Photos and video footage have circulated around the internet of over-sized pigs being bred in Cambodia that resemble the genetically engineered super-pigs depicted in the Netflix film, Okja. The sheer mass of the animals have incited concerns that the pigs are being manipulated genetically or chemically to induce muscle overgrowth. Their hulk size prevents the pigs from moving normally, impeding their ability to walk. This type of breeding ensures a painful, inhumane existence for the animals, solely with the goal of consumption in mind for the breeders.
Genetically engineered pigs haven’t been approved for meat consumption anywhere in the world, but in 2015 scientists in South Korea figured out how to double the size of pigs’ muscle in hopes to provide farmers with the capabilities to breed super-size pigs. The scientists cited that large pigs often produce birth deficiencies and health effects, with more research pending before this gene alteration is cleared for meat industry purposes.
The company breeding the pigs, Duroc Cambodia, posted photos of the pigs online and sell artificial insemination tools for other farms to use and breed similar large pigs. It’s unclear what methods were used to breed such abnormally large pigs, but the photos and footage from the farm sparked outcry over a disturbing trend that is growing in the animal agriculture industry around the world.
This brutal genetic manipulation of animals extends far beyond just pigs. Through selective breeding over several decades, the Belgian Blue Cow was created in the 1950’s by an artificial insemination center in the Liege province of Belgium and introduced into the United States in the 1970’s. The cow is dubbed “the supercow” for its massive and muscular size. Its enhanced muscular size is due to the exploitation of a genetic mutation in breeding, creating a cow that produces much more muscle mass than the average cow. Like other super-sized animals, the cow breed is more susceptible to birth defects, stiff legs, cardio-respiratory issues and other health problems.
Similar selective breeding techniques have created chickens in the United States and other countries that produce so much muscle, many of them are unable to walk. The chickens are robbed of their livelihood through these techniques. The Guardian reported in 2016, “By day nine, the broiler’s legs can barely keep its oversized breast off the ground. By day 11, it is puffed up to double the size of its cousin. It looks like an obese nine-year-old standing on the legs of a five-year-old. By day 35 it looks more like a weightlifter on steroids and dwarfs the egg-laying hen.” The animal agriculture industry use these genetic breeding techniques to increase yield of meat production from chickens while shortening the longevity of the chickens’ lives so they can be slaughtered earlier. For the chickens, unintended consequences include a variety of health defects that range from skeletal defects, reduced immune function, and metabolic disorders. Pain, immobility, and discomfort are purposely pushed on these chickens so they provide more meat before being slaughtered.
In August 2017, several reports unveiled how fox farms in Finland create “monster foxes” to maximize the yield of fur each animal produces. The farmers use selective breeding to produce obese foxes with extra-large skins. The foxes often have issues walking, seeing, and limb deformities. The foxes at these farms can grow more than six times the average weight of a fox in the wild. After their short, painful lives in small cages, the foxes are often electrocuted to death to keep the fur intact. For these foxes, their lives are brief, painful and everything that allows them to be a fox is stolen from them by breeding and feeding practices that treat them with just disregard to their well being.
The animal welfare concerns that arise from these practices are symptomatic of the animal agriculture industry’s negative impacts on society. For the sake of greater productivity and profit, animals are being exploited and abused behind closed doors away from the public eye. The animals are unable to function as normal animals would, treated as materials, and further the disconnect between humans and animals. In addition to the environmental and health concerns posed by animal agriculture around the World, these practices take animal cruelty to new levels through genetic manipulation, while the consequences are ignored in favor of the economic benefits. As science yields opportunities to shape life on Earth in radical ways, the ethical consequences of these actions need to be considered.
by Chelsea Skojec