While animal rights is of course not a direct concern in the production of ingredients for Human Food, if the rest of your diet does include some animal products, there is a strong animal rights argument for choosing organic. If you regularly or even only occasionally eat eggs, dairy or meat, organic certification means the animals that produced these will have been better and more humanely treated, and will have led more natural lives.
Organic certification also means that the worst abuses carried out in the name of increasing production (for which we can also read personal and corporate profit) on today’s super-intensive factory farms cannot occur. The treatment of cows in modern dairy farming has been one of the primary drivers of the recent upsurge in numbers of people rejecting milk and milk-based products, and while the image of happy dairy cows grazing in wildflower meadows lingers in the public consciousness, dairy farming has become increasingly industrialised and the experience of the cows themselves has deteriorated as a consequence. While not all non-organic dairy farms have adopted modern, super-intensive methods the numbers are significant and rapidly increasing. Under this system cows are almost completely cut off from the outside world and entirely unable to pursue natural behaviours, they are kept inside all year round, never having access to outside space, to graze or even walk around. They are often fed with genetically modified feeds grown in vast, chemical-intensive monocultures which leave no space for wildlife. Cows are treated constantly with growth hormones and antibiotics in order to maximise growth and production. They are artificially inseminated every year in order to maximise milk production and their calves are taken within a day or so of birth causing enormous emotional trauma.
While all commercial dairy farms separate mother and calf, organic farms do take steps to moderate the worst abuses of animal welfare. On organic farms all animals must be free range, this means that they must have access to outside space whenever practical, it also means that for animals such as poultry which are kept in sheds with access to outside space, the flock size must be small enough and the outside space large enough not to structurally inhibit use of that space. In practice this means that, for example, organic chicken flocks number in the region of 1000-2000, as compared to 30,000 in non-organic production. Organic standards also prohibit the inclusion of growth hormones in animal feed – common practice in non-organic farming – as a consequence, animals raised for meat under organic conditions will live for approximately twice as long as those raised by non-organic methods. 117