My dream is that people will realize that farm animals are no different than their pets
Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
Farm animals today are not raised on the spacious green pastures that were common on family farms of the past. They are raised in extreme confinement at industrial facilities called factory farms. These facilities contain exceptionally large numbers of animals cramped into foul-smelling indoor industrial enclosures. The aim of factory farming is to maximize profits by raising the largest amount of animals in the smallest space possible at the lowest cost feasible.
Factory farming inflicts more suffering on animals than any other industry in the world. In addition to confining animals in spaces where they can hardly move, these facilities lack all the normal stimulation animals would otherwise experience in a natural outdoor living environment. Moreover, undercover video footage taken at factory farms has revealed an industry-wide accepted culture of abusive behavior towards the animals by the farm employees.
Unfortunately, most people do not know about the conditions on factory farms. Corporate agribusiness companies keep the reality of factory farms far from the public eye by marketing their animal food products with misleading packaging that shows happy animals lounging under the sun on lush, green farm pastures. They produce television commercials showing talking animals promoting bacon, steak, and dairy products. For these wealthy agribusiness corporations, keeping what really happens behind the closed gates of the factory farms is of the utmost importance because it allows them to make billions of dollars every year.
Factory farming inflicts more suffering on animals than any other industry in the world
Conditions on Factory Farms
Factory farms are dens of profound animal abuse created to maximize corporate profits at the expense of the environment, rural communities, and human health. The animals on factory farms are bred to grow unnaturally large and fast and are fed unhealthy amounts of antibiotics for the purpose of maximizing meat, egg, and milk production. The animal’s bodies cannot support this unnatural growth, which often results in painful conditions and deformities. The extreme confinement and the unsanitary conditions on factory farms require the use of additional antibiotics to inhibit the spread of disease, which is commonplace.
Wrapped in Darkness: Pig Factory Farms
Pigs are extremely intelligent and social creatures. They experience a wide range of emotions and feelings just like us. In a natural outdoor environment, they spend countless hours playing with their friends and family members, rooting in the ground for food, bathing in the sun and exploring their surroundings with their keen sense of smell. Many animal behaviorists have concluded that pigs are fully aware of their own existence and are even more intelligent than dogs. Piglets form friendships with other piglets that last their entire lives. They engage in complex tasks and even develop their own special language and mannerisms, much like human children. By the time piglets reach adulthood, a cooperative and elaborate hierarchy has been developed within their social group. Pigs take pleasure in doing things they enjoy and, like us, want to continue experiencing and enjoying their lives.
Pigs are fully aware of their own existence and are even more intelligent than dogs
The U.S. raises about 100 million pigs for food each year, almost all on factory farms, known for their cruel, intensively cramped conditions. Pigs on factory farms do not experience fresh air until the last day of their lives when they are transported to slaughter. Female pigs, or sows, are artificially inseminated repeatedly, often severely confined in gestation crates barely larger than their bodies, then separated from their babies soon after giving birth. These breeding mothers suffer terribly, both physically and mentally. As soon as they are no longer able to give birth to the required number of piglets, they are sent slaughter.
The piglets live a life of fear in these overcrowded conditions. The baby male pigs are castrated (without painkillers) because the smell and taste of uncastrated male pig meat is considered undesirable. Unhealthy piglets are often killed, usually in front of other piglets, by blunt trauma to the head by being thrown on the concrete floor of the facility. The sterile, unstimulating surroundings of their confinement causes extreme frustration, leading to tail-biting and aggression. Most farms cut off pigs’ tails without painkillers. They are fed an unnatural amount of feed, gaining over 10 pounds a week. Pigs in natural circumstances can live up to 10 years. Pigs in factory farms are sent to slaughter after just six months, weighing upwards of 250 pounds.
Pig factory farms are rife with disease. The crowded, unsanitary conditions and elevated levels of ammonia from the urine and excrement make for an environment prone to bacteria, viruses, and other airborne illnesses. Almost 70 percent of all pigs have lesions on their lungs at the time of slaughter, after only six months of life. In 2009, the deadly H1N1 virus pandemic or ‘swine flu’ killed over half a million people worldwide. Numerous research institutions including the Center for Disease Control, The University of Edinburgh, and The St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital cited over-confinement of factory pig farms as the source of the outbreak.
Pigs on factory farms do not experience fresh air until the last day of their lives when they are transported to slaughter
Warning: Graphic footage. This Mercy for Animals undercover video reveals malicious animal cruelty at a major American pork supplier. Unfortunately, more and more videos are being released that show similar conditions for pigs on factory farms throughout the country.
The Dairy Industry is the Veal Industry
Many people don’t realize that veal production is a direct product of the dairy industry. Every time a person eats a slice of cheese or drinks a glass of milk, he is supporting the veal industry. Like humans and other mammals, cows only produce milk as a result of being pregnant and giving birth. Their milk is meant for their calves just as human milk is meant for human babies. Because male calves will never produce milk, millions of them every year are sold to the beef industry days after birth and raised in tiny enclosed stalls for veal. Horribly abused, veal calves are often forced to wear heavy chains to inhibit them from becoming overactive in the stalls in order to keep their meat tender. They are kept in near total darkness to keep their flesh pale. Many stalls are so small the calves can’t move their heads or turn around to prevent them from building muscle. When taken to the slaughterhouse, some calves aren’t even able stand up or walk to the truck because their muscles are so weak and underdeveloped. Instead, they are often dragged to the transport trucks.
