The Guardian has a series called "Animals Farmed" that talks about the fallout from our insatiable appetite for cheap meat, from the intensive farming industry that feeds it.
A nod to Animal Farm animal-farm, in which the pigs, leaders of the communist animals, are finally revealed to be no different than the capitalist humans they had rebelled against in the first place.
The metaphor cuts deep. Possibly deeper than Orwell himself first intended. For to look directly at the graphic inhumanity of modern farming is, disconcertingly, but to look into a mirror of our own lives.
From the inimitable Radiohead: fitter-happier
And the slightly more prosaic: animals-territory-metamorphoses
Animals have thus preceded us on the path of liberal extermination. All the aspects of the modern treatment of animals retrace the vicissitudes of the manipulation of humans, from experimentation to industrial pressure in breeding.
One has never said better how much "humanism," "normality," "quality of life" were nothing but the vicissitudes of profitability. The parallel between these animals sick from surplus value and humans sick from industrial concentration, from the scientific organization of work and assembly-line factories is illuminating. In the latter case as well, the capitalist "breeders" were led to a revision that was destructive of the mode of exploitation, innovating and reinventing the "quality of work," the "enrichment of tasks," discovering the "human" sciences and the "psychosociological" dimension of the factory. Only the inevitability of death renders the example of the animals more shocking still than that of men on an assembly line.
AI hog-farming in China, where apparently crowded conditions during animal transport has caused such stress to piglets they start biting each other's tails off, and some pigs have evolved to have shorter / no tail.
Section on "Twentieth-Century Agriculture" seeing-like-a-statech. 4
One of the basic sources of increasing uniformity in crops arises from the intense commercial pressures to maximize profits in a competitive mass market. Thus the effort to increase planting densities in order to stretch the productivity of land encouraged the adoption of varieties that would tolerate crowding. Greater planting densities have, in turn, intensified the use of commercial fertilizers and therefore the selection of subspecies known for high fertilizer (especially nitrogen) uptake and response. At the same time, the growth of great supermarket chains, with their standardized routines of shipping, packaging, and display, has inexorably led to an emphasis on uniformity of size, shape, color, and "eye appeal."
It is precisely because hybrids are so uniform and hence disease prone that quasiheroic measures have to be taken to control the environment in which they are grown.
homogenisation - density/crowding (cities) - antibiotic (resistance) & pandemics - tinder
"Genetic variability," as Jack Ralph Kloppenberg notes, "is the enemy of mechanization."
mass markets, global tastes
"Machines are not made to harvest crops," noted two proponents of phytoengineering. "In reality, crops must be designed to be harvested by machine." Having been adapted to the cultivated field, the crop was now adapted to mechanization. The "machine-friendly" crop was bred to incorporate a series of characteristics that made it easier to harvest it mechanically. Among the most important of these characteristics were resilience, a concentrated fruit set, uniformity of plant size and architecture, uniformity of fruit shape and size, dwarfing (in the case of tree crops especially), and fruits that easily break away from the plant."
state-funded schooling (cf surveil-and-punish)
Taste and nutritional quality were secondary to machine compatibility. Or to put it more charitably, the breeders did what they could to develop the best tomato within the very sharp constraints of mechanization.
quantity over quality
animal-farm Orwell, George. Animal Farm. ↩︎ 1
fitter-happier Radiohead. 1997. Fitter Happier. OK Computer. London: XL Recordings. ↩︎ 1
animals-territory-metamorphoses Baudrillard, Jean. “The Animals: Territory and Metamorphoses”. Simulacra and Simulation. ↩︎ 1
seeing-like-a-state Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press. ↩︎ 1
surveil-and-punish Foucault, Michel. 2012. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. ↩︎ 1