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A Future Without Factory Farming

This diversification of food supplies also helps to promote resilience and food security.  In the UK, for instance, 84% of the fruit consumed is imported.

By: Adi Gaskell, Contributor

As the global population grew, agriculture became more intensive to try and ensure that production kept pace with the growing number of mouths to feed.  It was viewed by the United Nations as a way to provide food security, and began in earnest across many developed countries in the 1960s.  By 2005, the share of meat production that was produced by factory farming grew to 40%, up 10% in just 15 years.

As the use of intensive farming has grown, so too have the criticism levels attracted to a form of farming that critics believe is not only bad for the animals, but also the environment and the agricultural workforce.  With fears rightly growing about the role of animal agriculture in the spread of Covid-19, and about the potential for future pandemics to stem from the same source, there is a growing consensus that farming needs to change.

The early period of the pandemic saw an increase in the volume of plant-based food purchased by consumers, with the vegan market booming as new products are introduced on a regular basis.  There have also been noteworthy developments in ‘clean’ meat, which may lead the way to mass production.

With these technological and social trends accompanied by a significant increase in investment in the sustainable production of meat, we may be seeing the decline, if not hopefully the complete eradication, of factory farming methods.  What might this future have in store for us?  Here are a few of the possible outcomes.

The rise of ‘green care’

The term ‘green care’ is not hugely well known at the moment, but refers to the various ways in which we can have beneficial interactions with nature.  There are a burgeoning number of examples, including therapeutic horticulture and animal-assisted therapy, and they help us to re-imagine farms as places of learning for adults and children alike.  It’s a nice way for rural communities to regenerate and create new jobs while providing valuable services at the same time.

There are already a number of farms of this nature in operation around the world, and the removal of factory farming opens up space for such new business models to emerge.

A revival in family farming

As industrial farming has grown, there has been a corresponding decline in family farms, who have struggled to compete against the low prices made possible by the highly mechanized operations common in factory farms.  As society moves away from this form of agriculture, we’re likely to see a resurgence in family farms again, with a diversification of the sector a likely consequence.

For instance, globally there has been growth in the production of pulse-based proteins, such as chickpeas and lentils, while organic and veganic farming are also strong growth areas as people strive to get their protein from plant-based means rather than meat.  The shifting tastes of the market will likely allow what animals are still farmed to be done in a more humane and small-scale manner that won’t require the industrialized processes of old.

The rewilding of rural spaces

Conservationist George Monbiot has long argued for the rewilding of many of the places currently reserved for agriculture.  He cites a range of environmental benefits from allowing areas to be repopulated by native animal and plant species.

Aside from the environmental benefits this could bring, it might also allow for the expansion of educational and recreational activities in the countryside, with eco-tourism also likely to flourish as a result.  The return of the land to other species is, at its heart, a way to make amends for the colossal damage caused by the intensive farming methods we have deployed for so long.

Growth in urban farming

We are also likely to see growth in smaller farms in urban spaces in the coming years.  With over half of the global population living in urban areas, there is a growing desire for greenery into these urban spaces, which is likely to see food production weaved into urban life.  Recent times have seen everything from rooftops to old air raid shelters used to grow food as cities redevelop the urban landscape.

This diversification of food supplies also helps to promote resilience and food security.  In the UK, for instance, 84% of the fruit consumed is imported, and with vertical and underground crops believed to be more resilient to extreme weather, the prospects are to use urban spaces to grow a higher volume of the food we consume.  To date, the high costs associated with indoor farms have limited the crops grown, but as the technology matures, the costs are falling.

There is also a strong desire to live healthier and more balanced lives.  Green spaces are well known to ease stress and boost wellbeing, while also bolstering ecosystems and improving diversity.  Everything points to a need for urban environments to become greener, so the potential is considerable.

Sustainable spaces

Like so many industrial facilities, factory farms are often soulless affairs, with hundreds of millions of animals trapped indoors, living out a miserable existence.  Such facilities litter the countryside, devaluing genuine attempts to create sustainable and vibrant regions for man and beast to thrive alongside one another.

The hopefully terminal decline of factory farming offers rural economies an opportunity to rethink the kind of places they want to be, and the kind of practices they wish to exhibit.  It’s a chance for new business models to emerge, income sources to be generated, and humane jobs created that leave us all better off.

If you loved this article–our ‘Future of’ series will explore new topics released weekly every Thursday–stay tuned!
Strategic Media Partner