HUMANE FARMING? TAKE A CLOSER LOOK
If you are tempted to believe that animal products are, or can be, cruelty-free, please think it through. Even if the animals were "well treated" in their foreshortened lives (an economic impossibility, as explained below), the fact of their enslavement and exploitation still remains. When faced with claims that animal farming/use can be done "humanely", the question to ask is not, “How are the enslaved animals treated in their short lives?”, but, “Why are they there in the first place?”. Why do we keep bringing animals into an existence of forced servitude (to another species, no less)? Why do we regard their bodies, families, and communities as objects of human use? Why do we think of the breast milk of mothers of other species as food for humans (adult humans, no less)? Why do we consider the reproductive systems of females of other species ours to exploit (for a taste, no less)? Why do we think of other animals as our property? There is nothing ethical, humane, honorable, or remotely excusable about exploiting the defenseless for the sensory gratification of the powerful. Please take a moment to learn what the animals are forced to go through to become the products labeled "humane meat", "organic dairy", "free range eggs".
CAN ANY OF THESE STANDARD PRACTICES BE CONSIDERED HUMANE ?
1. THE MASS KILLING OF "TRASH" INFANTS
Every new production cycle begins by discarding the “unprofitable” individuals.
From factory farms, to free-range and organic farms, to family farms and backyard operations, the same rule of profit applies: as soon as an animal is deemed “unprofitable”, he or she is killed. This sorting process begins with each new batch of newborns, and continues throughout the short life of each new flock or herd.
Egg production begins with the mass killing of roosters (male chicks). Because they can’t lay eggs, roosters are useless to the egg producer and are killed shortly after hatching. Every year, 200 million male chicks are killed in American hatcheries by suffocation or maceration (being ground up alive). Virtually all hens used in all forms of egg production, from “free range”, to large scale, to backyard farms, come from hatcheries that kill all of the male chicks. Farmers who hatch their own chicks kill the roosters on the farm.
Dairy production begins with the killing of male babies. Because males do not produce milk, they are useless to the dairy farmer and they are ripped from their grieving mothers shortly after birth. Infant males along with any “excess” females are either killed on the first few days of their lives, or they are sold to slaughterhouses after being fattened, in isolation from their mothers, for 4-6 months.
Meat production begins with the killing of “unprofitable” infants. Hatcheries throw millions of “surplus” and “defective” “broiler” chicks, turkey poults, and ducklings into the same dumpsters as the discarded egg shells they emerged from hours earlier. Hog farmers routinely kill the smallest piglets of each new litter at one or two days old, because these “runts” are considered unlikely to reach “market weight” by the desired slaughter date. Sick or injured animals are killed at any time before shipment to slaughter because it’s cheaper to “cull” them than it is to treat them.
The same profit calculations govern the lives of all animals exploited for their flesh, milk, eggs, wool, skin or feathers, on small and large farms alike. If the animal doesn’t have a profitable “Feed Conversion Ratio” (the ability to produce the expected amount of flesh, eggs, milk, or wool with the smallest amount of feed investment possible), they are discarded by the most inexpensive means possible.
Male babies and “surplus” females born on dairy farms are either killed shortly after birth, or sold to slaughterhouses to be processed” as “bob veal”, or auctioned to veal producers to be slaughtered 6 months later. The “runt” piglets of each new litter are killed. PAC (Pounding Against Concrete) is a common practice that involves workers holding the piglets by their hind legs and smashing their heads against the floor.
The brothers of “layer” hens are macerated (ground up alive) or suffocated hours after hatching. "Excess” turkey and “broiler” chicks are killed at the hatchery before they even make it to the “grow out” facility.
2. ROUTINE MUTILATIONS
Whether raised on small, family farms or factory farms, domesticated animals are routinely mutilated without anesthetics. Most turkeys and egg laying hens have their sensitive beaks amputated with a hot machine blade that cuts through bone, cartilage and soft tissue, causing acute pain and often death, and leaving the disfigured survivors with lifelong pain resembling human phantom limb pain. Many turkeys also have their toes chopped off.
Cows have their horns cut off and their testicles cut out of their scrotums, and many are branded with sizzling-hot irons, resulting in third-degree burns.
Pigs commonly have their teeth cut to the gum line, their tails chopped off, and their ears notched, and some have rings forced into their sensitive noses in order to permanently prevent them from rooting in the grass and dirt.
