So just how serious is the impact of industrial farming? Worse than you could ever imagine, writes organic farmer Julian Rose in this review of 'Farmageddon - the Real Price of Cheap Food', which lifts the lid on the industry's human and ecological devastation, and the systematic cruelty inflicted on the animals that feed us.
Whatever happened that led a great part of humankind to give the animal kingdom such a lowly status in the overall evolutionary pattern of life on Earth?
How is it that we have subjected millions and millions of our animal cousins to concentration camp conditions so utterly abhorrent that to call their brief time on the planet 'living' would constitute a serious misnomer?
One of the critical factors that drove me to develop a mixed organic farming system back in the mid 1970's, was to give the cows, pigs, sheep and hens that formed the basis of my farming enterprise, the chance to grow up in a setting designed to replicate as closely as possible the conditions that these creatures would experience in their native environment.
It is important to recognise that farming is an enclosed agricultural system which has built-in compromises deemed necessary for the controlled raising of both livestock and crops. Within this context we have to be aware that the word 'natural' does not accurately describe this scenario, even when the best and most humane principles and methods are applied.
However, those who embark upon an organic farming management practice commit to a set of standards that places strong emphasis on animal welfare as well as forming a close affinity with the soil and the cyclic patterns of nature that underlie rotational, non chemical farming practices.
Under such a system the farmer has the chance to develop a strong affinity with nature and a deep respect for the animals and plants under his or her care. But unfortunately, the great majority of people living in post industrial Westernised societies ingest a daily diet that has little or nothing to do with such a caring approach.
On the contrary, the majority of individuals negotiating their way through 21st century urban and suburban life styles demand cheap, uniform foods that, in order to fulfil the consumers' supermarket groomed expectations, are grown according to methods that are about as different from 'natural' as plastic is to wood.