By Graham Land
Giant factory farms or “megafarms” are somewhat new to Asia, but rising meat and dairy product consumption in the region, coupled with rapid economic and industrial development, is changing the face of diet and animal agriculture in the East.
This is worrying in terms of the environment, human health and living conditions for farm animals. Megafarms take an industrial approach to the raising of livestock. Animals are processed, fed and housed according to efficiency and technological advancements. This can mean hormone shots to increase meat and milk production as well as the widespread use of antibiotics to prevent the spread of infection among large numbers of animals kept crowded together. Pigs, chickens and cows in factory farms may never feel grass under their feet or even see the light of day.
John McKenna writes in the Irish Times:
"For factory farming is predicated on one factor and one factor alone: cost. The animals do not count, and nor do the people in or near the factories."
Both are consigned to living lives not so much in the dust, as in the shit – California’s cows produce more excrement than the entire human population of the United Kingdom.
More megafarms in Asia?
A new research paper entitled Beyond the Pail: The Emergence of Industrialized Dairy Systems in Asia and published in the New York-based public policy “action tank” Brighter Green, examines the consequences of the growth and potential growth of mega dairy farms in China, India and a number of Southeast Asian countries.
The study focuses on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) and their environmental, economic and human health consequences as well as animal welfare issues.
"As industrialized nations begin to comprehend the range of consequences of industrialized animal agriculture, civil society and concerned citizens are advocating for enhanced regulations and a shift away from large-scale agriculture. Nevertheless, dairy corporations are encouraging adoption of the CAFO system in the global South with claims of economic gain, agricultural modernization, and improved food systems responsive to consumer demand. Wider use of the CAFO model in Asia, joined to an ever-expanding supply of dairy products, guarantees the opposite: that the shortcomings embedded in this model documented in the industrialized world will be replicated."
—Beyond the Pail: The Emergence of Industrialized Dairy Systems in Asia
While India is already a large consumer of dairy, it is not a traditional part of the Chinese or Southeast Asian diet. Yet the paper predicts an immense growth in milk consumption across the global south in the coming years. In Asia there is an emerging market of an estimated 3 billion new consumers. And how will the market meet (as well as create) that demand? With heavily polluting and inhumane megafarms.