Factory Farming Animal Cruelty Is Standard Operating Procedure For 95-99% Of Animals Raised For Food
10 billion animals are killed for food every year in the US alone in industrial factory farming operations. To keep up with the ever-growing demand for meat, milk, and eggs in industrialized, and increasingly in developing countries, corporate factory farming facilities become bigger, faster, and more productive at a mind-blowing rate. The powerful food industry in the US successfully promotes an animal-rich diet that is high in processed foods, saturated fats, cholesterol, and excessive protein and hormone levels - all at the high cost of deteriorating human health and a waste of natural food resources that could otherwise feed 8 billion people on this planet.
This SAD Standard American Diet is about the worst possible diet there is: Americans get fatter and sicker. Obesity symptoms in the US show as early as 2 years old, and 70% of 12 year-olds show first signs of heart disease. The diet industry enjoys a boom with ever-expanding waistlines, and scientists find new income by gene-manipulating our bodies to better accept the rubbish we eat, instead of supporting an easier shift to healthier food.
The idyllic dairy farms with so-called "happy cows" are nothing more than brutal animal production factories where factory farm animal abuse runs rampant
As if that wasn't enough, clever marketing and deep corporate pockets, paired with an incessant zeal of the developing world to mimic our unhealthy glut as mistaken "desirable" Western diet, factory farming production is now becoming standard in the developing world as well. This leads to more and more people craving meat and dairy - all at the unacceptable cost of ethical deterioration and at the expense of even the lowest animal welfare standards on factory farms.
Animal cruelty is rampant on factory farms and animals are treated as mere objects for food production - hardly as living creatures, and without any respect for their sentient being or ability for suffering.
Below are some details about industrialized factory farming and their inherent animal cruelty. Many of these facts may be surprising or shocking. You as consumer have the power to stop this unnecessary suffering and to change the way that your food is created!
While adopting a plant-based diet is the only way to avoid such factory farming animal cruelty all-together, you also have options to demand fairer treatment and more humane living conditions for food animals - as a first step into the right direction.
Find out more about the life of:
CHICKENS - inquisitive animals with intelligence similar to cats, dogs, and even primates (5)
- Chickens have their beaks seared off with a hot blade without anesthesia to avoid pecking in close confinement.
- Through overbreeding and artificial growth hormones, chickens often get so top-heavy that their legs can no longer support their heavy breasts, and they die from starvation unable to reach their food and water supplies only inches away.
- Chickens raised for flesh in factory farming are called broilers. Due to their rapid body growth, broilers' hearts and lungs cannot catch up with supporting the rest of their bodies, so they often suffer from heart failure and huge numbers of birds don't even make it until slaughter.
- Broilers are trucked to slaughter after only 6-7 weeks of age.
- Chickens transported to slaughter are stacked in crates on open trucks. They have no weather protection and often freeze to death or die from heat strokes and suffocation. It is cheaper for the industry to use open trucks without proper protection - despite the high death toll of millions of birds (2).
- By the time they reach slaughter, about 29% of chickens have broken bones due to neglect, rough treatment, or other animal cruelty.
- Stunning chickens for more humane slaughter is not required in factory farming, as birds are exempted from the Humane Slaughter Act (HSA). The shackled birds are therefore often fully conscious when they reach the mechanical blades that should cut their throats, and move from there to scalding tanks, where some birds are boiled alive. This animal cruelty is apparently so common that the industry has coined a name for live-boiled birds: "redskins" (2).
Video about Chickens and Egg-laying Hens
from "Meet your Meat" by PETA
In one notorious case of extraordinary factory farm animal cruelty at Ward Egg Ranch in February 2003 in San Diego County, California, more than 15,000 spent laying hens were tossed alive into a wood-chipping machine to dispose of them. Despite tremendous outcry from a horrified public, the district attorney declined to prosecute the owners of the egg farm, calling the use of a wood-chipper to kill hens a "common industry practice."
- Egg-laying hens on factory farms are stuffed into small wired battery cages by the thousands inside huge dark warehouses. 5-11 hens can share a cage just 18 by 20 inches wide, where they can't stretch their wings or legs. (37) The cages are stacked on top of one another, and excrement from the upper cages constantly falls on the chickens below.
- Constantly rubbing against the wire of their battery cages, chickens suffer from feather loss, bruises, and abrasions, which usually go untreated (30).
