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Wednesday, Apr 30, 2008, 10:06 am

How we put meat on the table

By Jeremy Gantz

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It seems obvious enough: when hyper-capitalism meets livestock, terrible things will ensue. Not only for animals, but for the rural communities playing host to noxious factory farms.

If only this brand-new two-year study, from the Pew Commission on Industrial Animal Farm Production, were required reading for all Americans. The Washington Post does a great job today summarizing the report, called "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Production in America." Its call-to-arms:

At the end of his second term, President Dwight Eisenhower warned the nation about the dangers of the military-industrial complex—an unhealthy alliance between the defense industry, the Pentagon, and their friends on Capitol Hill. Now, the agro-industrial complex—an alliance of agriculture commodity groups, scientists at academic institutions who are paid by the industry, and their friends on Capitol Hill—is a concern in animal food production in the 21st century.

It notes the agriculture industry's ubiquitous influence - in academic research, agriculture policy development, government regulation, and enforcement - and often devastating impact on rural communities:
Communities with greater concentrations of industrial farming operations have experienced higher levels of unemployment and increased poverty. Associated social concerns—from elevated crime and teen pregnancy rates to increased numbers of itinerant laborers—are problematic in many communities and place greater demands on public services. The economic multiplier of local revenue generated by a corporate-owned farming operation is substantially lower than that of a locally owned operation. Reduced civic participation rates, higher levels of stress, and other less tangible impacts have all been associated with high concentrations of industrial farm production.

Sad, how rare it is to see unvarnished truth and forceful recommendations make it out of expensive politically-charged commissions. And with disturbing pictures, to boot. Once in a while, the obvious isn't watered down by committee reviews.

But will Congress take a step in the right direction, and pass the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act?

Jeremy Gantz was the Web/Associate Editor of In These Times from 2008 to 2012. His January 2011 cover story for the magazine, "Terrorist by Association," was selected as a finalist for the Molly National Journalism Award 2012. He is now a contributing editor to the magazine, focusing on labor issues.

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