Warning: Reality can be scarier than fiction. Some graphic content to follow.
The Nightmarish Treatment of Animals Go into an animal agriculture facility today, and you may just well think you’ve entered into a nightmare! Animal food operations are not the idyllic meadow pasture with little red barn scenes that many have in their minds when they think of animal farming. Instead, animals raised for food are subject to filthy and uninhabitable liv ing conditions, abuse, starvation, cannibalism, and more!
Egg-Laying Hens Some of the arguably worst treated in animal agriculture are egg laying hens. They are crammed into tiny cages, stacked one on top of the other, in a large shed that reeks of ammonia. If they are hens from a “cage-free” farm, they are packed into large warehouses where they technically have access to a door that leads to an outside area, but often are never able to access it because of the intensive crowding. In both of these conditions, it’s common to see what could only be described as a horror scene - half dead hens getting trampled on by larger hens, mutilated and rotting flesh, oozing eye infections, cannibalism of weaker hens by stronger ones, and birds covered in feces, unable to move. If it’s a caged facility, hens’ feet will often become deformed by the wire cages, or even fuse with them! Birds are forced to live in cages on top of, or under, dead ones, with no escape possible. However, the male chicks born in this industry don’t even stand a chance -- they are ground up alive in a macerator, gassed to death, or left to suffocate and die in large waste bins. The over 200 million that suffer this fate don’t produce eggs, so they’re seen as no more than disposable objects.
Commercial Chicken Farming The chickens raised for their flesh don’t fare too much better. 9 billion of these animals are killed on U.S. farms every year, meaning 24 million per day, 17,000 each minute, or 285 every second. Chilling, isn’t it? Like chickens raised for their eggs, they are crammed into warehouses with tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of other individuals, so tightly packed that it’s hard to move. The uric acid in the constant layer of excrement on the floor causes burns and ulcerations to their feet and bodies. From the inside out they suffer, too. Broilers, as they’re called, have been selectively bred to grow three times faster than they would normally, causing muscle mass to develop far faster than the rest of their body. This leads to deformation, broken bones, respiratory disorders, and heart failure. These birds are also routinely pumped with antibiotics, which help them grow even faster. When it’s time to go to slaughter, chickens are snatched up and stuffed into trucks, often having their bones broken in the process. Once at the slaughterhouse, they are shocked by an electric water bath designed to stun them before their throat is slit by an automated blade. Hopefully, they bleed to death at this point. But if not, they are boiled alive in a scalding tank meant to remove their feathers. This is the end for these chickens, who have lived their short six-week life in constant misery.
Cows and Beef - Another Nightmare As for cows raised for their meat, the nightmare continues. Since they, like all animals raised for food, are viewed as mere commodities, cows who grow the fastest and largest are the most valued. Thus, cows are selectively bred, with the largest males chosen as breeders, and the rest castrated without anesthetics or pain relief.
Male calves also have their horns cut or burned off, an intensely painful process. The next step of mutilation is branding, where an extremely hot or cold iron is pressed into their skin until they bear a permanent flesh wound that designates identification and ownership. For the next 6-8 months of their life, they are grazed on grassy pastures, with no protection from extreme weather. Floods, scorching heat, hypothermic conditions, and wild predators all pose threats to their wellbeing and safety. After this grazing period, cows are sent to confined feedlots where they are fed a grain based diet meant to put large amounts of weight on them in a very short time. This food is not natural for cows, and can cause huge buildups of gas or even stomach acid, causing a painful condition called acute acidosis. Most of the animals in these CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations) are also given growth hormones and antibiotics, with the purpose of making them grow even larger. At only 12-14 months old, the cows are loaded onto trucks. Here they will spend up to 36 stressful hours deprived of food and water, often forced to stand in their own vomit and diarrhea. Once at the slaughterhouse, cows are supposed to be stunned with a captive bolt pistol that drives a metal rod through the skull and into the brain to induce unconsciousness. This step is not always followed, and it’s not uncommon for animals to be shackled by their feet and slit by the throat while fully conscious. They are then skinned and dismembered, sometimes while still kicking and screaming.
