Animal Factory is the story of what used to be the American Dream and how it's turned into the American Nightmare. Rural America used to produce a picture of quaint little farms with cows and chickens dotting lush green fields and rolling hills. Now it's a nightmare of huge tract farms filled with thousands of animals who will never see the light of day. There are chickens who will never peck at a fresh blade of grass under a blue sunny sky. There are cows that will never wander through open fields as the breeze blows and the calves play. There are pigs that will never roll in the mud or root in the dirt for apples.
Instead, what we have is huge barns packed full of animals who cannot turn around, who will live and die inside the same little space. What we have are huge slurry pits of excrement whose noxious fumes are so strong that they make children throw up and elderly people faint. We have untreated waste being sprayed on open fields and we have winds that carry this toxic brown mist into towns to cover homes with a sticky, stinky mess. We have waste from the slurry pits running off into our rivers and lakes killing thousands of fish and eventually ending up in our drinking water. We have the antibiotics that the animals are fed being eliminated in their waste which ends up in our food supply.
This is the story of what happens to the communities where those quaint little farms turn into huge, disgusting factory farms. It's the story of several American families who have had their lives ruined by these farms. The book tells about how the fumes from the untreated waste have given people health problems such as cancer and respiratory illnesses. It tells about families who are unable to live in their homes due to the fumes and waste but are unable to sell them because who wants to buy a home and live like that?
Animals are raised in factory farms to give consumers the lowest price possible on their meats. Meat that is raised humanely and sustainably is much more expensive to buy because it costs more to take care of the animals properly and it requires more land for them to graze on and live in a healthy way. Americans want cheap and that means lowering the cost of raising the meat we eat.
States don't want to address this problem because these huge factory farms and agribusinesses employ lots of people and pay lots of taxes. All of that is good for the revenue of the state. The government doesn't want to address it because they don't want to make waves with big business. Agribusiness pays into political action committees and that means money for the government.
In Animal Factory, a group of people whose lives have been negatively impacted by these factory farms get together to fight for their rights. This is the story of what they went through to try to get laws changed and to get people to see what's happening and what consumers are supporting every time they go to the grocery store and purchase factory farmed meat. Getting no assistance from local government or the factory farms, they turn to the media to bring this problem to people's attention.
Factory farms don't just negatively impact homeowners in the community, in many cases they factory farm itself is manipulated by large corporations that purchase the meat from them. Huge corporations like Perdue (and many others) require that the farmers that are selling them the chickens meet certain conditions of their contract. If they don't or can't, they won't buy the chickens from them and the farmers go out of business. If they try to meet the conditions, they are often forced into taking out expensive loans, which means they must continue to meet the conditions or face bankruptcy.
It seems almost every month we hear another horror story about illnesses caused by improper treatment of animals and their waste product. Whether you're talking about E. coli in your vegetables, bird flu, swine flu or MRSA, there is clearly a problem with our food supply. America's constant quest for cheap food is not without a higher price tag that effects our health and our planet.