By Author: Lisa Marie Tabor
It is important for people who choose a meat-based diet to be more aware of what happens in the production and slaughter of animals behind the closed doors at factory farms that are taking over the land. Most people think of farm animals grazing free to roam as they nibble on grass or roll around in the cool mud under a pretty sky. The evidence that factory farm workers and even managers are beating animals to death with their very own hands makes it clear that the animals are being terribly abused while they are caged up and confined 24 hours a day.
Yet there are those like Author Stuart A. Kallen In “Factory Farm Animals Are Treated Humanely” who argue that animals are treated well. Kallen claims that “people today have very little knowledge of what farm animals are like and (factory) farmers and producers treat animals humanely so that the creatures remain productive.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Kallen fails to disclose that there are no legal rights for the farm animals being raised for food and are treated terribly. According to the article by GoVeg.com, an informational organization on vegetarianism, “Cruelty to Animals- Mechanized Madness”, animals on farms are being neglected and abused and describe how they are treated:
Cattle are castrated, their horns are ripped out of their heads, and third-degree burns (branding) are inflicted on them without any pain relief, mother pigs on factory farms are confined to crates so small that they are unable to turn around or even lie down comfortably and thousands of turkeys are crammed into filthy sheds after their beaks and toes are burned off with a hot blade. Many are still conscious when they are plunged into the scalding water of the de-feathering or hair-removal tanks or while their bodies are being skinned or hacked apart. When the time comes for slaughter, they are thrown into transport trucks, and when they arrive at the slaughterhouse, their throats are cut and their feathers burned off—often while they are still fully conscious.
While the suffering of all animals on factory farms is similar, each type of farmed animal faces different types of cruelty.
Many others have shown the abject cruelty to farm animals. Ardeth Baxter from “Why It's Smart to Go Vegan”, notes that “there are more then ten billion animals a year that are slaughtered for food. The way in which they live prior to being slaughtered is tragic.” The factory farming industry treats animals not as the sentient creatures but rather as profitable commodities. Animals are sentient creatures and do have emotions just as humans do. Author John-Paul Flintoff from the Sunday Times “Do animals have emotions?” writes that “There is a slight difference between a cat and a dog and a chimp and a female human and a male one and a black human and a white one. These differences are very small: 98% of our DNA is the same as in other animals such as primates”.
Unlike family farms of the past where the farmers treated the animals more like pets, it is much different now. On a typical factory farm you no longer see bright red barns or children milking cows. Instead, you see dull large buildings. Every day that I drive by a factory farm on my street it is pitiful to see that the animals have no grassy grounds to step their feet on but only cement and they are crammed in buildings. It is an unsightly dwelling where the animals live in crowded cages and enclosures that are deprived of a normal social life spending their short lives, never to feel sunlight on their backs. In the summer of 2005 when visiting this factory farm I saw cows in such poor health that they were unable to stand up. They struggled to move around as if they had sandbags strapped to their legs and were left alone confined in a small corner. A worker told me these particular cows were called “downers” and they are “so sick that they are no good for profit and will be slaughtered.”
I have witnessed other forms of poor treatment to farm animals. In the summer of 2006, I was notified by a passerby that a baby calf with his umbilical cord still attached was lying in the ditch on the side of the road in front of my house. According to the farm workers, “the latch to the trailer was not locked and during transportation from the dairy farm to the “veal” farm, the calf fell out of the truck.” Lying in the ditch on a hot summer day nearly dying, it went unnoticed by the farm workers. Upon complaining to the Michigan Department of Agriculture I was told “we do not have enough staff to monitor all of the factory farms”.
Another incident at the same farm happened in May of 2009 as I was driving by. I saw a cow running around the farm’s parking lot near the road, in the position to run in front of a car and injuring herself or a citizen driving on the street. Upon getting out of my truck to help the cow, I saw the gate to one of the buildings that houses the cows had been left open. After spending 10 minutes looking for a worker, one who was wandering around told me the “cow got out underneath the gate”. As he was closing the gate he continued to deny that the cow got out through the gate that was left open. The Michigan Department of Agriculture refused to take my complaint time and time again despite I had audio and pictures for proof. These are sad circumstances for the animals and they are ignored all too often even with citizen complaints. Dishonesty by factory farms workers can cause for citizens to form an opinion of what workers are being untruthful about when it comes to the welfare of the animals, especially behind closed doors.
Kallen’s argues that “farm animals are not pets and cannot be treated like pets”. It is true there are no federal laws covering animals and how they are treated on the farms but there are laws protecting pets. Yet what Kallen fails to consider is that this seems to be an essential failing of our system and his overall argument that factory farm animals are treated humanely is not reasonable. When there are no laws protecting farm animals, workers get away with a lot more abuse to the animals as opposed to pets and undercover video coverage has proven this to be true.
Kallen does have some credible sources however he does not consider that any reasonable adult or child would be shocked to see how pigs, chickens, cows, turkeys and other animals are systematically mistreated in the meat, dairy and egg industry if they had a chance to see the reality behind the closed doors. Animal rights organizations have provided many undercover videos showing the endless torture farm animals suffer from every day.