The Heartbreaking Truth of Dairy: This short, non-graphic two-minute video shows the sad truth of what happens to mother cows and their calves in the dairy industry every day.
To keep the milk flowing in dairy cows, factory farm personnel artificially inseminate them once a year. When a calf is born, he or she is removed from the mother within a day or two to make the mother’s milk available for human collection and consumption. Just as it is with a human mother, a cow’s natural urge is to be with her child after birth, to nurture and love. To deny this bond is to deny one of the strongest bonds in all of nature. It is common for cows in dairy factory farms to moan and cry incessantly for weeks after their calf has been taken away.
Many dairy cows are kept indoors, where they are forced to stand on hard, concrete surfaces, which contributes to inflamed feet and hooves. This makes it extremely painful for them to walk. The unnaturally elevated levels of milk in their mammary glands often leads to mastitis, a painful infection that causes a cow’s udder to swell. Without any form of painkillers, dairy cows on factory farms often have a large portion of their tails surgically removed and have their horns cut or burned off to keep them from injuring other cows due to the depression and stress they experience on a daily basis. Dairy cows can live up to 20 years but never live that long on a factory farm. On average, they are slaughtered at four years of age, when many begin to develop illnesses, and their milk production begins to slow.
Unbelievably, the dairy industry actually kills perfectly healthy, young cows to keep the price of milk as high as possible. In 2016, Cooperatives Working Together, or CWT, (an association of 28 milk producing cooperatives that produce over 70% of the US milk supply, with members including Land O’Lakes, DairyLea, National Milk Producers Federation, and Prairie Farms) paid American consumers $52 million to settle a class-action lawsuit. It had been discovered by Compassion over Killing that from 2003-10, CWT was responsible for the slaughter of half a million perfectly healthy, young cows in order to reduce the nation’s milk supply by approximately 10 billion pounds. This massive reduction resulted in the price of milk more than doubling.
When a calf is born, he or she is removed from the mother within a day or two to make the mother’s milk available for human collection and consumption
Other dairy cows, who have had their calves taken away, watch as the new mother cleans her baby.
As the calf takes her first steps, the cows watch the humans warily.
The calf is dumped in a wheelbarrow and taken to her home, a veal crate.
Still wet from birth, she will be added to the other rows of other calves and crates, and raised in this confinement.
These young calves will either be raised for veal or put in the milk production system. Both outcomes involve lives of exploitation and a premature death.
A lonely existence.
Warning: Graphic footage. A Mercy for Animals undercover video reveals shocking animal abuse at a major American pizza cheese supplier. Countless other videos have shown the same treatment of cows on factory farms worldwide.
Egg Production Farms
Hens used for egg production and raised for meat are horrifically abused their entire lives. Chickens are very sociable animals who like to forage for food, take dust-baths, lie in the sun, perch in trees, nest, and take care of their families. They suffer greatly when unable to exhibit the range of behaviors that come naturally to them. Because male chickens (roosters) born in egg production hatcheries don’t lay eggs and are not used in the meat industry (genetically modified ‘broiler’ chickens are used for chicken meat), they are killed the day they are born. Within hours of their birth, they are ground up, electrocuted, or gassed to death. Over 250 million male chicks are killed in the United States every year. The female chicks, on the other hand, spend their entire lives in tiny wire ‘battery’ cages, never once stepping outside or feeling the earth beneath their feet. Even ‘free-range’ chickens are often kept inside massive crowded sheds without ever going outside.
Battery cages commonly hold 5–10 chickens, each hen given the equivalent of less than an 8 ½ x 11-inch encaged area to live her entire life in. The lack of stimulation and cramped conditions of the cages create tension and stress between the hens, so they are debeaked at a young age before entering the cage. A portion of their beaks is seared off with a burning hot blade so they will not injure the other hens or themselves. The hens live their entire lives standing on a wire floor and rubbing against the cage, causing severe feather loss and debilitating bruises and abrasions. Because the cages are organized in rows placed on top of one another, the waste of the chickens continually falls on the chickens below. The facilities are filled with the putrid smell of urine and excrement. Despite her natural life-span being ten years or more, as soon as a hen’s egg-laying output begins to decrease, she is killed. This normally happens between one or two years of age.
Even ‘free-range’ chickens are often kept inside massive crowded sheds without ever going outside
Each year, factory farms in the United States raise and kill approximately 8.5 billion chickens for meat. Almost all meat chickens, called broilers, are raised on factory farms, where they are housed in large sheds of 20,000 chickens or more. The chickens live crammed together on the shed floor in their own waste where the high ammonia levels irritate and burn their eyes, throats and skin.
Factory-farmed broilers grow unnaturally fast and disproportionately large due to genetic modification, excessive feeding, and inadequate exercise. They look very little like their chicken ancestors from just a couple of hundred years ago. Their breasts grow abnormally large while their skeletons and other organs lag behind. Most have trouble breathing while many others suffer heart failure, leg weakness and chronic pain. Many cannot support their own weight, and their legs break under the weight of their bodies. They become crippled and are unable to reach food and water.
