treatment of animals
Modern breeding sows are treated like piglet making machines. Living a continuous cycle of impregnation and birth, the sows each have more than 20 piglets per year. After being impregnated, the sows are confined in small pens or metal gestation crates which are just 2 feet wide. At the end of their 4 month pregnancy, they are transferred to farrowing crates to give birth. The sows barely have room to stand up and lie down, and many suffer from sores on their shoulders. They are denied straw bedding and forced to stand and lie on hard floors. When asked about this, a pork industry representative wrote, “…straw is very expensive and there certainly would not be a supply of straw in the country to supply all the farrowing pens in the U.S.”
Numerous research studies conducted over the last 25 years have pointed to physical and psychological maladies experienced by sows in confinement. The unnatural flooring and lack of exercise causes obesity and crippling leg disorders, while the deprived environment results in neurotic coping behaviors such as bar biting, dog sitting, and “mourning”.
After giving birth and nursing their young for two to three weeks, the piglets are taken away to be fattened, and the sow is reimpregnated. Hog factories strive to keep their sows ‘100 % active’, as an article in Successful Farming explains, “Any sow that is not gestating, lactating or within seven days post weaning is non-active.” When the sow is no longer deemed a productive breeder, she is sent to slaughter.
In addition to experiencing overcrowded housing, sows and pigs are also experience crowding in transportation - despite the fact that this crowding causes suffering and deaths. As a hog industry expert writes, “Death losses during transport are too high - amounting to more than $8 million per year. But it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out why we load as many hogs on a truck as we do. It’s cheaper. So it becomes a moral issue. Is it right to overload a truck and save $.25 per head in the process, while the overcrowding contributes to the deaths of 80,000 hogs each year?”.
Prior to being hung upside down by their back legs and bled to death at the slaughterhouse, pigs are supposed to be ‘stunned’ and rendered unconscious. However, ‘stunning’ is terribly imprecise, and this results in conscious animals hanging upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker tries to ‘stick’ them in the neck with a knife. If the worker is unsuccessful, the pig will be carried to the next station on the slaughterhouse assemblyline, the scalding tank, where he/she will be boiled alive.
With genetic manipulation and intensive production technologies, it is common for modern dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day – ten times more than they would produce in nature. The cows’ bodies are under constant stress and they are at risk for numerous health problems.
Approximately half of the country’s dairy cows suffer from mastitis, a bacterial infection of their udders. This is such a common and costly ailment that a dairy industry group, the National Mastitis Council, was formed specifically to combat the disease. Other diseases, such as Bovine Leukemia Virus, Bovine Immunodeficiency Virus, and Johne’s disease (whose human counterpart is Crohn’s disease), are also rampant on modern dairies, but they are difficult to detect or have a long incubation period, and they commonly go unnoticed.
A cow eating a normal grass diet could not produce milk at the abnormal levels expected on modern dairies, and so today’s dairy cows must be given high energy feeds. The unnaturally rich diet causes metabolic disorders including ketosis, which can be fatal, and laminitis, which causes lameness.
Another dairy industry disease caused by intensive milk production is “Milk Fever”. This ailment is caused by calcium deficiency, and it occurs when milk secretion uses calcium faster than it can be replenished in the blood.
Although the dairy industry is familiar with the cows’ health problems and suffering associated with intensive milk production, it continues to subject cows to even worse abuses in the name of increased profit. Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), a synthetic hormone, is now being injected into cows to get them to produce even more milk. Besides adversely affecting the cows’ health, BGH also increases birth defects in their calves.
At a standard beef slaughterhouse, 250 cattle are killed every hour. As the assembly line speeds up, workers are rushed, and it becomes increasingly difficult to treat animals with any semblance of humaneness. A Meat & Poultry article states, “Good handling is extremely difficult if equipment is ‘maxed out’ all the time. It is impossible to have a good attitude toward cattle if employees have to constantly overexert themselves, and thus transfer all that stress right down to the animals, just to keep up with the line.”
Prior to being hung up by their back legs and bled to death, cattle are supposed to be rendered unconscious. This ‘stunning’ is usually done by a mechanical blow to the head. The procedure is terribly imprecise, and inadequate stunning is inevitable. The result of poor stunning is conscious animals hanging upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker makes another attempt to render them unconscious. Eventually, the animals will be “stuck” in the throat with a knife, and blood will gush from their bodies whether or not they are unconscious.
