|Overgrown hooves and anxious looks. © Jo-Anne McArthur / We Animals|
When I became vegetarian, then vegan, I found that not all farms and farmers are created equal. I learned to let go of idealized, culturally-programmed concepts of these terms that—like the Old MacDonald nursery rhyme and Oscar Meyer jingle—conjure up naive and harmless impressions. Instead, when I came face to face with the truth of what most "farms" and "farmers" do, I uncovered violent operations where millions of nonhuman animals are needlessly bred, enslaved, and killed for their flesh, milk, and eggs.
There is a world of difference between farmers who grow fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, and vegetables, or operate local, plant-based CSA's (Community Supported Agriculture) and "farmers" who oppress, manipulate, and massacre other sentient beings for a living.
"Divorced from the land, numerous 'animal agriculture' operations have no farming component," wrote Joan Dunayer in Animal Equality: Language and Liberation. "Yet, the exploitation of captive nonhumans for food retains the name agriculture, evoking pastoral images of cows grazing, pigs rooting, and chickens pecking in the spacious outdoors. . . . Farm is largely an anachronism. . . . 'Farmers' and 'producers' who deal in flesh, milk, or eggs actually are slaveholders. Slaughterers are mass murderers. Assisted by words that falsify, consumers of products from nonhuman bodies pretend otherwise."
On May 23, President Trump authorized a $16 billion aid package for "farmers" to tide them over during his trade war with China—this is in addition to the $12 billion they were given last year. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to bail out food-industry enslavers, otherwise known as "farmers," who uphold the catastrophic animal flesh, milk, and egg cartels. Nor is it our responsibility to finance those who abet these cartels by turning their soybean and corn yields over to feed companies to fatten nonhuman animals for slaughter. In fact, 75 percent of all soy and 95 percent of all corn grown in the United States is used strictly to fill captive nonhuman animals ("live-stock"), in spite of the fact that if this grain were consumed directly by humans, we could feed nearly 800 million people, potentially wiping out human hunger across the world. Furthermore, subsidies to soy and corn farmers indirectly help lower costs for those who breed nonhuman animals for consumption.
Therefore, I see no moral distinction between the "farmer" who reproduces and butchers animals, and the "farmer" who grows the principal crops that—when mixed with antibiotics, chemicals, and other dead animals—become the sludge that increase nonhuman animals for their extermination. These two types of "farmers" are interdependent, and bolster bloody and environmentally-destructive industries.
Last August, the Trump administration announced an additional bailout for "dairy farmers" who saw prices plummet by $1.1 billion in 2018 thanks to a rising vegan milk industry. As part of the bailout, the USDA agreed to spend $50 billion of taxpayer money to buy approximately 12 million gallons of surplus cow's milk. Even though many more Americans are choosing healthier and ethical plant-based milks, we are still forced to redeem the cow-milk industry. Why?
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service office in Madison, Wisconsin, the "Dairy State" lost 903 cow-milk enslavement operations ("farms") in just 15 months. However, it's important to note that the number of cows tyrannized for their milk stayed steady—some of them were just shipped to larger facilities. Moreover, even with less than 20 percent of the cow-milk facilities Wisconsin had in 1979, Wisconsin still set a record in 2018 for the most pounds of cow's milk produced in one year due to bigger confinement facilities (prisons), genetically-altered cows, and genetically-modified feed.
Most "farms" today are owned by giant, wealthy conglomerates like Tyson, Smithfield, ADM, and Cargill. It doesn't matter that the supply of cow's milk exceeds demand when these companies have powerful lobbyists and politicians on their side. The typical Return on Investment (ROI) for lobbying Congress is 20,000 percent, and the animal flesh, milk, egg, and feed industries have a lot of money to go around. Republicans decry welfare and socialism except when it affects their own pockets and corporate interests. Large animal-abuse corporations don't have to adhere to capitalist principles of Economic Darwinism when they're continually bankrolled by taxpayers.
Recently, Wisconsin's Department of Agriculture ordered the removal of vegan "butters" from all state supermarket shelves. If the cow-milk industry can't win, they just eliminate the competition using their government clout. That doesn't strike me as capitalistic.
