Enlightenment: Compassion by the Pound!

Reading is beginning to change my life, throughout my time in college I haven’t always prioritized required readings but this year things have changed. Reading about things you genuinely care about completely changes the scenario; and I just love learning more about agriculture. This year in my animal welfare class we are reading, Compassion by the Pound, The Economics of Farm Animal Welfare by F. Bailey Norwood and Jayson L. Lusk. This book has honestly been the answer to so many lingering questions I have about agriculture in regards to practices and Book Cover2animal welfare.  All of my beliefs have changed due to the facts presented in this book; I mostly appreciate this book due to the unbiased layout of information. They do a great job at telling both sides of the spectrum in every aspect of agriculture practices and relevant animal welfare issues. Just recently I read chapter 5 titled “Raising the Animal”, this chapter covers all of the different systems of raising birds, pigs and cows; and it completely blew my mind. I knew there were conventional and non-conventional systems but I had no idea the different varieties of each, as well I was pretty clueless on what actually went on in each system. For example, I always knew there was a huge debate on caged eggs vs. cage-free eggs but I didn’t know each side well enough to have an opinion. The biggest question presented in this chapter regarding birds was whether a hen is better off in a cage or cage-free system. After reading this, I realize that this is a tricky question to answer because a portion of it should be based on science but ultimately the opinion will be based off of someone’s idea of what is humane. Overall though, I had no idea the different variables that played a part in raising hens, who knew a pecking order was such a serious factor in cage vs. no -cage; since birds can only remember up to 30 other birds it’s important to separate them accordingly to prevent aggression creating a safer environment. I think one of the most interesting points I took away from this reading was how humans are the reason for caged eggs. Don’t get me wrong I think caged eggs are the most efficient and safe system for hens considering all facts and figures; but I find it funny how many people create such a drama about how “inhumane” it is, yet they fund it by demanding low prices. Farmer’s continue to produce caged eggs because we demand lower prices and to afford lower prices farmers have to use the caged eggs system; and today almost all hens are raised in a cage system in the US. At the end of the day it all comes down to the consumer and what we demand, because this is what drives farmers to produce goods. I guess this should encourage consumers to really consider what their purchases reflect and allow them to prioritize their beliefs if they are going to fight against such production systems.

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