To keep the broilers eating and growing as much as possible, factory farms restrict their sleep by keeping the interior lights of the shed on most of the time. Because the floor is so cramped, the chickens fight for space, making sleep even more difficult. Some chickens die on the warehouse floor, their bodies sometimes left among the other broilers, adding to the overall stress and unhygienic conditions. In the summer of 2015, a Mercy For Animals undercover video investigation at a Tyson Foods broiler factory farm, a supplier of chicken McNuggets for fast-food giant McDonald’s, recorded horrific conditions. Hundreds of thousands of chickens were crammed into filthy, windowless sheds, with no room to move and living in their own waste. Chickens were being painfully beaten, stabbed, and impaled by workers using makeshift clubs spiked with nails. Many of the chickens had become crippled under their own weight, had died from organ failure, and were lying dead with the still living chickens. The video footage even showed owners of the farm stepping on the heads of live chickens and pulling their wings or bodies to break their necks.
Chickens were being painfully beaten, stabbed, and impaled by workers using makeshift clubs spiked with nails
Beef Cattle Factory Farms
Cattle raised by the beef industry on factory farms live very stressful, difficult lives, enduring all types of extreme weather conditions. The majority of their time is spent in their own waste on muddy feedlots without pasture or shelter, one of thousands packed in a cramped enclosure. In 2013, approximately 32.4 million cattle were slaughtered for beef in the United States.
Calves are usually separated from their mothers a couple of weeks after birth. It is common for young calves to develop acute throat irritation resulting from repeated crying for their mothers. After this separation, they have to endure a number of painful mutilations, including dehorning, castration, and branding. Even though these procedures are known to produce fear and pain in the calves, anesthesia is rarely provided. Male calves are castrated at a young age because it is thought it improves the meat quality and tenderness. Methods include removing testicles surgically with a scalpel, crushing spermatic cords with a clamp, and constricting blood flow to the scrotum until testicles die and fall off. Each method causes pain that can last for days but painkillers are rarely used.
It is common for young calves to develop acute throat irritation resulting from repeated crying for their mothers
A cow’s natural diet is grass. However, to increase their weight, at the feedlot they are forced to consume an abnormal grain diet that is very hard on their digestive system, causing chronic illness, pain and, occasionally, death. Once they reach “market weight,” cattle in the beef industry are trucked from the feedlot to the slaughterhouse. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires that livestock be rendered insensible to pain before shackling and slaughter. However, investigations have found that some animals are still fully conscious when they are killed. Cattle can live upwards of 25 years, but beef cattle are generally killed for their meat at just two years of age.
Warning: Graphic footage. This Mercy for Animals video shows footage of a young calf named Emma, one of millions of calves slaughtered each year for meat.
The Humane Myth
As knowledge of the deplorable conditions on factory farms has become more widespread over the last ten years, the food industry has responded by introducing a category of animal products marketed as ‘humane’. Humane food items claim to be from animals that were treated with compassion and respect on small farms with family values. Labels such as ‘Free Range,’ ‘Cage Free,’ ‘Humane Certified, and ‘Organic’ are typically found on the packaging of these products.
Free Range Chickens
Closer analysis of the majority of farms from which these products originate, however, reveals that the animals are treated in ways that most people would still consider inhumane, and in some cases, worse than on the factory farms. Many so-called organic and free-range farms still cram thousands of animals in dark sheds or mud-filled lots, just as factory farms do. The animals often experience the same mutilations—debeaking, dehorning, and castration without anesthesia—that occur on factory farms. Chickens raised on organic farms routinely suffer from even higher mortality rates than on factory farms because they are still living in crowded, feces-laden sheds but are not fed the antibiotics that inhibit the diseases that flourish in the filthy conditions. Many ‘organically raised’ cows are still sent to factory-farm feedlots to be fattened prior to slaughter. Cows who are fattened on feedlots can still be labeled organic as long as they’re fed organic feed. Dairy cows on organic dairy farms are usually housed in dirty, overcrowded sheds just like on factory farms. They suffer the same stress and sadness as cows on factory farms when their newborn calves are taken away shortly after birth. Their male offspring are still sold to the veal industry—the organic veal industry. If their udders become infected from frequent milkings, they are often denied medicine because their milk won’t be considered organic. It is common for pigs on organic farms to still have their tails chopped off and their ears notched without painkillers. Some organic farms have rings inserted into the pigs sensitive noses to permanently prevent them from rooting in the grass and dirt.
All animals want to live and enjoy the lives they have been given without being confined or abused. When an animal suffers, it doesn’t matter to that animal if it is on a factory or ‘organic’ farm. When facing death, every animal tries to escape, whether on a factory farm, an ‘organic’ farm, or a family farm. No animal wants to die.
Chickens raised on organic farms routinely suffer from even higher mortality rates than on factory farms because they are still living in crowded, feces-laden sheds but are not fed the antibiotics that inhibit the diseases that flourish in the filthy conditions
Laws that prohibit taking photographs, videos, and sound recordings of animal abuse, neglect, or unsanitary conditions on a factory farm are referred to as “ag-gag laws.” These dangerous laws make it a crime to expose animal abuse on factory farms, and in some cases, the person taking the video is then officially listed as a domestic terrorist. Ag-gag bills began appearing in state legislatures in the mid-2000s, after a steady stream of undercover videos exposing blatant animal abuse in factory farms began circulating on animal welfare and social media websites. Some of the videos resulted in convictions and fines for factory farm employees and owners. Even more damaging was that for the first time, the public was shown how animals are treated on factory farms.