People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals, an organization that works through public education and cruelty investigations, captured a video called “Mother Pigs and Piglets Abused by Hormel Supplier”. The video shows workers at a hog farm beating pig’s heads with a metal rod while the pigs are continuously screeching from the pain. Two men, including a supervisor, were witnessed jabbing clothespins into pigs' eyes and faces. In this same video, a supervisor kicked a young pig in the face, abdomen, and genitals to make her move and told the undercover investigator, "You gotta beat on the bitch. Make her cry."
In another video, Cruelty at Seaboard Farms by PETA, Golden Girl Rue McClanahan narrates an investigation at a hog farm. The video shows a young pig being killed by the supervisor who uses his feet to stomp on the pig until the pig, after suffering for a long time, is finally dead. A proactive called “thumping”, piglets are shown held by their back legs and slammed on the concrete floor to kill them.
In yet another investigation video exposed by Farm Sanctuary, an organization what works to end cruelty to farm animals, titled “Behind the Mustache”, the footage shows a cow giving birth and within a minute of the calf being born, it is dragged away by its fragile back leg by a worker while the mother cow follows trying to be near her baby calf. Many of the frail calves, some nearly dying, are rounded up by “calf jockeys” and are thrown into a pile on top of one of another in the back of a truck. Calf jockeys can make a quick buck selling day old frail calves to slaughter houses that process them into leather, pet food or even low grade quality meat for human consumption.
Factory farm animals have no laws to protect them until they are shipped off to be slaughtered. Author David DeDerazia of Mental Life and Moral explains that “even when there, they suffer copious amounts of pain and are sometimes alive and alert when they are being slaughtered.” He further describes that:
During transport most cows are deprived of food, water, and rest for over two days, and frightened when prodded. At the slaughterhouse her instincts, unlike hogs, allow her to walk easily in a single-file chute. Unfortunately, the poorly trained stun operator has difficulty with the air-powered knocking gun. Although he stuns the Cow several times, she stands up and bellows. The line does not stop, however, so she is hoisted up on the overhead rail and transported to the 'sticker', who cuts her throat to bleed her out. She remains conscious as she bleeds and experiences some of the dismemberment and skinning process alive.
These are only a few of numerous videos exposed for anyone to watch showing evidence of inhumane treatment to factory farm animals. Yet Kallen fails to mention in his article there are farm animals abused and instead he states they are treated humanely.
Kallen makes the suggestion that experts believe that the number of disabled animals passing through markets is less than 1/10 of 1 percent. This logic is flawed because According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service, “each year about 10 percent, or 900 million, of the animals raised for food never reach the slaughterhouse because they die on the farm due to stress, injury, and disease.”
Another argument Kallen makes is “that animal rights organizations are trying to create fear among consumers about meat and other animal products using the tactic that eating meat and eggs and drinking milk is unhealthy for humans.” The organizations are not trying to create “fear” but are rather educating what the animals themselves feel every day from the abuse and also the health risks for humans associated with consuming animals.
The conditions result in severe physiological as well as behavioral afflictions in animals. According to Humane Farming Association, an organization that is helping to protect farm animals from cruelty and to protect the public from the dangerous misuse chemicals used on factory farms, “anemia, influenza, intestinal diseases, mastitis, metritis, orthostasis, pneumonia, and scours are only the beginning of a long list of ailments plaguing animals in factory farms. By ignoring basic needs such as exercise, fresh air, and proper veterinary care, factory farms are a breeding ground for stress and infectious disease.”
Would you knowingly serve your family sulfa drugs, clenbuterol, penicillin, tetracycline, or drug resistant strains of bacteria for dinner? Laurelee Blanchard, founder of Leilani Farm Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to enlightening the public about large-scale factory farming of animals raised for food, educates consumers what exactly they are eating when they sit down to dinner and consume animals. She claims “The antibiotics given to veal calves are passed on to consumers in the meat” and “physicians warn that the routine use of antibiotics in veal and other farm products is resulting in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. These virulent bacteria render formerly life-saving antibiotics useless in combating human disease.”
Ardeth Baxter notes that factory-farmed dairy cows, like beef cows, “Are sprayed with pesticides and doused with antibiotics, hormones, and tranquilizers. The chemical residue is passed on to all those who consume their milk, taking over and effecting the health of everyone, including our young children.”
In his article, Kallen has failed to consider the health benefits by not eating factory farm animals. The American Dietetic Association states that “vegetarians have lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; lower blood cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer and that vegetarians are less likely than meat-eaters to be obese.” In my own experience I have found that a well-planned vegetarian diet provides me with all the nutrients that I need, minus all the saturated fat, cholesterol, and contaminants found in animal flesh and milk.
Do we need to eat meat to survive? Do we need to eat meat to be healthy? No we do not. The chief benefits of meat-eating to consumers are pleasure, since meat tastes especially good to many people, and convenience, because switching to and maintaining a vegetarian diet requires some effort. And just as important, it would help cease the torture to the animals (that Kallen says are “treated humanely”) if we did not consume them.
People in our society that have grown up and are use to eating meat and don’t see anything wrong with it have not likely seen the hands on abuse to the animals they eat. Times have changed for the worse for farm animals. They are not raised as they were 100 years ago like one might see in a story book. We wouldn’t force our pets to live in filthy, cramped cages and be abused for their whole lives, and we shouldn’t force farm animals to endure such misery. All animals raised for food deserve humane treatment just the same as a pet cat and dog because they all share the same feelings..