BEEF Daily

Rolling Stone Magazine Describes “Horrors” Of Animal Agriculture



A new article appearing in Rolling Stone describes the mistreatment of animals on farms. Here is my response. 

If you want to read a horror story, check out Rolling Stone’s recent article, “In The Belly Of The Beast,” by Paul Solotaroff.

The article is a harsh and incredibly biased piece of trash journalism that follows, “a small band of animal rights activists who have infiltrated factory farms where animals are turned into meat under the most horrific circumstances. Now the agribusiness giants are trying to crush them.”

Dramatic? Yes. Setting the stage for the words to follow? Absolutely. Truth or fiction? It’s obviously an opinion piece more than factual reporting, but I can guarantee you some readers of Rolling Stone will believe Solotaroff’s word as gospel.


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He takes a stab at all animal agriculture sectors -- from veal, to dairy cattle, to hogs, to chickens, and he finds evil in every corner of every facility he chronicles. The article jumps around so much, from misinforming readers on inhumane handling practices of barn workers, to antibiotics, to sacrificing animal care for cheap food, that it’s hard to know where to start a rebuttal. You can see the article here.

Wanda Patsche, a hog farmer and blogger for Minnesota Farm Living, responded to the article with a blog entitled, “Animal Cruelty Is Not The Price We Pay For Cheap Meat.”

Patsche writes, “I was astonished there were no family farmers interviewed for this article. It’s astonishing to me because 96% of hog farms are family farms. But the article only refers to Big Meat, which I am assuming are non-family corporations. And I believe this was intentional because for this article to have its greatest impact, Rolling Stone needed to appeal to peoples’ emotions. Emotions where people think corporations don’t give a damn about animal cruelty.

Animal cruelty is not the price we pay for cheap meat. In fact, if we really did have animal cruelty, our meat would not be cheap at all because animals do not thrive if they are treated with cruelty. Affordable meat is the result of farmers’ efficiencies, technologies and old-fashioned hard work. If Mr. Solotaroff talked to a family farmer he would have known that.”

You can read her entire response, as well as another point of view from a dairy farmer, here.

Stories of this ilk aren’t going to go away anytime soon, and I think it’s imperative that we voice our opinions in the comments section of these articles, as well as find ways to get positive press of our own. It’s the only way to change the rhetoric, but let’s face it, drama and controversy sell. The bright and accurate story about family farmers, well, just doesn’t have the same scandalous appeal.

What are your thoughts about this ongoing assault on our industry and family farmers? Have you ever responded or taken proactive steps via a letter to the editor, an online article comment, or a post on social media to defend your livelihood and set the record straight? Let us know in the comments section.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 13

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 19, 2013

Radical Animal Rights is a massive money cow and fast growth business. It is not animal welfare it is demagoguery at its worst to raise the most money for use by people of greed not just for money but for self righteous ego boosting power and their 5 minutes of limelight, regardless of negative and destructive behavior. Rolling Stone is only the tip of this iceberg, the very destructive new rules issued by the infiltrated Department of Agriculture's over reach of its Animal Welfare Act powers not only attacks the rights of any citizen to enjoy pet animals but impacts any family with 4H members raising rabbits and is but a forerunner of what will happen to other animal owners in the future. We must all wake up and realize this is an all out assault on the rights of people that own any animals for their pleasure or way of life. I am a meet eater and proud to say so and hope to help other meat eaters and animal product users to be able to fill their needs through responsible animal ownership. Our own Department of Agriculture is a bigger disgrace that a sensationalizing Rock and Roll rag sheet.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 19, 2013

If the industry wants to minimize the the level of attacks against it, then it must meet the challenge head on. If there was no evidence of animal abuse, then it could not be reported. Have the industry speak out against animal abuse in no uncertain terms. It's irresponsible and unacceptable at any level. Don't make any excuses for the small percent that don't follow a proper code of conduct and work to elminate any animal abuse. And at the same time promote the great work that is being done on the vast majority of operations and farms. Take animal abuse off the table and force the groups against the industry to win the war of words over less emotional territory. They won't stop coming after you but it will make the road to eliminate animal protein more difficult if the industry has removed those that are abusive.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 19, 2013

Amanda, did you or Patsche even read the entire article?? It's an endorsement for small family farms! GO BACK AND READ THE LAST & PARAGRAPHS OF THE ARTICLE!!! Cancer, diabetes, autism rates are all off the charts. Why? First place everyone needs to look at is what they are eating. People are waking up, and I have no problem with the conditions of factory farms being exposed. Inform people, and the market will decide. The future is small sustainable farms and local markets.

Ben Campbell (not verified)
on Dec 19, 2013

If the future is "small sustainable farms" then the future will be riddled with even more famon than we see today.

Thom Katt (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2013

Small farms and local markets are actually the past, not the future. In modern society, they are not sustainable. We had them and they didn't survive. An indepth study of the history of agriculture and food will show you that what you are advocating is regressive.

tguide (not verified)
on Dec 19, 2013

Unfortunately.....large farming operations are needed to meet the need to provide enough meat to feed the masses. You want to change "factory farming" then you'll need to get 300,000,000 people from going to McDonalds, and this is an almost impossible task. This has very little to do with raising's used to sensationalize how some outfits abuse a few they can promote the vegan movement which is a religion in it's self. If they are not careful this will eventually create a counter violent revolution against the "small" (and they are small) group of activist who continue to raise hell. As the ole saying goes...."there's more than one way to skin a cat".....