Currently, seven states—Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Kansas, North Dakota, and Utah—have ag-gag laws in place. These states contain some of the highest concentrations of factory farms in the United States. Ag-gag bills have been defeated in seventeen other states, but the agriculture lobby is aggressively trying to get these bills passed. Not only do ag-gag laws hide animal abuse on factory farms and protect the abusers, but they diminish farm workers’ rights, the health and safety of consumers, journalistic freedom and the ability of law enforcement personnel to investigate any kind of wrongdoing in these facilities. These laws need to be stopped and are dangerous for American citizens.
These dangerous laws not only make it a crime to expose animal abuse on factory farms, in some cases, the person taking the video is then officially listed as a domestic terrorist
Pigs in a crowded truck. Canada, 2012
Each year, millions of live farm animals are transported thousands of miles for slaughter or to places where they will be fattened before being killed. The destinations are usually regions that don’t have a strong local population of a particular farm animal and have lax animal welfare regulations. Approximately 70% of all animals exported live for slaughter end up having their throats cut by a Halal butcher while fully conscious.
The animals in the live export trade—often cattle and sheep—usually originate on factory farms in North and South America, Australia and Europe and are shipped to countries in the Middle East and southeast Asia. The animals endure long transports in cramped trucks from the factory farms to the ports where they are loaded onto massive animal transport ships that house tens of thousands of animals. They then must endure long journeys on open seas across vast distances before reaching the destination. On the ships, they are subjected to extremes of temperature and high levels of ammonia from accumulated excrement in cramped pens where they can do little more than stand or lie down. Voyages can last upwards of 40 days.
The large-scale deaths that occur on these ships are horrific even by factory farm standards. Mass deaths on the transport ships are the result of starvation, heat stroke, delays in unloading, spreadable illness, and fire. Over 2.5 million animals have died on Australian ships in the last 30 years alone with nearly half having died from starvation. In August of 2013, over 4,150 sheep died of heat stroke aboard a transport ship in the Persian Gulf. The ship had originated in Australia and was traveling to Jordan.
The large-scale deaths that occur on these ships are horrific even by factory farm standards
Environmental Impact of Factory Farms
In the U.S. alone, animals raised on factory farms generate more than 1 million tons of manure per day
Factory farms put an incredible strain on the world’s natural resources. They produce staggering quantities of waste and greenhouse gases which pollute our land, air, and water. In 2006, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the world’s meat-producing industry contributes more greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere than the emissions of all cars, trucks, airplanes, and trains combined. Despite this, hardly any air pollution laws concerning intensive animal factory farming exist.
In the U.S. alone, animals raised on factory farms generate more than one million tons of manure per day. This is three times the amount generated by the country’s human population. Factory farms typically store animal waste in huge, open-air lagoons as big as several soccer fields, which often leak and spill. In 2011, an Illinois hog farm spilled 200,000 gallons of manure into a creek, killing over 110,000 fish and negatively impacting the regional ecosystem. Hundreds of other lagoon spills have been documented that have polluted municipal drinking water supplies and natural waterways. Yet despite this, corporate agribusiness companies have largely escaped responsibility for water pollution due to loopholes in the few animal farm water waste regulations that do exist. Between watering the crops that farm animals eat, providing water for them to drink, and cleaning the filth in factory farms, transport trucks, and slaughterhouses, the animal agriculture industry uses about 1,581 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. This is roughly the equivalent of 100 showers. The meat and dairy industries alone account for nearly 50% of California’s water consumption.
Furthermore, the demand for livestock pasture is the major cause of deforestation. During the past 40 years, close to 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down to make way for cattle ranches
Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
Increased Public Awareness
In the last fifteen years there has been a dramatic change in public perception concerning ethical treatment of animals on factory farms. In the past, animal welfare standards were applied only to companion animals, but now more and more people are extending compassion to all animals, including farm animals.
A huge step in the right direction occurred on January 1, 2013. In a landmark decision the European Union banned the use of pig gestation crates after a sow reaches the fourth week of pregnancy. Prior to this, it was common for female pigs to spend most of their lives confined in these crates. A year later in 2014, Canada adopted the European ban and further required that all Canadian pork facilities built or renovated after July 1st, 2014 must use group housing systems instead of gestation crates. In New Zealand and Australia, gestation crates are also being phased out by 2015 and 2017, respectively. In the United States, legislation has been passed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island that phases out the use of gestation crates. Many other states are considering similar laws.
In the last several years, policies have been implemented by some of the largest chain restaurants in the world that require suppliers to discontinue the use of gestation crates. These restaurants include McDonald’s, Burger King, Tim Hortons, and Wendy’s. The world’s largest hog producer and pork processor, Smithfield Foods, has phased out 54% of the gestation crates at its’ company owned farms since 2007, and is on track to eliminate all of them by 2022. Other major pork producers like Tyson and Seaboard are considering similar policy changes.
The biggest policy change, however, came in May 2015 when Wal-Mart, America’s largest food retailer, released an official position on animal welfare and antibiotic use in farm animals. The position asks all their food suppliers to put into effect animal farming methods consistent with the “Five Freedoms,” the Farm Animal Welfare Council’s guidelines for the welfare of farm animals.