Dairy Cows Suffering Dairy cows suffer the same fate as cows raised for their flesh -- they are sent to the slaughterhouse and turned into ground beef. However, before they’re sent to slaughter, they endure a life even more horrific than those raised specifically for their meat. Since mammals don’t produce milk unless they are expecting a baby, cows are repeatedly impregnated every year. This is often done by strapping a female cow to a rack (which has historically been referred to in the industry as a “rape rack”) and artificially inseminating her. After forty weeks, she births a calf who is taken from her a few days later, at most, so that her milk can be used for human consumption. This is severely distressing, and it’s not unheard of for mother cows to bellow and pace for days, grieving the loss of their children. If this calf is female, she will become a dairy cow like her mom. If the calf is male, unless he’s saved for breeding, he will be sent to auction and slaughtered after a few days or months. Often he will be raised as a veal calf, subjected to extreme confinement and starvation for 16-18 weeks before he is killed for his flesh. Mother cows experience this same cycle multiple times throughout their life, meanwhile enduring two to three daily automatic milkings by a machine. This is a stressful process meant to extract the most milk possible, and it’s not un common for cows to develop mastitis. This is a painful swelling of mammary tissues often induced by trauma from these machines, in which pathogenic (disease causing) bacteria enter through openings in her teat, leading to infection, inflammation, and abnormal milk. Cows also suffer from lameness, injury, sickness, or end up collapsing from the exhaustion on their bodies. For this reason they are sent to slaughter at only five years old, too weak to continue the process. Cows naturally live over twenty years.
Pigs in Misery Another animal that suffers immensely is the pig. Raised for ham, bacon, and sausage, pigs are viewed as money making objects, and are treated only as such. Born into farrowing crates so small mother pigs can’t turn around, but have to lay on their sides to feed their piglets, pigs make a depressing entrance into the world. Their tails are docked so as to avoid serious damage when they inevitably bite each other as stressful conditions and hunger lead to aggression. Males are routinely castrated without anesthetic, and some females become destined to become mother pigs themselves. These sows will languish in in tensive confinement, where loneliness and deprivation often cause these animals to go visibly insane. Their misery will only end when they are finally slaughtered only a few years later because their bodies are so spent. For pigs that are simply raised for food, they endure a lifetime of extreme crowding, poor ventilation, and rampant ill ness. The floors are covered in feces, the air is so bad most pigs end up with pneumonia, and corpses become scattered amongst the living. They never get to see the sun, and their feet never touch anything but a bare, hard floor. The most unlucky are eat en alive by other pigs. Fed growth hormones and antibiotics, pigs grow at an alarmingly fast pace, and are ready to be shipped in transport trucks at about six months old. Around a million of these pigs will die just in transport. Once at the slaughter house, which typically kills about a thousand animals per hour, pigs are stunned and then boiled. Due to improper stunning, many pigs are scalded alive, squealing in pain and fear the entire time.
It is within your power to help end these nightmares. Here's to a truly transformational Halloween 🎃
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A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with degrees in nutrition and spirituality, Lisa is uniquely qualified to help us understand our dynamic relationship with food. Her passion about the unbreakable links between food and spirituality is the result of over twenty years of academic, professional, and personal exploration. In 1987, she graduated from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics and received the Nutrition Sciences Departmental Citation Award. In 1990, she earned a Master’s Degree in Public Health Nutrition from UC Berkeley with High Honors. In 1996, she obtained a Master’s Degree in Culture and Creation Spirituality from Holy Names College, and is a Shamanic Soul Coach with certification from the Integrative Arts Institute. She is the Founder of the Imperfectly Vegan movement and author of The Sacred Art of Eating.
A sustainable lifestyle for ourselves and the planet.