All types and scales of animal farming, from factory farms to backyard operations, involve the horrific violations that come from the brutal exploitation of the animals’ reproductive systems. Farming simply would not exist without ongoing breeding and birthing. Reliably inducing pregnancy in each “breeding” female requires the use of artificial insemination. In order to maintain uninterrupted milk production, all forms of dairy farming require that cows be made pregnant and give birth to a calf every year. Forcibly impregnating cows involves passing the inseminating catheter through the spiral folds of the cow’s cervix into her uterus. The restraining apparatus used is commonly called a “rape rack.” “Dairy” cows are re-inseminated 2-3 months after giving birth, when they are still lactating for the baby they were never allowed to nurse. During their short, wretched lives, they are subjected to annual cycles of rape, pregnancy, birth, and bereavement before they are considered “spent”—unable to produce enough milk to be profitable— and are sent to a gruesome slaughter.
Domesticated turkeys have been genetically manipulated to grow so large and misshapen that they must be artificially inseminated to reproduce. This procedure involves grabbing the terrified turkey hen, holding her upside down, and inserting a hypodermic syringe in her vagina to deliver the forcibly collected sperm into the oviduct. She will be subjected to this abuse at least once a week, week after week, until she’ll be considered “spent” and she’ll be loaded up to be killed.
Female pigs used for breeding are re-impregnated three to eight weeks after their babies are taken away to be fattened for slaughter. After being forced to suffer through three or four years of forced pregnancies followed by traumatic separations from their families, the mothers, too, are sent to the same brutal death as their children. Female goats and sheep used for breeding endure the same cycle of forced pregnancy, birthing, and separation before being themselves slaughtered at a fraction of their natural lifespan.
Whether they are raised on large farms or small family farms, when domesticated animals become mothers, they are all faced with the same grim reality: their children belong to someone else. No matter how much they cherish their babies, or how desperately they struggle to protect them, they have no power whatsoever over the future their child will be forced to endure.
If the children are intended for meat, they will be taken away from their mothers long before they are fully weaned, and they will be “finished” (fattened for slaughter) in separate enclosures, or sent to feedlots with other young orphans, while the mother is forcibly re-impregnated with children she will fall in love with only to be forced to lose, again and again.
If the mother happens to be one of the millions of birds whose fertilized eggs are incubated in hatcheries that breed chickens either for meat or eggs, she will never get to see any of her babies. Every single one of the 90 billion eggs produced in the US every year originates from a hen who has been denied the freedom to raise her young.
If the mother is used for milk production, every one of her babies will be taken away from her shortly after birth and denied access to her milk. The separation is as devastating to the mother as it is to the child. Some mother cows try to fight off the attackers, some try to shield their babies with their own bodies, some chase frantically after the transport, some cry pitifully, some withdraw in silent despair. Some go trustingly with their keepers only to return to an empty stall. They all beg for their babies in language that requires no translation: They bellow, they cry, they moan. Many continue to call for their babies for days and nights on end. Some stop eating and drinking. They search feverishly. Many refuse to give up and will return to the empty spot over and over again. Some wilt in silent grief.
Their daughters are raised in isolation to replace their own mothers in the line of production. Some of their sons are killed immediately. Many others are butchered as “veal”, 4-6 motherless months later. When these frail orphans are dragged onto the killing floor, they are still looking for their mothers, still desperately needing her nurturing presence, especially at that dark time when they are terrified and needing protection more than ever, in the midst of the terrible sights, and sounds, and smells of death all around them, and, in their despair, in their want for a shred of consolation and protection, many try to suckle the fingers of their killers.
Calves are dehorned, many are branded with hot irons, and the males are castrated. Piglets have their teeth cut to the gum line, their ears notched, and their tails cut off. Males are castrated. No anesthetics are used for any of these excruciating procedures.
Forcibly impregnating cows involves a person inserting his arm far into the cow’s rectum in order to position the uterus, and then forcing an instrument into her vagina, to deliver the semen through her cervix into the uterus. Pushed too deeply, the instrument can, and often does, cause physical injury.
Many ewes are placed in restraining devices euphemistically called “cradles”, and subjected to vaginal or laparoscopic artificial insemination.
• To a female used for milk production, the only experience of motherhood is that of grieving the loss of every baby she will ever give birth to.
• Deprived of her mother hours after birth, a “dairy” calf is desperate to suckle. • A “dairy” goat is crying for her stolen baby.
Day-old “layer” hens have their sensitive beaks seared off with a hot blade.
Most newly hatched turkeys have their beaks and toes amputated.
