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Opposite Trends in Agribusiness






Vegetarianism & Veganism

Factory Farming

Contaminated Food

Animal Agriculture & the Environment

Animal-based Diets & Human Health

Opposite Trends in Agribusiness

Humane Animal Husbandry: A Myth

Humane Slaughter:
A Contradiction in Terms

Selected Bibliography



Who Controls the Food Supply





In the last decade, two opposing trends have evolved that apply to legal protections designed to prevent the cruel treatment of farmed animals: the European and the North American models.



Legal protections by the European Commission (EC) in the form of serious anti-cruelty laws that cover breeding, animal care, transportation, and slaughter have been developed and are being applied. This strong trend started in 1964 with the groundbreaking exposé of factory farming by Ruth Harrison (Animal Machines). Outraged citizens in the UK forced a government investigation that resulted in a comprehensive study and report by the Brambell Commission. Later, some individual countries formally recognized that animals have inherent rights. For example, in 2002 the Bundestag in Germany gave animals constitutional rights. Some individual countries' legislation is now even stronger than that of the EC, with the focus on animals' specific needs. Many practices considered standard and acceptable before are banned or radically changed and subject to anti-cruelty protections, including animal body crating (veal calves and gestating pigs), force feeding (ducks and geese), forced molting and other food deprivation procedures, battery cages and other egg-laying systems, body mutilation, long-distance live transportation, as well as pre-stunning and slaughter practices.


North America

In North America there are no legal anti-cruelty protections for animals farmed for food, in spite of the fact that animal welfare legislation exists on the national as well as the local level. The trend in the U.S., for example, has been an expanding set of amendments that exempt farm animals from legal protections, and that specifically exclude from protection individual farmed species like turkeys and other poultry. (Poultry represent 95% of the more than 7 billion farm animals slaughtered annually in the U.S. — all without any legal protection from institutionalized cruelty.) The focus in North America is on protecting the needs of the animal-based enterprise, not the animals. Agribusiness has fought against and won a determining influence over any improvement in humane-treatment legislation. The method used is to add a qualification to any protections in the law stating that the standard to be applied is "common agricultural practice." Anti-cruelty legislation doesn’t apply when the conditions of breeding and raising livestock, transporting them, and finally killing them follow the existing customary methods. The producers themselves are left to regulate treatment based on what they deem convenient, and the law now removes the animals from oversight. In fact, some states specifically prohibit application of anti-cruelty statutes to farm animals and therefore fail to control the cruel realities of intensive farming in North America.

The contrast is stark: the United States alters the law to allow cruel farming practices, while Western European countries are banning cruel farming practices.
— David J. Wolfson

International Impact

Agribusiness is international – the same corporation that is subject to legal standards in Europe avoids them on the farms and slaughterhouses it operates in Canada and the U.S. International conglomerates shift their businesses to locations where they have the fewest legal restrictions, least oversight, and greatest profit. Today, there is extremely strong growth of intensive animal-based farming in Brazil, China, and India. Cruel animal exploitation not only persists, it is expanding.




Druce, Clare and Philip Lymbery. Outlawed in Europe. Animal Rights International, 2001

Wolfson, David J. Beyond the Law. Farm Sanctuary, 1999