Every year, humans kill billions of nonhuman animals for consumption. Many of these animals endure physical, mental, and emotional pain throughout their entire lives. Transportation to slaughterhouses and the killing process itself also cause tremendous fear, distress, and often prolonged pain. And an animal exploited for consumption is deprived of her life, the only one she has.
This terrible situation is a consequence of speciesism, the discrimination animals face because they don’t belong to the human species. They are harmed in various ways, such as: for food, textile production and cosmetics, entertainment (including but not limited to performances, circuses, movies, television, animal fights, and horse races), hunting, environmental conservation actions, and animal testing.
On most farms, animals are crammed together in such a way that they are hardly able to move. After living in misery for anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, they are taken to a slaughterhouse where their lives are cut short.
In order to protect their economic interests, many companies try to hide what occurs on farms, where nonhuman animals are treated like objects rather than conscious beings.
The following is the food industry reality that billions of nonhuman animals are enduring at this very moment.
On most pig farms, pigs lead lives of suffering that will only end in a slaughterhouse. During the gestation period, sows are customarily locked up in cages so small that they cannot even turn around. They are separated from their young just a month after they are born, and then impregnated again. This cycle only ends when, exhausted after years of exploitation, the sows are killed for meat products.
Like sows, male pigs also lead lives full of misery. They spend their lives piled up in tiny cement enclosures. They have very little room to move around and often have to live among their own excrement, which leads to infection and illness. It is a common practice for farmers to pull out their teeth and castrate them without anesthesia.
Pigs raised to be eaten have their lives cut short and suffer stressful and often painful deaths in a slaughterhouse. There, an attempt is made to stun the pigs unconscious (it doesn’t always work), then they are hoisted up onto hooks and they go through a fast-paced assembly line. First they have their throats slit. Then the pigs’ bodies are dipped in scalding tanks meant to remove the hair from their bodies. However, due to the speed and imprecision of slaughterhouse assembly lines, sometimes their throats aren’t slit deeply enough for them to bleed out before they reach the scalding tank. As a result, they may be boiled alive and conscious.
Cows and Calves
Cows must become pregnant in order to produce milk. Therefore, the cows who are bred for dairy products are continually impregnated. On most farms, their young are torn away from them just a few hours after birth, so that the calf does not consume the milk destined for sale. It is acknowledged even by those who work in the dairy industry that this separation of mother and child causes emotional stress to them both. The stress is so great to calves that it makes them more susceptible to disease after they are taken away from their mothers.
The cycle of forced insemination, separating mother and child, and killing the calves for meat is repeated numerous times until the cow starts producing less milk, at which point she is sent to a slaughterhouse. Dairy cows rarely reach six years of age, although they could live for up to 25 years.
The calves of dairy cows are usually killed when they are still very young, so their flesh can be sold as veal. Thus consuming milk not only harms cows, but also contributes to the meat industry.
On most farms, chickens bred for fattening (so their bodies can be used as meat) and laying hens (used to produce eggs) live so tightly confined that they often have no space to stretch their wings. They live on top of their own feces, which produces ammonia, a toxic gas that causes respiratory illnesses. During their lives, they have little or no exposure to sunlight. They only see the sunlight when they are taken to a slaughterhouse to be killed.
Their living situation causes the birds a great deal of stress, which leads them to pluck out their own feathers and to cannibalism. To prevent these things, it is common practice to amputate the tips of their beaks. The tip of a beak is a sensitive area, with a lot of nerve endings, and it can cause both acute and chronic pain.
Chickens raised to be eaten are genetically selected to ensure rapid growth in order to make their exploitation more profitable. More likely than not, the chickens people consume are still chicks, fattened up very quickly. They are typically taken to a slaughterhouse after just a few weeks of life, and are chirping, not clucking, to their deaths.
Since the food industry is a business seeking efficiency like any other, most laying hens are kept in cages, usually filled with as many chickens as possible. Each hen occupies about the same amount of space as a sheet of paper. Their bodies rub against the wires of the cage, leading to bruises, cuts, and sores. As a result of standing on wire their entire lives, their feet become deformed, and the wire often cuts into and through their toes. When it gets cold, their feet can freeze and stick to the bars of the cage.
In other places, hens are not kept in cages but are crowded in barns, with just as little space. Using this method of confinement, and due to loose or non-existent legal definitions, companies can falsely create the concept of “free range” hens, to create the illusion that they live in much better conditions than caged ones. In reality, the quality of the living conditions of the hens typically does not increase. However, the price charged to consumers and the producer’s profit do.
Regardless of whether they have been kept in the worst conditions or not, nearly all hens are killed as soon as they begin to lay fewer eggs.
Scientific studies have shown that fishes are conscious and have the ability to feel suffering and pleasure just like mammals, birds, reptiles, and other animals.
Fishes who are caught in open water and those bred in fish farms usually have painful, often prolonged deaths. They endure pain as they asphyxiate when they are pulled out of the water. In many cases, the sudden change in pressure causes their internal organs to burst, and it can take up to 10 minutes for them to die. They may be quartered (cut into pieces) while they are still conscious, and are sometimes frozen to death, or boiled or fried alive. Those bred in fish farms are usually crowded together so they have almost no room to swim or move, a recurring pattern seen in most industries involving animal production.
What you can do
If you don’t want to contribute to the continuing of this gruesome reality, see What you can do.