majority of people if they were made aware of just how unpleasant
the lives of many of our food animals are would probably eat far
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One of the ploys used by the advertisers is to show
smiling animal faces on advertising billboards or
packaging associated with the sale meat and diary products. This is designed
to mislead those who don't give any thought to the plight of these
animals. This is not to say that we should not have animal meat in
our diet. It is to say that we can do a lot better than the current
cruel methods used with intensive animal production.
||A cattle feed lot. In many countries
a majority of cattle are fattened up in such facilities.
They cause many physical and psychological problems for
Photo by D.Hatz
Downloaded from www.factoryfarm.com
One group of
producers who describe themselves as beyond organic, are called
grass farmers. Using techniques which form a closed system of
humane outdoor animal rotations where nothing is wasted, the yield is similar or better than
intensive production facilities. The problem is that this way of
doing things does not fit in with the industrial food chain
production of huge agribusinesses (Pollan 06). The following two
tables demonstrate the hidden extreme unpleasantness associated with
intensive animal production (Pollan 06) (Jacobson 06).
||75% of world production
of meat and 66% of eggs, but majority of western production
||Large sheds, no outside
contact. For layers, birds are kept in cages in a space less than 2/3 to
1/2 A4 sheet of paper per bird. Forced moulting to
increase egg yield is induced by food and water restriction.
Breeding stock for broilers is starved to increase
de-toeing, killing unwanted male chicks by being
||40% of world production, majority of
||Large sheds. Farrowing
cages to protect newborn piglets provide just enough space for the
animal to stand or lie down, with no more than half a pace
forward or backward. Slatted steel floor with cesspit
underneath. Never go outside. Farrowing crates are
particularly inhumane and many areas of the world have
banned their use.
||Majority of western animals finished
in feedlot operations
||Variable length of time in feedlots,
crowded manure covered ground. No
shade or protection from weather.
||Castrated, de-horned and branded
||Relatively small but growing
||Large sheds, milked three times a day.
Never outside and kept in tiny spaces of 2 to 2.5 sq metres. Walk around in manure.
||Tails docked in an attempt to reduce
||This is an intensive CAFO type piggery in the US.
following table lists the many disorders that are almost never
seen in free range animals but are not uncommon in intensive
animal production operations.
suffered by animals because of confinement
infections requiring organic arsenical prophylaxis.
Limb injuries from the cages are common.
Pectoral myopathy related to loss of blood supply in the
abnormally large breast muscles occurs if these muscles
are suddenly contracted when the bird is alarmed. The
muscle then dies and subsequently kills the bird.
Breeding to maximize the meat yield leads to heart
disease and lameness.
Viral epidemics can wipe out vast numbers of birds such
as Newcastle disease or the much more feared H5N1 avian
Psychological problems such as head rocking and
excessive drinking are well recognized. Panic behaviours
leading to injury is seen in broiler houses.
infections possibly related to direct contact with
Foot and leg injuries from containment barriers
Wasting disease is more common in intensive production
Poor conditions lead to problems with suckling and other
Exposure to toxic fumes from manure such as ammonia and
hydrogen sulphide causes problems apart from the fact
that it is very unpleasant.
Psychological problems are well known such as cage
chewing, squatting behaviour, tail biting.
||Unnatural diet of
feedlot animals causes the rumen to become more acidic
rather than the usual neutral levels, leading to gastric
ulceration and in a proportion of animals, liver
abscesses. 13% of livers in one investigation were
discarded because of this.
High grain diets are also associated with other problems
such as bloat, diarrhoea and the often lethal grain
Psychological problems such as the "buller syndrome"
where steers repeated mount other cattle, often causing
physical injury. Tongue rolling and chewing of solid
structures such as fence posts are seen.
||High milk output, in
some cases stimulated by hormones, causes udder
problems, and increased numbers of infections, made
worse by contact with their own excreta.
Confined animals may develop a range of neurotic
disorders such as head rubbing, grating teeth on metal
cages, eye rolling.
A significant proportion of the
antibiotics, pest control chemicals and hormone
therapies are only used in intensive production units. Many of
these substances are either a direct threat to humans or are a
threat to the surrounding wildlife. A more humane
treatment of animals without the use of intensive production
methods would significantly reduce the use of these substances.
The price we pay for our meat and dairy should include the true
costs of the damage these practices are doing to our own health
and health of the environment.
The final trip: the horror of
the way animals are treated before and during slaughter.
|Transport to the abattoir
||Animals are frequently transported
long distances in extremely cramped, cold/hot conditions
without food or water. Many are injured or killed.
|Problems with slaughter
||Some killing methods involve the
slitting of the throat without being stunned.
In many high throughput facilities, stunning is often
not fully effective and the animals die a slow,
|Danger to abattoir workers.
||Abattoirs have some of the worst
working conditions imaginable. High level of injuries,
mistreatment of workers and underpay are widely
The bottom line: cheap animal
protein foods damage us and damage the environment. No one
should consume animal products without being aware of the issues
that have been have been detailed here. The point is that there
are ways to produce animal protein products which are humane,
which don't damage the environment and are totally sustainable.
The fact is that they cost more. If the true price of the
environmental and health problems that factory farming of
animals were included in the price you pay at the supermarket,
things would be a lot more expensive. Remember the price you pay
has been reduced by trading the value of our own health and that
of the environment.
Michael Pollan. The Omnivore's Dilemma. Bloomsbury Publishing
Michael Jacobsen. Six arguments for a greener diet. Center for
Science in the Public Interest. 2006