The biggest single-building pig farm in the world just admitted its first 3,700 female pigs, and it speaks to the dystopian nightmare that is animal agriculture.
Constructed on the outskirts of Ezhou, China, the 26-story apartment-style building stands as tall as a skyscraper and has the capacity to slaughter 1.2 million pigs each year. A second skyscraper-size farm is being built behind the first and is nearing completion. Together, they will be able to hold a mind-blowing 650,000 animals at a time.
Around the world, the animal agriculture industry seeks to save on costs by cramming more and more animals into smaller and smaller spaces, even though crowded confinement increases the risk of disease. Matthew Hayek, an assistant professor in environmental studies at New York University, stated:
Intensive facilities can reduce interactions between domesticated and wild animals and their diseases, but if a disease does get inside they can break out between animals like wildfire.
Three out of four emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic—passed to humans from other animals—with many originating in the meat industry. In the United States and around the world, animals raised for food are kept in filthy, crowded conditions, often without fresh air or sunlight. In these environments, viruses spread easily and rapidly from animal to animal, sometimes leading to dangerous mutations. According to Dirk Pfeiffer, chair professor of One Health at City University of Hong Kong, high-density operations can increase these risks:
The higher density of animals, the higher risk of infectious pathogen spread and amplification, as well as potential for mutation.
One example is swine flu. In spring 2009, a novel H1N1 influenza virus, known as “swine flu,” was detected in North America. The unique genetic makeup of this H1N1 strain was likely due to the intercontinental transport of live pigs. The new virus circulated among farmed pigs in Mexico before it jumped to humans and triggered a global pandemic. Scientists estimate that during the first year of the pandemic, between 151,700 and 575,400 people died as a result of the virus.
On top of raising disease risk, massive factory farms enable the meat industry to slaughter more and more animals. This only increases the catastrophic environmental impacts of animal agriculture and the staggering amount of farmed animal suffering. Professor Pfeiffer said:
The probably even more important question will be whether this type of production is consistent with the need to move towards reduced meat consumption, considering the apparently unstoppable threat of devastating climate change.
Fight back against this horrific system. Pledge to go plant-based for one week, and discover the impact you can make simply by eating more kindly.