HOW WE TREAT THE ANIMALS WE EAT
For the vast majority of farm animals, misery is a way of life. Their suffering isn't just for a few hours or days, but for all their lives.
Just like the dogs and cats we welcome into our homes, farmed animals — pigs, chickens, cows, turkeys, and others — have their own personalities, inquisitive natures, likes and dislikes, and most importantly, the ability to feel pain and fear, suffer from boredom and frustration, and experience happiness. Yet these animals are routinely mistreated on industrialized factory farms.
From life on a factory farm to death at a slaughter plant, animals raised for meat, eggs, and milk suffer immensely. There are no federal animal welfare laws regulating the treatment of the billions of animals raised for food. And while all 50 states have cruelty statutes, most explicitly exempt common farming practices, no matter how abusive.
Fortunately, each one of us can help prevent animals from suffering in factory farms simply by choosing vegetarian foods. Every time we eat, we are making a powerful choice that has profound consequences on the lives of animals. At each meal, we make a decision between supporting cruelty or living compassionately. Whether you choose to avoid all animal products or simply reduce consumption, each step along the way means less suffering and more lives saved!
ON THE FACTORY FARM
On today's factory farms, animals are crammed by the tens of thousands into windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems that deny their basic physical and behavioral needs. These animals will never raise their families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything that is natural to them. They won't even feel the sun or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter.
Many animals spend their entire lives in metal cages just barely larger than their own bodies. In some cases, they're so tightly confined they can't even walk, turn around, or lie down comfortably. Cruel, overcrowded conditions cause unnatural aggression and fighting, which has led to painful practices such as debeaking, dehorning, and tail docking, all performed without anesthesia.
Antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals are routinely administered to animals in intensive confinement systems to mask stress and disease and to speed growth. Many animals are genetically altered to grow faster or to produce more milk or eggs than they would naturally, resulting in crippling physical deformities.
AT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE
Imagine being hit on the head and finding yourself dazed but still fully conscious. A chain is attached to one of your legs and you're hoisted upside down onto an assembly line. As you lash out in terror, gigantic clippers are used to snip off the lower parts of your arms and legs. Completely helpless, you feel workers cutting into your thighs, belly, and sides as they strip your skin from your legs to your neck. Even with the skin peeled back all the way up to your head, you are conscious enough to struggle.
Atrocities like these are happening to thousands of cattle every week in slaughterhouses throughout the U.S., according to numerous sworn affidavits from meat industry workers. One employee stated, "Workers open the hide on the legs, the stomach, the neck, they cut off the feet while the cow is breathing. It makes noise. It's looking around." According to another, "I've seen thousands and thousands of cows go through the slaughter process alive."
How can atrocities like these take place? The answer is simple. When a slaughterhouse boosts the speed of its killing line, it also boosts its profits. With animals whizzing by at the rate of one every few seconds, workers cannot ensure that each animal is rendered unconscious. But workers say they'll be fired if they stop the production line.
Standard slaughter practices, combined with gross negligence, result in immense pain and suffering for millions of animals. Regulations requiring ‘humane' slaughter are rarely enforced, and violations are commonplace. For example, the government took no action against a Texas beef company that was cited 22 times in 1998 for violations that included chopping the hooves off live cattle.
Chickens, turkeys, and other birds — dunked in tanks of hot water after they are stunned to remove feathers — sometimes reach the scalding tanks alive and conscious, where they are boiled to death. Shockingly, birds are excluded from protection under the federal Humane Slaughter Act, so these animals are vulnerable to horrifying abuses during the slaughter process without legal repercussions facing the slaughter facilities.
Because the transformation of living, feeling animals into food is usually hidden behind closed doors, many people find it hard to believe such cruelty really happens. Sadly for the animals, the nightmare is all too real...
'They Die Piece by Piece' — In Overtaxed Plants, Humane Treatment of Cattle Is Often a Battle Lost — Washington Post, April 10, 2001
It takes 25 minutes to turn a live steer into steak at the modern slaughterhouse where Ramon Moreno works. For 20 years, his post was "second-legger," a job that entails cutting hocks off carcasses as they whirl past at a rate of 309 an hour.
The cattle were supposed to be dead before they got to Moreno. But too often they weren't.
"They blink. They make noises," he said softly. "The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around."
Still Moreno would cut. On bad days, he says, dozens of animals reached his station clearly alive and conscious. Some would survive as far as the tail cutter, the belly ripper, the hide puller. "They die," said Moreno, "piece by piece."