Turkey hens are forced to endure the abuse of artificial insemination at least once a week, week after week, until their egg production declines and, considered “spent”, they are sent to slaughter.
• Born in incubators for egg or meat production, none of these chicks will ever know their mothers.
• 4-8 weeks old piglets are separated from their mother and sent to "finishing" (fattening for slaughter). In nature, they are weaned at 3-4 months and will remain close to their mother for 1-3 years.
4.MATERNAL DEPRIVATION AND THE FORCEFUL SEPARATION OF MOTHER AND CHILD
5.THE MASS KILLING OF "SPENT" FEMALES
All farms, large-scale and small-scale, discard the females used for breeding, eggs, and milk when their exhausted bodies can no longer produce enough eggs, milk or babies to be profitable.
Hens used for egg production are killed when their egg laying rate declines, typically within two years. Often the bodies of “spent” hens are so ravaged that no one will buy them, and they are disposed of by the cheapest means possible—they are gassed, ground into fertilizer, decapitated in their own backyards, or just sent to a landfill.
Their parents, the captive birds who produce the fertilized eggs required by hatcheries, are forced to mate, or are artificially inseminated, over and over, until their bodies are too damaged to be profitable any more, at which point they are trucked to a horrifying slaughter.
The cows and goats subjected to the endless cycle of rape, pregnancy, birth and bereavement known as “milk production”, are shipped to slaughter as soon as their milk output drops below the profitable mark and their exhausted bodies are considered “spent”. Most of these young mothers are barely entering adulthood. All are still lactating. Many are pregnant.
The mother pigs, cows, sheep and goats who are forced to give life to babies meant to be killed as “meat”, are sold to slaughter when, after several cycles of impregnation, pregnancy, birth, and forced separation from their young, their worn-out bodies produce smaller litters, smaller babies, or miss a scheduled birthing cycle. They are all young adults.
When their egg production declines, egg laying hens are considered “spent” and are discarded by the cheapest means possible only to be replaced with a new set of younger, more “productive” victims whose brothers have been killed at one day old.
When their exhausted bodies become unable to produce milk at a profitable rate, the still lactating mother cows and goats used for dairy production are sold to slaughter. Many are pregnant. • When their fertility declines, the young mother birds, pigs, cows, sheep and goats whose babies were slaughtered for meat are themselves killed.
6.THE MASS KILLING OF YOUNGSTERS
Whether killed in their own backyard by the very people they trusted, or hacked to pieces in a distant slaughterhouse where they are dragged onto the killing floor after enduring the prolonged agony of auction and transport, all of the young victims of our appetite are killed violently, unnecessarily, and in cold blood.
None of these youngsters wants to die, none of them deserves to die, none of them has to die for us to live and thrive. And not a single one of them experiences his or her own brutal, untimely death as “humane”. They all know they are going to be harmed, they all know they are going to die, and they are all terrified—some shake uncontrollably, some freeze in terror, some lose control of their bowels and vomit in fear. They all struggle desperately to escape, they all plead for a mercy that never comes, they all cling to their young lives to their last breath. Regardless what type of facility they are raised on, from “hobby” farms or industrial operations, animals farmed for their flesh are all killed at a very young age.
“Broiler” chickens are decapitated at 40-50 days old, so young that they still peep in their baby voices. Turkeys are slaughtered between 2 and 4 months, when they are barely adolescent. Pigs and lambs are brutally killed at 6 months of age, when they still act, think, and play like “puppies”. The oldest goats killed for meat are “yearlings”, the youngest are unweaned, 4-12 week old “suckling kids”. “Beef” cattle are murdered between 12-15 months, at the age when, in nature, they are still deeply connected with their mothers.
Worldwide, 56 billion land animals are massacred for human appetites every year. 56 billion young lives, mocked as “meat”, dismembered for an evening’s amusement, burned, bitten and flushed as sewage. Each, a daughter, a son, a sister, a brother, a mother, a friend. Each, an individual with a mind, a heart, a language, a memory, and a meaning to their life that they well understand. Each, a being who values his or her life as much as you and I do.
by Joanna Lucas
BeFairBeVegan is an animal justice campaign run by the Colorado-based non-profit Be Fair Be Vegan. The first high-profile vegan campaign in the US to present the end of all animal use as a prerequisite for a fair and just society, it was launched in New York City in August of 2016. Created and designed by Joanna Lucas, it is managed by a collective of vegan activists. All content subject to copyright.