Life on the “farm” is not what it used to be. Modern-day agriculture is a radical departure from the iconic images of cows, pigs and chickens roaming freely beside nearby fields of vegetables. Today’s agricultural system more closely resembles a car assembly line. From calf to burger, or grain to bread, the aim of agribusiness is to deliver vast quantities of food – with little regard for the long-term damage it creates in the process. Through the eyes and ears of whistleblowers, FIC receives first-hand knowledge and evidence of the terrible state of the agriculture industry.
The modern farm makes use of mechanized equipment, which cuts down on labor costs and undermines local economies. The profitability of a facility is directly proportional to its ability to concentrate the maximum amount of product, plant or animal in the least amount of space. Other hallmarks of industrial agriculture include the genetic modification of plants and animals, and the heavy use of pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels, and water for irrigation. Consequently, these industrial methods yield high amounts of uniform and relatively inexpensive meat and vegetables. But make no mistake – all of this efficiency comes at an extraordinary cost to public health.
Waste and contaminants from industrialized “factory farms” endanger our fragile ecosystem and place us all at avoidable health risks. Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, are largely responsible for the low cost of meat, dairy, and poultry. But these facilities assault the rural environments in which they operate.
The inhumane handling of animals is unpalatable in more ways than one. Not only is it cruel, but failure to practice humane handling also poses a significant danger to the food supply in several ways.
Worker rights, including whistleblower protections, has a direct effect on food safety. The food industry routinely engages in labor exploitation. Immigrants are paid unconscionably low wages while performing vile, strenuous, and dangerous work – and are often the only witnesses to food integrity violations that threaten the public health. But they enjoy no real whistleblower protection rights.