigs. Many pigs in horrid conditions and squalor can act out due to stress and anxiety. Farmers believe that by physically modifying their pigs they are keeping them safe. In reality, they only do this to prevent the spread of disease. Pigs can become so stressed out that they’ll bite each other’s tails and feet and even resort to cannibalism. These behaviors do not occur in nature.

Many female pigs spend their lives on their sides in gestation crates, a barbaric way of keeping them stationary prisoners throughout their repeated pregnancies.

Right before giving birth, they are moved to farrowing crates. This is even worse than the gestational crate. The baby is taken away almost immediately to be raised for meat or to take the same path as its mother. It depends on sex.

One week later, the mother is forcefully impregnated and is back in the gestational crate. This process goes until she is no longer able to have babies and is slaughtered for her meat.

Factory Farmed Chickens

chickens on factory farm
Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimals.org

Industrial poultry farms can raise and house shockingly high numbers of birds.

This is the case for both broiler and layer hens.

Broiler hens are the chickens raised for their meat.

In the US alone, almost 9 billion chickens are killed for their meat every single year. And in 2018, 109 million eggs were produced just in the US.

To make these numbers even more shocking, approximately 99.9% of those broiler chickens and 98.2% of layer hens are raised on factory farms.

Like cows and pigs, chickens suffer for similar reasons on factory farms. Overcrowding, poor and unnatural nutrition, exposure to disease, and high levels of stress make life on a factory farm a nightmare for chickens.

When it comes to health concerns, it isn’t just the chicken we need to worry about.

We reported at the end of 2018 a story about residents in Maryland suffering from toxic air caused by poultry farms.

Residents of Somerset and Wicomico Counties suffer from extraordinarily high rates of asthma, lung cancer, and chronic pulmonary obstructive disease

Chickens almost obsessively scratch at the ground. This kicks up high quantities of dust. Because there are so many chickens on factory farms and cleanliness costs time and resources farmers don’t want to invest in, the manure mixes in with the dust.

This turns into highly toxic air that spreads well beyond the farm and into neighboring communities.

Other Types of Factory Farms

There are many other types of factory farms that are sprouting up around the world to meet growing populations and demand.

Fish farming is becoming more popular as environmentalists push against ocean trawling and the damage the fishing industry has done to marine life.

However, fish farming hurts the oceans as well. In fact, fish farming is bad for local ecosystems and waterways anywhere near fish production. Chemicals and antibiotics from fish feed can cause major damage to native wildlife.

Other types of factory farms include turkeys, sheep, goats, frogs, rabbits, and many more. They are bred and raised for their meat, skin, fur, milk, and eggs. The similarities across all of them show the same patterns of inhumane conditions and treatment of animals.

Why are Factory Farms Bad for Animals?

broiler chickens on a factory farm
Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimals.org

Factory farms are bad for animals because it makes it so they can’t live a natural life.

Animals born and raised on factory farms don’t know what it is like to be free. They are bred into a lifetime of extreme confinement and suffering.

Animals feel stress, anxiety, and fear like humans. Being contained, often times in spaces so small they can’t move does a number on the mental health of the countless animals that live their short lives on factory farms.

Breeding Animals into Existence So They Can Be Killed

The animals on these farms exist for one reason and one reason only. They are bred to be killed.

Animals on factory farms don’t know what it is like to be free. These animals don’t know comfort. They aren’t allowed to experience family and friends as they do in nature.

They experience fear, suffering, and extreme discomfort before being packed into trucks and taken to slaughterhouses.

To the companies and farmers responsible for their survival, they are nothing more than pegs in the machine. They are far from sentient beings deserving of a life free from fear.

What Percent of Meat Comes from Factory Farms?

According to a global study conducted by the Sentience Institute, the percentages of animals raised on factory farms is alarming.

In the United States, the numbers are broken down as the following:

  • Broiler chickens (99.9%) live on factory farms
  • Turkeys (99.8%) live on factory farms
  • Egg chickens (98.2%) live on factory farms
  • Pigs (98.3%) live on factory farms
  • Cows (70.4%) live on factory farms

Those are frightening numbers.

Many people who consume meat like to say they only buy “humane meat.” First off, humane meat doesn’t actually exist. Humane meat is a marketing tactic to make people think that the animals they are eating didn’t suffer. They did.

But even if people want to truly believe they are buying humanely killed animals (again, something that isn’t real), the chances of finding them would be a great challenge considering almost all meat comes from factory farms.

There is no chance of “humane” meat to come from a factory farm.