- Freedom to express normal behavior by providing sufficient space to move freely.
- Freedom from pain, injury, or disease by prevention and treatment.
- Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering.
- Freedom from discomfort by providing a shelter and a comfortable resting area.
- Freedom from hunger and thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet that maintains full health and vigor.
Prior to this new policy, Wal-Mart did not have an animal welfare code in place and suppliers didn’t have to adhere to any set of standards. The new policy also asks all suppliers to stop feeding antibiotics to animals unless it is necessary to help treat them for an illness.
Media coverage of the announcement was worldwide; both food industry experts and animal rights organizations have called it a game-changer. Wal-Mart sells more food than any other store and can use its clout to influence the supply chain and the way products are made and sold across the food industry. Wal-Mart said the driving force behind the policy change was its own research, which revealed that with animal welfare standards in place, 77 percent of its shoppers would have more trust for Wal-Mart. In addition, 66 percent said it would increase their likelihood to shop at one of their stores.
Farm Animal Welfare Legislation
Around the world, farm animal welfare laws are being enacted, making it illegal for farmers to employ methods of containment that are deemed inhumane. Other laws are clamping down on inhumane treatment of the animals by farm workers. A huge step in the right direction occurred on January 1, 2013. In a landmark decision the European Union banned the use of pig gestation crates after a sow reaches the fourth week of pregnancy. Prior to this, it was common for female pigs to spend most of their lives confined in these crates. A year later in 2014, Canada adopted the European ban and further required that all Canadian pork facilities built or renovated after July 1st, 2014 must use group housing systems instead of gestation crates. In New Zealand, it is now illegal to use gestation crates and they are being phased out by 2017 in Australia. In the United States, legislation has been passed in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island that phases out the use of gestation crates. Many other states are considering similar laws.
U.S. Congressmen Earl Blumenauer, Mike Fitzpatrick, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker introduced the Animal Welfare in Agricultural Research Endeavors (AWARE) Act in February of 2015. This bill, if passed, will finally grant farm animals used in experiments at United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) research facilities basic protections by classifying them as animals. Unbelievably, the Animal Welfare Act currently exempts farm animals used in federally funded research from the classification as animals, therefore giving them no protection whatsoever under the law.
In March of 2015, Arizona governor Doug Ducey vetoed a bill introduced by the corporate agriculture lobby that would have declassified all farm animals (including horses) as animals under the state’s anti-cruelty laws. The bill would have changed current anti-cruelty laws to cover only companion animals. Cruel and inhumane practices inflicted on farm animals would have been made legal. Governor Ducey stated, “We must ensure that all animals are protected, and mindful that increasing protections for one class of animals does not inadvertently undercut protections for another.”
A huge step in the advancement of humane treatment of farm animals has taken place in Israel, a country at the forefront of animal rights, where over 400 cameras and 50 digital recorders have been installed in all 50 slaughterhouses throughout the country. They operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, feeding a live video stream to supervisors within the facility as well as to Agriculture Ministry veterinary inspectors in an off-site ministry control center. By law, every room in which animals are present must have a camera. The significance of this bold move by Israel to force slaughterhouse personnel to adhere to humane treatment regulations cannot be overstated.
Some local and regional governments are even beginning to educate their constituents to the benefits associated with not eating any farm animal products at all.
Another major step has been the withdrawal of major corporate support for ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council, which has been instrumental in pushing “ag-gag” bills thru state legislatures. Ag-gag laws make it illegal to take any photographic or video footage in agricultural factory farms without permission, making it almost impossible to document animal abuse within the facilities. ALEC has traditionally been the recipient of huge donations from large corporations, but recently has lost support from more than 100 major corporations including eBay, Facebook, Google, British Petroleum, Shell, and the American Advancement of Retired Persons (AARP).
More and more scientific data is coming out that proves what many people have known all along–cows, chickens, goats, turkeys, pigs, sheep and other species of farm animals are just as curious, emotive, intelligent, and individual as our own companion animals. Science is proving that they suffer and feel pain just as much as dogs, cats, or human beings. In 2014, scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands conducted a series of experiments with ninety-six pigs to determine what level of empathy, if any, they experience for one another. The scientists were shocked at the results. In addition to feeling a high level of empathy for the other pigs as they experienced stressful situations, they cognitively experienced the feelings in a way that was previously thought to be distinctly human.
Scientists and animal rights advocates in Germany have come together to develop a technology that will end the mass-slaughter of the 45 million male chicks born into the country’s egg industry each year. Researchers have developed a method that determines the sex of each fertilized egg before the chick inside develops. This enables the removal of all male-identified eggs before the fetus develops, leaving only the female eggs to hatch. This technology is set to be in place by 2017, making Germany the first country in the world to implement this practice.
Undercover Videos Exposing Cruelty and Inspiring Change
Much of the increased public awareness of the suffering farm animals endure on factory farms is a direct result of undercover videos. Animal rights activists have risked physical harm by secretly filming the conditions inside factory farms and showing the rampant abuse that takes place, which seems to be common. These films have played a major role in convincing law enforcement, legislators, and the general public that the current legal standards protecting farm animals simply aren’t enough. Not only have the films brought to light an industry accepted culture of animal abuse, they have resulted in numerous animal cruelty convictions. In 2008, undercover footage was released by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) of horrific abuse at a Westland Hallmark Meat Company slaughterhouse in Chino, California. The footage showed workers torturing cows too weak and sick to stand or walk on their own (called “downer cows”). The cows were kicked, hosed with high pressure hoses, then rammed with a forklift and dragged with chains, all in an attempt to get them to walk to their deaths. The footage resulted in one of the largest meat recalls in U.S. history and the largest settlement ever—$497 million—for a case involving animal abuse.