- The extreme chain production for eggs takes tolls on the chickens' bodies and they often suffer from fatty liver syndrome and osteoporosis, as they produce more calcium for the egg shells than they can replenish through diet (2).
- Many birds die from injury or disease in the filthy, stinking sheds. Dying birds are left to rot and their surviving cage-mates have to live by their sides or climb over their decomposing bodies to reach food and water (30).
- After about one year on the factory farm an egg-laying hen is considered spent and sent to slaughter. Their severely weakened and bruised bodies can not be sold as chicken breast, so they are usually ground up for baby food, pet food, and chicken soup (2).
- Spent hens can also become food for other animals and are ground-up (sometimes alive) to produce food supplements for farmed pigs, cattle, etc.
- Male baby chicks are unwanted byproducts of the egg industry, as these chicks are specifically bred for egg production and considered unfit as broilers. Male chicks are simply stuffed into trash bags and thrown away by the thousands, where they are crushed alive under the weight of fellow chicks and die a slow painful death through suffocation.
- Another method of mindless animal cruelty is to throw male chicks alive into high-speed grinders, where they suffer unspeakable horrors as their bodies are slowly dismembered while they are still fully conscious (2).
Video Chicken Hatchery Investigation
from "Foul Play" by Mercy for Animals
COWS - curious, clever, and very sociable. Female cows are loving mothers that dote on their young
- Beef cattle are tail-docked, castrated, repeatedly branded, and have their horns chopped or burned off - all without pain killers.
- Range cattle can be born and living on a range for months or years without any shelter or veterinary care. When they are finally rounded up by humans, the animals are often confused and terrified, which leads to injuries and downed animals that are too weak to stand up. Many of these downers live for days without water or care, or they may be pushed and beaten onto slaughter trucks.
- The young animals are branded with third-degree burns by hot irons or have chunks cut out of their necks as identification for ranchers - all without anesthesia or pain killers.
- Most beef cattle spent the last few months up to a year in factory farming feedlots where they are crowded into manure-laden holding pens. Here they are fattened with an unnatural diet of rich grains and growth hormones. This diet causes chronic digestive pain and some animals' intestines become ulcerated and rupture. The grain diet also causes fatal liver abscesses in 32% of cattle (7).
Cattle horn cutting
Slowing down the line to ensure that animals are properly killed is unheard of, and workers who alert officials to abuses at their slaughterhouse risk losing their jobs (13)
- A standard beef slaughterhouse kills 250 animals per hour. The high speed of the production chain makes it hard to follow Human Slaughter Act guidelines, and cattle are not always stunned unconscious properly and just stabbed in the neck, after which they keep bleeding fully conscious, while moving up the assembly line to be dismembered piece by piece. One slaughterhouse employee states that this could happen a dozen times on bad days, and veterinarians across the US feel this is out of control (2).
- The beef and dairy factory farming industry are huge producers of "downers", animals that are so weak or sick from their extreme body abuse that they are unable to walk or stand. Downed animals are routinely beaten, shocked, pushed with bulldozers, or have prods poked into their faces and rectums to force them to move (12).
- One long-time slaughterhouse worker explains that cattle live for as long as seven minutes after their throats have been slit, many animals are still alive and fully conscious. His job is to cut the legs off the animals, and he frequently has had to cut the legs off fully conscious cows (21).
- Dairy cows must give birth to produce milk, so they are constantly force-impregnated on dairy factory farms to have a calf every year (their gestation time is 9 months like humans).
- Mastitis is the most common and most costly disease onn factory farms that affects 30-50% of all dairy cows. As result from the constant milking and much higher artificially induced milk production than the cow would naturally have, her udder is painfully swollen and distended from bacterial infection - sometimes so large that she can hardly walk. Mastitis wounds ooze with pus and blood, which regularly enters the milk production.
- 40% of dairy cows are lame at the time they reach the slaughterhouse. Every year, more than 100,000 cows are so sick that they are unable to walk into the slaughterhouse by themselves. Yet they are still produced into meat for human consumption (11).
Video "Dairy's Dark Side" by Mercy for Animals
- Calves born in dairy farms are immediately separated from their mothers on the day of birth, and are denied their mothers' milk. Female calves are raised to be dairy cows, but roughly 50% of the calves born to dairy cows are male calves - and these are raised to be slaughtered for veal or beef.
- The veal industry is a direct byproduct of the dairy industry, to find something to do with unwanted male calves. These calves live for 18-20 weeks in wooden veal crates so small that they can't turn around or lie down comfortably.
