Former chicken farmer Mike Weaver is growing hemp instead of killing animals.
Weaver is part of Mercy For Animals’ new Transfarmation Project, which helps farm owners transition from animal husbandry to growing sustainable crops for plant-based products.
West Virginia-based Weaver is now using his old chicken barns to grow industrial hemp, which removes more CO2 per acre than many other crops. This will also earn him a greater income and employ four times as many people as chicken farming did.
In a short video, Mercy For Animals president Leah Garcés visits Weaver to discuss his new plans for the space — which previously held 45 thousand broiler chickens. “I hope it creates a whole lot of new jobs and new revenue for the farm,” says Weaver. “Farmers in America are in bad shape.”
In 2016, the former contract chicken farmer for multinational food company Pilgrim’s Pride went public with welfare concerns. An exposé led by Compassion in World Farming revealed the reality of chicken farming cruelty in the U.S.
The project showed inhumane conditions and unethical labor practices. Pilgrim’s Pride is one of the largest chicken producers in the U.S. and supplies KFC, Walmart, and Costco.
When asked by Garcés who big animal agriculture is benefiting, Weaver replied, “Wall Street, mostly. Pilgrim’s Pride, who I raised chickens for, in 2015 and 16 they paid their stockholders 1.2 billion dollars in dividends.”
“It’s been about 20 years since their growers had an increase in pay,” says Weaver. “That’s wrong … So I’m trying to do my part to get that changed.”
Farmers Go Vegan
Many other farmers are also moving away from animal agriculture for welfare, environmental, and personal reasons. Forty percent of the farmers who attended this year’s Oxford Farming Conference believe that the future of agriculture is vegan and that the community must adapt.
The 2018 documentary “73 Cows” follows beef farmers Jay and Katja Wilde as they donate their herd to Hillside Animal Sanctuary in Norwich. The Wildes then took up vegan organic farming instead.
Arkansas chicken and cow farmers Jennifer and Rodney Barrett left behind their family business to become vegan mushroom farmers. The couple were able to transition thanks to the Rancher Advocacy Program, which is designed to help those working in animal agriculture move towards more sustainable and ethical farming practices.