And Democrats are no better. In 2009, Obama appointee Tom Vilsack introduced the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP) to reimburse “farmers” for any deaths to "live-stock" caused by natural disaster and disease. Think about this for a minute. Food-industry animals are purposefully created to be killed, but if they happen to die natural deaths—as opposed to the unnatural deaths inflicted on them by "farmers" and slaughterhouse workers—then these animal exploiters receive additional money. What's more, the escalation of flooding and disease is chiefly attributable to exploiting nonhuman animals for food. Hence, we should be taxing "farmers" and the animal flesh, milk, and egg industries, not reimbursing them!
Unsurprisingly, the LIP is just one of many "farm" sustaining programs begot by the former governor of Iowa, which produces more corn and kills more pigs than any other state. Since nonhuman animals are still considered property, the program acts like any other insurance to remedy “losses." However, unlike most private insurance, it is funded with taxpayer dollars and goes to preserving vicious, unjust, and unscrupulous animal-abuse enterprises that remain one of the greatest contributors to global warming and environmental pollution.
These bailouts and programs go unquestioned because we have been socially indoctrinated to believe that animal-derived ice-cream, hot dogs, and hamburgers are as American as baseball and, therefore, so are the "farmers" who capitalize on the lives of nonhuman animals to produce such products. Sympathetic news accounts elevate "farmers" who mourn the loss of their trade in flesh, but few seem to grieve for the shackled mothers, fathers, and children who are systematically used and executed for a lousy buck and cheap hamburger flesh.
In a recent industry-friendly article in the New York Times, "Farms Have Folded. But the Dairy Breakfast Must Go On.", fellow Wisconsinite Julie Bosman reported on the annual Wisconsin dairy breakfast where "farmers" glutted themselves on milk, yogurt, cheese curds, scrambled eggs, and sausage. Bosman noted one young woman, a sort of ambassador for local cow-milk operations, who was feeding a 3-day-old calf a mixture of electrolytes and water, a "Gatorade for cows" is what she called it. It didn't seem to occur to Bosman to ask any investigative questions like, why is a calf drinking Gatorade instead of her own mother's milk? Sadly, the milk meant for the female calf is, instead, being sold to humans so they can gorge themselves on the aforementioned dairy breakfast products. Bosman wouldn't have seen any male calves because they're useless to the "dairy" industry and already would have been shot or sold off to be turned into veal or pet food. This was a biased piece meant to prop up "farmers," not to uncover the horrors of the cow-milk industry.
These "farmers" deserve as much consolation as a snake-oil salesman or a Big Pharma executive whose salary hinges on opioid addiction.
In 1968, there were many political operatives who wanted the war and carnage in Vietnam to continue regardless of the obvious failures and loss of life, but few had the courage to finally admit it. "Past error is no excuse for its own perpetuation," said Robert F. Kennedy. "All men make mistakes, but a good man yields when he know his course is wrong and repairs the evil."
It is immoral to insist on preserving any establishment that causes unnecessary suffering and death to others. Economic excuses for maintaining animal exploitation are deplorable and indefensible. I understand that people are afraid to lose their jobs, but just because something is called a "job" doesn't make it right or entitled to exist. There will come a day when furriers, slaughterhouse workers, breeders, zoo workers, jockeys, carriage drivers, food-industry enslavers, and many others will have to forfeit their "jobs" because we ceased to view nonhuman animals as property and things to subjugate for personal pleasure, entertainment, and financial gain.
In a series of op-eds, Gene Baur, the president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, espoused government help to transition "farmers" away from animal-enslavement operations:
Our government should stop propping up this untenable situation and wasting billions of dollars in subsidies every year. Instead of prolonging the inevitable failure of dairy farms and subsidizing the overproduction of commodities that consumers aren’t buying, our government should actively invest in transitioning these struggling dairies into producing more of the foods our nation needs, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and other healthy, plant-based foods.It doesn't take much to make us feel empathy for animal enslavers because most of us condone and partake in buttressing animal-abuse culture. Politicians and the media use this misguided pity for small animal imprisonment operations in order to gain taxpayer money to reinforce large factory farm operations. In the end, we shouldn't be bailing out any of these depraved institutions and should direct our compassion toward the real victims—nonhuman animals. "Farmers" are not victims, but perpetrators of enormous suffering, death, and environmental destruction. They want to be compensated for their financial losses while animals pay with their very lives. It's time we awoke to the reality of these "farms" and "farmers"—and what we pay them to do—and stop treating them like sacred cows.
To learn more about how you can help end government subsidies for nonhuman-animal exploiters, visit the Vegan Justice League.