- Male calves in veal crates have their heads tethered with a rope or chain to both sides of the crate, which does not even allow them to turn their head and lick their itchy skin. This is done to avoid as much of their movement as possible.
- Weak day-old calves are often processed into low-grade "bob-veal" and leather right away.
Veal crate cruelty
Video "Veal Farm Cruelty in Ohio" by Mercy for Animals
Veal is the flesh of a tortured, sick baby cow, and a byproduct of the milk industry. There is a piece of veal in every glass of milk - every single veal calf in the US is the child of a dairy cow and the result of needless animal cruelty.
- Male calves are fed a cheap liquid milk substitute that is deliberately deficient in iron and fiber to make the young animals anemic and to keep their flesh pale - they often can't even walk from muscle atrophy, as they never get to use their legs. The pale, highly prized calf meat is nothing more than a sign of disease from anemia, diarrhea, and pneumonia (4).
- Veal calves on factory farms are denied all solid food, they suffer from chronic diarrhea, and they are kept in darkness. Respiratory and intestinal diseases are rampant among calves (24).
PIGS - highly intelligent and smarter than three-year old children (14). They friendly, loyal, and clean
- Breeding sows on factory farms are confined into gestation metal crates just 2 feet wide, where they cannot turn around or lie down comfortably.
- Sows in factory farming operations are force-impregnated to have more than 20 piglets a year. The piglets are taken away from the mothers after 2-3 weeks to be fattened, and the sows are impregnated again.
- Shortly after birth, piglets have their ears chipped, teeth clipped, tails chopped off, and male pigs are castrated - all without painkillers.
- Terrified and in extreme pain, the piglets are often put alone into tiny metal wire cages. These cages are stacked on top of each other, and urine and excrement constantly fall on the piglets in the lower cages. These naturally very clean animals that would never soil their living area are forced to live in cramped pens in their own urine, feces, vomit, and sometimes around dead animals until they are large enough for slaughter (15).
- Pigs live their entire lives in confinement and are not allowed to do anything that comes natural to them, like playing, exploring, and sun-basking. They live in crowded metal stalls with concrete floors and have no straw or natural rooting materials.
- Lack of exercise and unnatural flooring leads to leg disorders and neurotic behaviors. Many pigs will go insane from the complete lack of stimulation.
- Pigs that don't grow quick enough are being killed by workers through slamming their heads on the concrete floor-– a method that is even condemned as animal cruelty by the meat industry's own advisors for pigs this size (4,16).
- Sick pigs are often killed or left to die without food and water on factory farms (16).
- Like chickens, pigs grow so quickly through artificial growth hormones that their legs often can't sustain their bulky bodies.
- Roughly 50% of pigs that die between weaning and slaughter die of respiratory disease induced by their toxic and ammonia-filled living environment in the factory farming pens.
Video "Seaboard Pig Farm Investigation"
from Mercy for Animals
According to one slaughterhouse worker, "There's no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they're still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time." (12)
- For many pigs the first time they ever breathe fresh air is on the transport to the slaughterhouse. For breeding sows this means after 3-4 years.
- One million pigs die every year during transport due to overcrowding on trucks, where they are so tightly packed that their limbs snap beneath them, or they die from freezing to the truck sides, or from dehydration (18).
- 400,000 pigs are too weak to walk off the slaughter trucks by themselves every year. Since these are meat industry official numbers, the reality is probably far worse (4).
- The Humane Slaughter Act demands that pigs are to be stunned unconscious before slaughtered, but in reality these procedures are not followed very precisely. Pigs on factory farms are sometimes stabbed while fully conscious and if that does not kill them, they continue alive on the production belt into the scalding tank, where they are boiled alive.
TURKEYS - intelligent, resourceful, and agile. They are social, playful, and like music
Video Turkeys on Factory Farms from PETA
- Turkeys are hatched in large incubators in factory farming facilities and never see their mothers.
- After a few weeks their beaks and toes are burned off with a hot blade without any pain killers. Male turkeys have their skin flaps under the chin cut off with scissors - again with no pain relieving drugs (22).
- Turkeys are then cramped into small filthy sheds where they live a short wretched life of 5-6 months.
- Modern farmed turkeys spend their entire lives in dark filthy warehouses without ever seeing the sunlight. The high ammonia content in these factory farming pens is so toxic that it burns turkeys' eyes, throats and lungs with every breath.
- Millions of turkeys don't even make it past the first few weeks, as the animal abuse and stress in these filthy conditions causes them to starve themselves (22).