The History of Factory Farms

So when did factory farms first appear in history?

The first factory-farmed animal was the chicken and that started in the US back in the 1920s.

For decades, it was only the chicken that was brought indoors into what today would be considered a CAFO. They were bred year round for their eggs and meat.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that factory farming like we know today came into the picture. One of the main arguments early on (and to this day for marketing purposes) is that factory farming exists to meet the growing global demand for animal products.

And while this sounds like it could make sense because of a growing population, the only reason people give this kind of justification the time of day is because of the misguided and dangerous idea that humans need to eat animals.

Many people will argue that factory farming animals is necessary for human survival. They will say that there aren’t enough plant-based foods to feed the world’s growing population. That simply isn’t true.

An Inconvenient Truth About the World’s Crops

In fact, only 55% of the world’s cropland actually goes to feed humans. That leaves a whopping 45% of all crops grown on the planet that doesn’t go to humans. That is a substantial amount of food that people aren’t eating. Where does it go? 36% of that is fed to animals on factory farms.

Factory farming was creating to create the amount of meat necessary to meet the demand of a growing population. If grown on a rolling pasture the way many people think of animal farming (because of marketing and labels), the global meat supply would be much more expensive.

Factory farms allow farmers to grow huge numbers of animals quickly and without taking into account the well-being of those animals.

Because of this, they are able to produce meat at extraordinarily low prices. This meat turns into processed meats that then perpetuate the growing popularity of the Western Diet.

This diet increases people’s risk of becoming obese or suffering from many preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.

What Happens on Factory Farms?

factory farmed pigs
Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimals.org

Factory farms breed animals into existence for the sole purpose of killing them.

While alive, they suffer unthinkable suffering, discomfort, stress, and fear. They are confined to over-populated living quarters, coexistence with highly irritable and stressed out animals, and, many times, abusive farmers and handlers.

The cycle of hardship and suffering on factory farms is very real and well documented. It is a systemic problem that is born out of the very nature of the factory-like mindset and attitude imposed by large corporations seeking high efficiency and profitability.

In order to produce the numbers necessary to meet the demands of the corporations that contract the farms, factory farmers are simply unable to provide their animals with anything that remotely resembles a humane living situation or life.

Inhumane Treatment and Suffering of Animals on Factory Farms

There are countless videos and photos obtained by activists and farm workers turned whistleblowers that display the cruelty imposed on factory-farmed animals.

Many of these images are too difficult for people to watch. Many people, especially people who eat animals, simply ignore these images.

Films like Dominion and Earthlings are extremely difficult to watch but have one thing in common: The images in the films show the norm, not the exception. These images of suffering happen across all factory farms, not just a few bad apples.

When animals are seen and treated as products and not sentient beings, inhumane treatment is unavoidable.

Factory farmers work under immense pressure from the companies that hire them to produce as much meat as possible that they are simply unable to view their animals as animals.

Because of this, a disconnect sets in and the perpetual cycle of inhumane treatment (and the subsequent suffering of animals) becomes standard.

Terrible Living Condition for Animals on Factory Farms

Jo-Anne McArthur / WeAnimals.org

And because of this high demand from corporations that contract factory farms, the key to keeping contracts is efficiency. The more efficient the farm, the more profitable it is for the company selling the meat.

The more animals on the farm, the more profitable the business. If factory farmers do as little as possible for the well-being of the animals without them getting sick or dying in the process, they have found a highly efficient and profitable model.

This is at the direct expense of the animals. It makes it so they have no quality of life whatsoever and are unable to have any kind of resemblance of what a natural life would be for them in nature.

Animals on factory farms have been observed to suffer from severe stress and depression because of the conditions they are forced to live in.

Anything slightly resembling a natural lifestyle for these animals or any kind of quality of life cease to exist on factory farms.


Factory farms will one day be looked back on as a dark and barbaric practice.

People are becoming more and more aware of what happens on these farms and plant-based alternatives to meat are growing at incredible rates.

Many people who eat meat are eating less and consuming more plant-based meats like the Beyond Burger or Impossible Burger.

More and more mainstream restaurants and grocery stores are stocking their shelves and menus with these plant-based alternatives and their popularity is soaring.

Clean meat is close to becoming a reality and will provide meat eaters with an identical culinary experience as meat without animal farming being a part of the process.

While a vegan world seems may seem like a distant future, a world where factory farming is acceptable may come to an end in the near future.

This would save the lives of billions of sentient beings, help reduce pollution and climate change significantly and provide people with much healthier and more ethical alternatives to their diets.