In 2011, a worker at Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio was sentenced to eight months in jail and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine for maliciously abusing cows and calves. The charges were a result of undercover footage filmed by a Mercy For Animals undercover investigator during a four week period in 2010. The court also ordered the worker to receive mandatory animal abuse counseling and barred him from contact with animals for three years.
The undercover video footage by Mercy for Animals, Compassion Over Killing, HSUS, and other farm animal advocacy organizations is forcing corporate animal agriculture companies to impose more humane handling and treatment of animals by their employees or be subject to unwanted lawsuits, fines, and media attention. Even the recently adopted ag-gag laws in some states haven’t kept new undercover footage from being released and inspiring people to demand change.
Many farm sanctuaries have been created throughout the world over the last ten years. The first one, Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York, opened in 1985. These inspired rural locations provide a home for rescued farm animals and give them a place to live out the remainder of their years with dignity, surrounded by compassion and love. Moreover, because most farm sanctuaries are open to the public, they give people the opportunity to meet and get to know farm animals on a personal level. For many, this interaction with the rescued animals opens their eyes to the reality that farm animals are no different than their pet dog or cat.
The rescued animals at the farm sanctuaries are ambassadors for the farm animals currently suffering in factory farms. Hilda the sheep, the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary, touched the hearts and minds of millions of people including legislators, policymakers, and visitors to the sanctuary with her gentle, forgiving, and playful personality. When she was rescued by Gene Baur and Lorri Houston, she was lying near dead on top of a pile of dead animals at the Lancaster Stockyards. Baur and Houston oversaw her medical recovery and brought her to Farm Sanctuary where she lived the rest of her life roaming the green pastures.
Edgar, a humble and kind-hearted pig rescued from an Australian pig farm, inspired Pam Ahern to create Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary. Edgar was a gentle giant and a dear friend to the other rescued animals at the sanctuary. His humanity touched thousands of visitors during his lifetime. He was a true ambassador for pigs and farmed animals throughout Australia.
Edgar was a gentle giant and a dear friend to the other rescued animals at the sanctuary
Compassionate Eating Habits
Possibly the greatest indication that people’s perceptions of farm animals is changing is the increased number choosing to no longer consume animal products as food. The percentage of vegetarians and vegans worldwide has dramatically increased over the last ten years. In 2014, Mintel, a London based marketing research firm, reported that 12% of all adults in Britain follow a vegetarian or vegan diet. Among young adults ages 16-20, the number rises to 20%. In Israel, 13% of the population no longer eats meat and a full 5% of the population is vegan. Cafe Greg, one of Israel’s biggest restaurant chains, reported a 30%-40% rise in demand for vegan dishes in 2013 and the popular pizza chain Domino’s now offers vegan cheese on all their pizzas. In Germany, Europe’s first vegan supermarket opened in 2011 and now most major German cities have at least one. In 2013, the legendary Munich Oktoberfest began offering vegan dishes for the first time in its storied 200-year history. The number of vegans in the United States more than doubled in three years between 2009 and 2012 and now accounts for 2.5% of the population. Views of the English Wikipedia entry on veganism increased 100% between 2009 and 2013. During this same time period, the French, German, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish Wikipedia entries on veganism experienced similar increases and were viewed even more than the entries on vegetarianism. There is even a European city that is actively encouraging citizens to forgo animal products altogether. Chiaro Appendino, the mayor of Italy’s fourth largest city, Turin, publicly announced in June of 2016 that her administration will begin promoting vegetarian and vegan diets as an important step to protect the environment, human health, and animal welfare. The number of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the city has since soared to over 30.
Furthermore, many Americans are losing their taste for dairy products. Due to a rapidly declining consumer demand for milk, in the first eight months of 2016, the dairy industry dumped an astonishing 43 million gallons of excess milk into farm fields and manure lagoons. The Department of Agriculture then purchased 12.5 million pounds of cheese worth $35 million from the dairy industry to help stave off the effects of a massive overestimate of consumer demand for cheese products.
More Change Necessary
Many great strides have taken place over the last fifteen years in bringing to light the plight of farmed animals. However, there is so much that still needs to be done. Banning pig gestation crates is a huge step in the right direction yet hundreds of millions of pigs still never see the light of day. The aforementioned new German technology that will hopefully end the horrific practice of slaughtering male chicks is another major breakthrough. However, millions of hens still endure horrific suffering by spending their entire lives in tiny battery cages. The best way to end these inhumane realities is through continued public awareness and increased pressure on elected officials to improve farm animal welfare laws.