- The extreme gene-manipulating breeding chemicals cause turkeys to grow more than 6 times as quick as they would naturally, but their legs can't keep up and crack beneath them. They also suffer heart attack, lung collapse, and seizures when their organs fail to support their massive bodies any longer.
- Slow growing, injured, lame, or ill turkeys are "culled" by bludgeoning them with metal pipes. The injured birds are then thrown on piles of other dead and dying birds for disposal.
- Turkeys, like chickens, are transported to slaughter in open trucks where they suffer for long hours through extreme weather without food or water. Millions of turkeys die every year from freezing or heat exhaustion.
- Like chickens, turkeys are not included in the Humane Slaughter Act, so they have no protection from cruelty, abuse, and improper slaughter.
After watching one turkey fall back and wildly flap his wings in convulsions from a heart attack, four other turkeys' hearts failed in response to watching this scene. It is common to see multiple birds lie dead in factory farm rearing houses, as they succumb to the poisonous air and filthy conditions (23).
FISH - sensitive, curious, and with individual personalities. They hurt when they are wounded - even if they don't scream (33)
- Fish suffer greatly when caught, farmed, or killed for their flesh. While fisheries would like you to believe otherwise, numerous studies have found conclusive evidence that fish do feel pain (27).
- Fish factory trawling vessels regularly have "by-catch" - other sea life and often sea turtles, sea lions, sharks, and dolphins that get entangled in the nets and die a slow death. The US government estimates that more than 100,000 marine animals die as unwanted by-catch every year in the commercial fishing industry (2).
- Farmed fish is raised on "aquafarms", which are nothing less than factory farms on water. Here they spend their entire lives in cramped, filthy enclosures, and many suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. Conditions on some farms are so bad that 40% of the fish may die before farmers can kill them for food (20).
- Farm-raised fish is hatched in temperature-controlled tanks and transferred to rearing areas or artificial enclosures where they are crowded in small areas. Crowded conditions lead to disease and suffocation.
- Growing fish in excrement-polluted tight containers requires chemical disinfectants, herbicides, and vaccines to fight off diseases and parasites.
- Sea lice are rampant on salmon farms. These parasites eat at the fish, causing their scales to fall off and creating large sores. In severely crowded conditions, lice often eat down to the bone on fish's faces. This is so common that fish farmers are calling it the "death crown" (20).
- High-tech, high-volume systems control food, light (on indoor farms), and growth stimulation. Drugs, hormones, and genetic engineering are used to accelerate growth and change reproductive behaviors. Deformities and injuries are common. On some farms, as many as 40% of the fish are blind - which is not treated as it's not considered a problem by fish farmers (20).
- Fish are given so little consideration for their ability to feel pain and stress, that the animal cruelty goes even so far as to offer them to be eaten alive in some restaurants (2).
High stocking densities are normal industry practice, and fish are raised in cramped areas until the death losses outweigh the benefits of cramming more fish into a smaller space. Salmon farms are severely overcrowded - with as many as 50,000 individuals in each enclosure. Trout farms are even more crowded, with as many as 27 full-grown fish in a bathtub-sized space (20).
Fish on fish farm
- Fish that survive are starved before they are sent to slaughter in order to reduce water waste contamination during transport. Salmons are starved for 10 full days (20).
- Fish slaughter plants in the U.S. make no effort to stun the fish, which are fully conscious when they start down the slaughter line. Their gills are cut, and they are left to bleed to death, convulsing in pain. Large fish, such as salmon, are sometimes bashed on the head with a wooden bat, and many are seriously injured but still alive and suffering when they are cut open. Smaller fish, like trout, are often killed by simply draining water away and leaving them to slowly suffocate, or by packing them in ice while they are still fully conscious (20).
Video "Reasons not to eat Fish" from Mercy for Animals
Cutting their gills, beating them with bats, suffocating them, or freezing them - all these fish slaughter practices are completely legal and unregulated (20).
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(1) Wikipedia – about factory farming.
(2) Farm Sanctuary - about factory farming and animal cruelty.
(3) United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) about CAFOs and food facts.
(4) Meet your Meat – video published by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) about animal cruelty on factory farms.
(5) William Grimes, "If Chickens Are So Smart, Why Aren't They Eating Us?" New York Times, 12 Jan. 2003.
(6) Mench and Siegel, "The welfare of poultry" 1997 – about animal welfare violations in factory farming.
