Anonymous 8:43am gave me some sources to read on the issue of animal cruelty and צער בעלי חיים in Judaism. I've now read through "Vegetarianism and Judaism" by J. David Bleich and "Vegetarianism from an Jewish Perspective" by Rabbi Alfred Cohen. Both of these articles focus largely on the issue of vegetarianism and the insinuation that the death of animals, by virtue of the fact that we kill them, is a bad thing. They do not touch upon the issue of factory farming, CAFOs, force-feeding animals food that is not good for them, and so forth.
Yair was kind enough to send me a scan of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's teshuva in Even HaEzer IV: 92:2. You can see it below.
The question Rabbi Feinstein was addressing referred to whether it was ethical to raise veal. The veal raising process consists of taking young calves (8 months old- they are babies), limiting their movements (they are raised in stalls that do not allow much space if any to move about) and deliberately feeding them a milk-based diet that contains little to no iron in order for the meat to acquire a beautiful white tinge. The lack of iron leads to anemia which can damage the immune system and cause the calves to feel sick.
Rabbi Feinstein came out against this practice, citing (among other issues) that it did not actually improve the quality of the meat but only made the meat appear to be 'prettier' due to the white tinge. Rabbi Feinstein writes quite starkly:
עכ"פ חזינן שלא כל דבר רשאי האדם לעשות בבבהמות
שמצער אותם אף שהוא להרויח מזה אלא דבר
שהוא הנאת האדם ממש כשחיטת הבהמות לאכילה ולעבוד בהם וכדומה
He ends up determining that fattening veal and raising veal is Tzaar Baalei Chayim and should not be done. However, since his reasoning seems to be in part due to the fact that it did not actually improve the meat, that opens the door for R' Elyashiv to rule that creating foie gras (force-feeding geese through a method called gavage in order to create a fatty liver) is perfectly fine. R' Elyashiv's logic appears to be (although I haven't read any formal teshuva that he wrote) that here the pain is being suffered in order to improve the animal for human consumption. I find it shocking that he would permit this and wonder to what degree the process was actually explained to him.
I wonder what Rabbi Feinstein would think of the CAFOs and factory farming systems that today are the norm. Cattle on feedlots are kept in small spaces and not allowed to roam about and they are fed a diet that is bad for them (corn and antibiotics). Broiler chickens are fattened to the point where they cannot even walk, or if they do walk, they suffer from arthritis and severe pain in their joints and limbs. And egg-laying hens live in cages, sometimes five birds or more to a cage, with very restrictive conditions. Aren't all of these at least as disturbing as the veal situation? Especially since we do have alternatives to these processes, should we choose to make them the norm- those alternatives consisting of raising free-range and pastured chicken and meat?
In short: what do we choose to see as 'Hanaas Ha'Adam Mamash'?