Birds have their beaks cut off to prevent them from peaking each other. They are packed into large rooms to maximize the their density per square feet or into cages barely larger than their bodies. These animals hardly ever or never see the light of day.
Today’s meat chickens have been genetically altered to grow twice as fast, and twice as large as their ancestors. Pushed beyond their biological limits, hundreds of millions of chickens die every year before reaching slaughter weight at 6 weeks of age. An industry journal explains “broilers [chickens] now grow so rapidly that the heart and lungs are not developed well enough to support the remainder of the body, resulting in congestive heart failure and tremendous death losses.” Modern meat type chickens also experience crippling leg disorders, as their legs are not capable of supporting their abnormally heavy bodies. Confined in unhealthy factory farms, the birds also succumb to heat prostration, infectious disease, and cancer.
Like meat type chickens, commercial turkeys also suffer from genetic manipulation. In addition to having been altered to grow fast and large, commercial turkeys have been anatomically manipulated to have large breasts to meet consumer demand for breast meat. As a result, turkeys cannot mount and reproduce naturally, and so their sole means of reproduction is artificial insemination. Like meat chickens, turkeys are susceptible to heart disease, and their legs have difficulty supporting their overweight bodies. An industry journal laments “…turkeys have been bred to grow faster and heavier but their skeletons haven’t kept pace, which causes ‘cowboy legs’. Commonly, the turkeys have problems standing and fall and are trampled on or seek refuge under feeders, leading to bruises and downgradings as well as culled or killed birds.”
Chickens and turkeys are taken to the slaughterhouse in crates stacked on the back of trucks. The birds are either pulled from the crates, or the crates are lifted off the truck, often with a crane or forklift, and then the birds are dumped onto a conveyor belt. As the birds are unloaded, some fall onto the ground instead of landing on the assemblyline conveyor belt. Slaughterhouse workers intent upon ‘processing’ thousands of birds every hour, don’t have the time nor the inclination to pick up individuals who fall through the cracks. Sometimes the birds die after being crushed by machinery or vehicles operating near the unloading area, while in other cases, they may die of starvation or exposure after days without receiving their basic needs.
Once inside the slaughterhouse, fully conscious birds are hung by their feet from metal shackles on a moving rail. The first station on most poultry slaughterhouse assemblylines is the stunning tank, where the birds’ heads are submerged in an electrified bath of water. Although poultry is specifically excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act which requires stunning, the practice is common because it immobilizes the birds and expedites assemblyline killing.
Stunning procedures are not monitored, and they are often inadequate. Poultry slaughterhouses commonly set the electrical current lower than what is required to render the birds unconscious because of concerns that too much electricity would damage the carcass and diminish its value. The result is that birds are immobilized but are still capable of feeling pain, or they emerge from the stunning tank still conscious.
After passing through the stunning tank, the birds’ throats are slashed, usually by a mechanical blade, and blood begins rushing out of their bodies. Inevitably, the blade misses some birds who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank. Here they are submerged in boiling hot water. Birds missed by the killing blade are boiled alive. This occurs so commonly, affecting millions of birds every year, that the industry has a term for these birds. They are called “redskins”.
The meat, poultry, dairy and egg industries employ technological short cuts - such as drugs, hormones, and other chemicals - to maximize production. Under these conditions, virulent pathogens which are resistant to antibiotics are emerging. Millions of Americans are infected and thousands die every year from contaminated animal products. Peculiar new diseases have been amplified by aberrant agribusiness practices. For example, “Mad Cow Disease”, a fatal dementia affecting cattle, was distributed throughout Britain when dead cows were fed to living cows. When people ate cows with “Mad Cow Disease”, they got Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a fatal dementia which afflicts humans.
Despite repeated warnings from consumer advocates, the USDA’s meat inspection system remains grossly inadequate, less than one percent are inspected. and consumers are now being told to “expect” animal products to be tainted
More than 95 percent of all feedlot- raised cattle in the United States are currently receiving growth-promoting hormones and other pharmaceuticals, residues of which may be present in finished cuts of beef. In order to speed weight gain, feedlot managers administer growth-stimulating hormones and feed additives. Anabolic steroids, in the form of small time-release pellets, are implanted in the animals’ ears. The hormones slowly seep into the bloodstream, increasing hormone levels by two to five times. Cattle are given estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone.
Veal calves are sometimes kept alive by antibiotics when they have an illness that should kill the animal to save them from the suffering they endure in lethal conditions.