(7) T. G. Nagaraja and M. M. Chengappa, "Liver Abscessed in Feedlot Cattle: A Review," Journal of Animal Science, 1998.
(8) Joyce D'Silva, "Faster, Cheaper, Sicker," New Scientist, 15 Nov. 2003 – about the human health and animal cruelty impact of factory farming.
(9) UK Newspaper Cites OCA on Big Corporations Hijacking the Organic Movement," The Guardian," 12 Nov. 2003.
(10) S. Waage et. al., "Identification of Risk Factors for Clinical Mastitis in Dairy Heifers," National Veterinary Institute – about factory farming production methods that lead to health risks for humans and animals.
(11) D.L. Roeber et al. About factory farming food facts.
(12) Gail Eisnitz, "Slaughterhouse - The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry" – about animal cruelty and food facts in agribusiness.
(13) Joby Warrick, "They Die Piece by Piece," Washington Post, 10 Apr. 2001 – about animal cruelty in slaughterhouses.
(14) Cambridge Daily News, "A New Slant on Chump Chops," 29 Mar. 2002.
(15) Swine Diseases (Chest): "Mycoplasma Pneumonia," Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, 2005
(16) "Seaboard Pig Farm Investigation Video," PETA Online, 2001 – about animal cruelty on factory farm.
(17) Olympus Microscope, "Pig Embryo," Olympus Microscope Global Web Site.
(18) Feedstuffs, "Research Looks at Transport Losses," 17 Apr. 2006.
(19) The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization about food facts on factory farms.
(20) http://www.fishinghurts.com/FishFarms.asp - about factory farming of fish.
(21) The Humane Society of the United States, "A First Look at Farm Animals: Turkeys," 2004.
(22) Jodie Karrow and Dr. Ian Duncan, "Starve-Out in Turkey Poults," University of Guelph, Dec. 1999.
(23) Christina Duff, "If You Think Surviving Tomorrow Is a Turkey's Only Worry, Read On," The Wall Street Journal, 27 Nov. 1991, B1.
(24) Humane Farming Association – about animal cruelty on factory farms.
(25) The Poultry Guide - A to Z and FAQs – food facts about chicken farming.
(26) USDA APHIS. "DAIRY CATTLE" – food facts about dairy production.
(27) BBC News. (2003, April 30). Fish do feel pain, say ntists of the Roslin Institute and the University of Edinburgh
(28) Union of Concerned Scientists from a 2001 report titled Hogging It! Estimates of Antimicrobial Abuse in Livestock, Mellon, Margaret, Charles Benbrook & Karen Lutz Benbrook, Cambridge Mass.
(29) University of Iowa study January 2009, "Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Strain ST398 Is Present in Midwestern U.S. Swine and Swine Workers" - about health risks in factory farming.
(30) Mercy for Animals chicken farm investigation – about animal cruelty on factory farm.
(31) Gene and Lorri Bauston, "Brutality: Main Crop of Factory Farms?" EarthSave International Online, 2004.
(32) IVOMEC Pharmaceutical advertisement, Pork Magazine, 17 Dec. 2002.
(33) Rolling Stone, "Boss Hog" - article about waste pollution at Smithfield, the world’s largest hog producer; 14 Dec 2006.
(34) Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. "Below-Cost Feed Crops/ An Indirect Subsidy for Industrial Animal Factories." IATP, June 2006.
(35) Union of concerned scientists; "They eat what?"; 08 Aug. 2006 – about animal feed on factory farms.
(36) Environmental Health Perspectives Article by Sapkota, Lefferts, McKenzie, Walker; "What Do We Feed to Food-Production Animals? A Review of Animal Feed Ingredients and Their Potential Impacts on Human Health";
(37) From Wikipedia "Battery cage" - about factory farming standard practices.
(38) Interview with former USDA microbiologist Gerald Kuester in Gail Eisnitz' "Slaughterhouse - The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry."
(39) MilkSucks.com – about human health dangers in dairy factory farming.
(40) Human Rights Watch 13 – about factory farm working conditions.
(41) Wikipedia – agricultural subsidy – about government factory farm subsidies.
(42) Environmental Working Group's Farm Subsidy Database; April 14, 2008.
(43) epa.gov; AG101; "Major Crops Grown in the United States".
(44) The US Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
(59) Compassion in World Farming - Animal health and disease in factory farming.
(60) "Food Safety Consequences of Factory Farms". Food & Water Watch. March, 2007.