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 19, 2013

The truth is undercover investigations of factory farms don't need to expose the "bad apples" to stun and horrify the public. All they need show are the everyday practices that occur on ALL factory farms: those perfectly legal, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)-approved, standard industry practices. No need to cite them all here as most people know by now, or they should know by now, that piglets, for example, are "relieved" of their tails, testicles, teeth, and pieces of their ears without anesthesia in excruciating pain. Then, if they fail to thrive after that assault on their bodies or botched "surgeries," they are deemed unprofitable and killed by having their heads smashed to cement. These are all standard industry practices, the last--killing baby FARMED animals by blunt force trauma to the head--condoned and approved by the AVMA's Guidelines on Euthanasia (they use the term "euthanasia" loosely). Should a factory farmer throw open his or her doors and allow the public to see ALL the horrors they visit on helpless animals, they'd only create more vegans and vegetarians. This they know, all too well. Hence, ag-gag laws. Just yesterday, I listened as Trent Loos, in debate with Wayne Pacelle at the "Fall Forum of the National Conference of State Legislators Task Force on Agriculture," trotted out the AVMA guidelines as justification for the cruel things he does to animals, as if the AVMA is the model or standard of kindness to animals. Don't be fooled; they are not. Anyone can Google their killing guidelines and read all the various horrific methods they approve for dispatching unprofitable FARMED animals. Oddly enough, they do NOT approve the same methods for unprofitable PET animals such as dogs and cats--can you imagine the public outcry if they did?! But, truly, what's the difference between a kitten or puppy and a piglet? Profitability, that's what, and arbitrary category: "pet" vs. "food." PET animals cannot be killed by horrific methods and yet FARMED animals certainly can and are every day. (Don't even get me started on the billions of male chicks who are killed, days old, as unwanted "byproducts" of the egg industry, by being ground up alive, or "macerated," as the AVMA calls it.) If you still eat the flesh or bodily secretions of animals, then you also condone and approve such "standard industry practices"--death to infant animals by blunt force trauma to the head or maceration or bludgeoning or worse, castration, tail docking, teeth clipping, ear notching, without benefit of painkillers, among a variety of other standard practices factory farmers would just as soon the public not see. As for the "bad apples," who seem to take pleasure in deliberately tormenting or torturing animals, there do seem to be quite a few of those, as the growing number of undercover investigations always manage to prove. Cruelty to animals goes with the territory on factory farms, where animals are viewed as nothing more than money-making machines. Good for Rolling Stone for telling the truth!

Thom Katt (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2013

I grew up on a worked one of the idyllic "small family farms" that you champion. We tail docked, dehorned and castrated without use of anesthsia. We didn't typically euthanize by blunt force truama or any other method for that matter. Dad didn't like doing it. So sick animals tended to decline until incapacitation and lingering death, until my brother and I were old enough to understand it wasn't right and got sick of seeing it. So we started administering euthanasia via gun shot. Loading animals was often difficult and we didn't have much training on animal psychology or handling. Thus we used whatever was available to coerce animals into going where we wanted them. The methods we used then are not tolerated on modern livestock farms.

In summary, I can tell you that small family farms can be and frequently are, much worse for animal well being than the "factory farms" you rail against. "Factory farms have the resources to train employees in proper animal handling. Small farms don't. "Facotry farms have the resources to capitalize on the latest, most efficient and safest equipment for animal husbandry. Small farms don't.

I have raised livestock on a small family farm and I have raised livestock on what you would consider a "factory farm." Based on my experience, I can tell you that the "factory farm" animals fared considerably better than the small farm animals. So why do you want agriculture to regress to methods that real farmers found to be wanting?

Janet Weeks (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2013

Hi Thom. I do not champion small family farms, unless they are purely produce farms. That was the part of the Rolling Stone article I did not agree with. I do not champion the raising of any animals for food (or other consumer goods) because I believe nonhuman beings have as much right to life, liberty, happiness, and freedom as do human beings. It is not a regression I want, but a progression to new ideas and systems of raising enough plant foods so that everyone has enough healthful food to eat. You see, humans can and do live and thrive on plant-based diets. There is absolutely no need to raise and kill billions of animals for food. It is a waste of precious resources and does not fit with our kind and compassionate natures. Eating plant-based is better for human health, better for humanity, better for our planet's health, and, of course, much better for the animals.

KenJ (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2013

Wow. Find a different cause that is worthy. You need way to much education to be properly informed on this one.

chenhalljr (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2013

For starters , use your name don't hide behind anonymus. And please give us facts not what you think you know, please list documented and I do mean actual documentation on your statements. Anyone can say the crap you said.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2013

The article seemed to raise some legitimate concerns and why we should focus on bringing more families back to the land to raise our food. Some spout the 96% family farm number, but that is very misleading as many of the large "family farms" have very little if any involvement from the "family" owners in the day to day operations.

Thom Katt (not verified)
on Dec 20, 2013

Not at all true.

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BEEF Daily Blog is produced by rancher Amanda Radke, one of the U.S. beef industry’s top social media “agvocates.”


Amanda Radke

Amanda Radke is a fifth generation rancher from Mitchell, S.D., who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State...

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