You can be a part of the effort to end the exploitation of farm animals. By choosing to take action on behalf of these animals who endure unthinkable suffering on factory farms, you become an integral part of the effort to educate the public that farm animals are no different than our companion animals. They possess the same feelings, intelligence, and desire to live as our pet dogs and cats. Here are some ways you can help:
Consider Choosing a Vegan Diet
The most practical way you can change the way farm animals are treated is by not purchasing the products that are a result of animal factory farming. Nowadays, it’s easier than ever to stand up for farm animals by choosing food sources and clothing items that are not derived from animals. With so many plant-based alternatives and incredible recipes available, reducing or eliminating animal products from your meals doesn’t mean missing out on delicious food or essential nutrients. Countless plant-based websites are a click away and will help make the vegan transition smooth and easy.
Support Farm Animal Advocacy Organizations & Farm Sanctuaries
Mercy For Animals
Mercy For Animals is one of the world’s most vocal and recognized farm animal advocacy organizations. The footage from their undercover operations in factory farms has been a huge factor behind mounting public pressure for farm animal welfare reform. They work at both the national and regional levels, working to pass farm animal welfare legislation and repeal ag-gag laws. On the local level, they conduct effective public awareness campaigns, educating people about the conditions on factory farms. One of their most successful initiatives has been the “Why Love One But Eat The Other?” billboard and public transportation campaign. These powerful images implore viewers to ask themselves if there is really a difference between farm animals’ and companion animals’ ability to feel, experience, and love. The Mercy For Animals website contains a comprehensive action center describing the numerous ways to make a difference for farm animals and offers great tips on how to successfully make the transition to veganism. Mercy For Animals depends upon donor support for their ongoing advocacy and undercover operations. Supporting Mercy For Animals financially is a very practical way to make a difference for farm animals.
A lot of fundraising took place to bring this Toronto Transit Commission campaign to life.
Compassion Over Killing
In just 20 years, Compassion Over Killing has gone from a high school extracurricular club to a powerful national voice for farm animal advocacy. They have produced numerous undercover factory farm videos that have resulted in cruelty to animals convictions as well as the shutdown of an entire slaughterhouse. In addition to their undercover operations, Compassion over Killing is the most active farm animal advocacy group lobbying restaurant chains across North America for cruelty-free options. They have successfully convinced Subway, Wendy’s, Tim Horton’s, Pita Pit and Dunkin Donuts to offer vegan options on their menus. Their support and promotion of the famous Meatless Monday campaign has changed the dietary habits of millions of Americans and people throughout the world. Financially supporting Compassion over Killing’s advocacy and undercover operations is great way to make a difference for farm animals.
Farm Sanctuary is a farm animal advocacy organization founded by Gene Baur and Lorri Houston that operates three American sanctuaries for rescued farm animals. The first sanctuary is located in Watkins Glen, New York and houses over 800 rescued animals. Founded in 1986, it was America’s first home for rescued farm animals and has since inspired the creation of hundreds of other farm sanctuaries worldwide. The other two Farm Sanctuary locations are in Orland and Acton, California, and they care for over 500 rescued animals.
Farm Sanctuary not only provides homes for rescued animals but actively promotes laws and policies that support animal welfare/protection, and veganism. Farm Sanctuary has been the driving force behind numerous state farm animal welfare laws—including the pig gestation crate ban in the state of Florida—and also lobbies at the federal level. Baur has written two books about Farm Sanctuary. The second one, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day was published in April 2015 and includes 100 vegan recipes selected by different chefs and celebrities. Please consider donating to Farm Sanctuary to help them continue the rescue and shelter of abused farm animals as well as lobbying for an end to farm animal abuse.
Volunteer at a Farm Sanctuary
Hundreds of farm sanctuaries exist throughout the the United States and around the world. These shelters of love are the difference between life and death for thousands of rescued farm animals. All of these facilities are in need of financial support and volunteers to help care for the animals and provide maintenance for the barns, enclosures, and pastures. Visit the Compassionate Farming Education Initiative to find a farm sanctuary near you. Get involved!
Educate friends, family and your community about how animals on factory farms are treated and what can be done to change it
Tell your friends and family about the treatment of farm animals on factory farms. Show them some of the undercover footage filmed inside factory farms by farm animal advocacy organizations.
Voice your support for farm animal welfare legislation. Contact your state/provincial and federal lawmakers, urging them to enact tougher farm animal anti-cruelty laws and implement humane farm animal housing requirements. Click here to find your US state congressman and senator. Click here to find your US federal congressman and senator.
Tell your friends and family about the treatment of farm animals on factory farms
Post information about farm sanctuaries and factory farming on facebook and other social media sites
Most farm animal advocacy organizations and farm sanctuaries have facebook and twitter accounts. Follow their pages and share photos and posts with your friends and family. Keep them up to date on farm animal welfare news and farm animal advocacy programs.
Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, over 65 billion land animals are slaughtered for food worldwide each year. More than 3,000 are killed every second. In the time it takes to read this paragraph, more than 20,000 animals will have lost their lives.
Ninety-nine percent of all meat in the United States and nearly 70% worldwide originates from factory farms. The United Nations has determined that factory farming releases more greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere than the emissions of all cars, trucks, airplanes, and trains combined. Animal agriculture is the main source of deforestation and water pollution throughout the world.
In the United States, more than 80% of all antibiotics produced by the pharmaceutical industry are fed to farm animals. These drugs are used to increase growth and prevent the animals from getting sick as a result of the cramped, unsanitary conditions on the vast majority of factory farms.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 70% of all pigs slaughtered in America have pneumonia, and 90% of all chickens contain leukosis, a cancer-forming virus. As many as 89% of all hamburger patties in American grocery stores and restaurants contain trace amounts of the deadly E. coli bacteria.
