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The "Standard Critique"

The criticisms directed at intensive animal agriculture have followed a pattern that has been repeated so faithfully and so frequently - in books, broadcasts, Web sites and other media - that we might call it the "Standard Critique" of intensive animal production and its effects on animal welfare.

One of the claims that make up the Standard Critique is that corporations are replacing the the family farm. For example, in Vegan: the new ethics of eating, Erik Marcus (1998) writes that, in the 1980s, "big corporations stepped in and took over the pig industry with the same large-scale systems applied to poultry", and, "with the decline of the family farm, animals that used to be cared for with kindness and a general regard for their welfare now live and die in unconscionable conditions." Similarly, Animal Place states, "Over the past 50 years, animal agriculture has evolved from small, family farms to large corporate factory farming systems" and that these "are built upon the cutthroat attitude of increasing profit margins at all costs - which has had devastating consequences for the animals in their care".

A second claim is that traditional animal care values, which are portrayed as typical of family farms, have been displaced by corporate greed. John Robbins (1987), in Diet for a new America, writes that "the behemoths of modern agribusiness seek profit without reference to any ethical sensitivity to the animals in their keeping"; and in Old MacDonald's factory farm, C.D. Coats (1989) states, "Now humane treatment is seen as unnecessary, irrelevant, and in conflict with the maximization of profit".

A third claim is that with the move from family to corporate control of animal production, older animal husbandry methods that were well suited to animals have been replaced by industrial, confinement systems that are disastrous for animal welfare. For example, in The price of meat, author Danny Penman (1996) states, "Whether they are battery chickens in their cages or pigs in sow stalls, all experience the same mental anguish that would drive many humans to suicide". Edward Dolan (1986), in Animal rights, claims that "the natures, welfare, and comfort of the animals are totally ignored for the sake of production methods that seek the greatest profit possible at the least possible cost in housing and care". And the Humane Farming Association speaks of "factory" farms where the animals lead lives "characterized by acute deprivation, stress, and disease".

Thus, the Standard Critique portrays the intensification of animal production as a process whereby corporations have replaced family farms, corporate profi t-seeking has replaced animal care values, and the industrial methods of the corporate world have replaced traditional farming methods, all with terrible consequences for animal welfare.

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