Crossposted at the daily kos earlier

I conducted an online interview with Josh Balk of the Humane Society of The United States.  Mr. Balk is the Outreach Coordinator for the Factory Farm Campaign and was happy to answer of my questions about factory farms and his involvement in animal welfare.

What made you want to get involved with animal protection issues?

In high school, I saw a documentary with graphic footage of standard factory farming practices, including scenes of chickens having parts of their beaks sliced off and pigs being castrated without any painkiller. I pledged at that moment to fight against animal cruelty.

What do you do at The Humane Society of the United States?

In The HSUS’s Factory Farming Campaign, I work with universities, food service companies, restaurants, and grocery stores to improve farm animal welfare. Unfortunately, most factory farm owners are not going to implement meaningful reform voluntarily, but their major purchasers–such as grocery and restaurant chains–can demand that they improve their conditions if they want to continue doing business with them.

More after the break..
Don’t factory farms treat their animals well in order to produce food efficiently?

While there are some instances where improving animal welfare would also improve the bottom line, unfortunately, this isn’t usually the case. As farm animal welfare expert Donald Broom, M.Sc., Ph.D. writes, “[E]fforts to achieve earlier and faster growth, greater production per individual, efficient feed conversion and partitioning, and increased prolificacy are the causes of some of the worst animal welfare problems.”

Which animal is the most abused in factory farming?

Chickens are by far the most abused animals in factory farming. Chickens raised for meat are selectively bred and given antibiotics to grow so quickly that their legs, lungs, and organs often can’t keep up with their unnatural size. Egg-laying chickens are forced to live inside cages too small for them even to spread their wings. Every hour in the United States, one million chickens are slaughtered.

Aren’t there laws which protect farm animals?

From life on a factory farm to death at a slaughter plant, animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk suffer immensely. And, as shocking as it may be, much of the abuse these animals endure is perfectly legal. There are no federal animal welfare laws regulating the treatment of the billions of “food animals” while they’re on the farm. And while all 50 states have cruelty statutes, most explicitly exempt common farming practices, no matter how abusive. The simple fact is that if we treated our dogs or cats the way farm animals are treated, we’d be charged with animal cruelty.

As consumers, what can we do to help farm animals?

The Humane Society of the United States believes in the Three R’s–refine, reduce, replace–approach to helping animals. Whether it’s refining our diet to exclude the most abusive animal products, reducing our consumption of animal products, or replacing meat, eggs, and dairy products with vegetarian options, each one of us can take concrete action to help reduce farm animal suffering.

[End of interview]

Donations can be made to the Humane Society

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