More chickens are consumed than any other animal in the United States, yet fowl are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act. Farmers and slaughterhouses are allowed to kill chickens, turkeys, and ducks in any manner they choose without regard to the suffering inflicted upon the birds. Other farmed animals including cows, pigs, sheep, and rabbits are routinely slaughtered while still alive. The Humane Slaughter Act requires that all animals killed in slaughterhouses be fully unconscious before death, but many animals are fully conscious at the time of slaughter due to the speed of the assembly line and lack of policy enforcement.
Meat eating is down in the United States by 9%. In 2005, the average American ate 145 lbs of meat. By 2012, that figure had dropped to 132 lbs per person. In 2009, only 1% of the American population considered itself vegetarian or vegan. By 2014, that number had increased to 5% with half of those people (2.5%) being fully vegan. More than 32% responded that they eat a “mainly vegetarian” diet.
Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals
Explore the fascinating world of farm animals through these video clips and see how their feelings and emotions are no different than those of our beloved companion animals.
First Day of Spring: Dogs aren’t the only animals who burst with happiness when going outside after being cooped up for a long period of time. Watch these cows being led out to pasture for the first time after a long, cold winter.
Interspecies Play: Animals don’t have to be of the same species in order to play together and be friends. Susie is a rescued boxer breeding dog and Tabitha a rescued pig residing at the Hillside Farm Sanctuary. They are close friends and know how to have a great time together.
Give Me a Hug, My Friend: Love Bird and Mason have a very close friendship. Whenever Mason walks into the yard where Love Bird lives, she rushes up to him and gives him a hug.
Welcome Home: In this video, Mason has just returned home from getting his hair cut. Naturally, Love Bird is there to greet him.
Blitzen, Lawrence, and Alexander: Watch as these three sick calves are nursed back to health and given a new life at the Farm Sanctuary.
Turkey Recess: Watch these baby turkeys run in the pasture like children coming out of a school for recess. Rescued from a factory farm, they are now experiencing freedom at Farm Sanctuary in New York.
First Taste of Freedom: Harrison the pig was abandoned in a Spanish forest and left for dead after being confined as a breeder for ten years. A group of animal activists heard about his plight and rescued him before he was put to death by local authorities. After nursing him back to health, they arranged for him to be transported to Mino Valley Farm Sanctuary. This video was taken on his first day of freedom.
Farm animals communicate with members of their own species and other animals through verbal exchanges, facial expressions, body language and a variety of other ways. Each species possesses a wide range of vocalizations reflecting all types of emotions including joy, fear, aggression, play, and contentment. Watch these videos and listen to animals verbally expressing their feelings.
Grunts of Satisfaction: Fiete, a rescued cow happily living at the German farm sanctuary Hof Butenland, unmistakably communicates contentment and satisfaction to her friend who is affectionately petting her as they lie in the pasture together.
Purring Like a Kitten: Hens are known to purr like kittens when being stroked. The relaxation this rescued hen at Manning River Farm Animal Sanctuary is feeling as she gets a massage is undeniable.
You can be an active member of the growing global movement of people who are standing up for the proper treatment of farm animals. Mercy For Animals has a fantastic action center on their website which describes numerous ways you can make a difference for farm animals wherever you live. Through social media, you can become friends and connect with other dedicated farm animal activists from around the world. Most farm animal advocacy organizations have social media pages that post news and important information on a daily basis. The links for the social media accounts of some of these groups are listed below, in addition to a link to their websites. Tell your friends, family, and communities about what goes on behind the closed doors of factory farms. Make a difference!
Farm Animal Voices
Numerous farm sanctuaries throughout the world have rescued tens of thousands of farm animals and given them a peaceful, dignified home to live out the remainder of their lives. Most of these rescued animals experienced unspeakable suffering on factory farms.
Some of the farm sanctuaries have YouTube channels where you can view videos of the rescued animals finally living at peace in natural surroundings. Millions of people have been inspired by the videos of these animals and have begun to reconsider how they view farm animals. Below is a small list of sanctuaries with links to their YouTube channels.
The Mercy For Animals, Compassion Over Killing, and Farm Sanctuary websites are all great sources of information concerning farm animal treatment in factory farms and the movement to bring the abuse to light. These sites are fantastic resources for those who want to educate and make a difference in their communities. The Farm Animal Rights Movement website is a another source that features numerous articles and information about the ongoing movement to end the suffering of farm animals.
The following documentaries give an in-depth look at farm animals, farm sanctuaries, and the industrial farming industry. Some give detailed accounts of conditions inside factory farms, while others give glimpses into the lives of the animals and the people trying to save them.
- Peaceable Kingdom
- Food, Inc.
- Meet the Animals at Farm Sanctuary
- Farm Sanctuary—The Sonny Side of Life
- Farm Sanctuary—Life After Industrial Farming: Dairy Cows
- Farm Sanctuary—It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way
- When Pigs Cry
- Pig Vision: The Journey of Two Brothers
- The Private Lives of Chickens
- The Private Lives of Pigs
- The Importance of Farm Sanctuaries
- Can You Face the Reality of Factory Farming?
- A River of Waste: The Hazardous Truth About Factory Farms
- Perdue Chicken Farmer Speaks Out