Published in Geelong Advertiser
THERE has been justifiable outrage in the community recently following the revelation that a dog breeder in Meredith was confining mini fox terriers on freezing, filthy, concrete floors and shackling others with heavy chains.
However, just imagine how much greater the outrage would have been if we'd learned that, in addition, these dogs were being confined in pens so small they couldn't even turn around and that puppies were being agonisingly mutilated without anaesthetic.
The community would have been up in arms, I'm sure, yet millions of Australian animals are currently being subjected to this unimaginably cruel treatment.
The animals may not be dogs but they are animals with the same capacity for suffering as dogs.
Most of Australia's 300,000 female breeding sows are forced to spend the bulk of their lives on cold, hard, concrete floors in body-hugging metal pens in which they can't even turn around or lie down comfortably. All they are able to do in these narrow pens is take one small step forward or backwards.
For animals that are reportedly smarter than dogs and smarter than the average three-year-old child they even outsmart primates on video game tests involving joy sticks this severe confinement and deprivation must be intolerable.
Can you even begin to imagine the frustration, anguish and grief that they must endure, imprisoned this way day after day and year after year?
Their piglets have an early introduction to suffering too when their tails and testicles are agonisingly sliced off in the first week of their life. They also have holes punched in their ears and some of their teeth are ground down to the pulp. They are in pain for weeks afterwards and some die of shock.
The egg industry is equally ruthless and merciless. Each year in Australia more than 12 million day-old male chicks are brutally dropped live into giant mincing machines, gassed or suffocated.
Female chicks have their beaks agonisingly mutilated with a red-hot blade or laser and when they are old enough to lay eggs they are crammed into small, wire "battery" cages in which they can never stand comfortably.
Unable even to spread their wings, the stress leads to feather pecking and weak and dying hens may be trampled by cage mates in their struggle for space.
Up to 80,000 hens are packed inside each shed and the cages are stacked eight tiers high. The ever accumulating manure makes the air thick with ammonia that constantly burns their eyes and lungs.
To compound their misery, lack of exercise causes their bones to become weak and brittle and one in six battery hens lives with broken bones.
Australia's 488 million "meat" chickens suffer unimaginably too. Cruelly bred to grow at three times the normal rate, their baby legs can't keep pace with their rapid body growth and they become painfully crippled under their own weight. Twenty million crippled birds die slowly from thirst and starvation before even reaching slaughter weight.
If we are outraged by the cruelty to the fox terriers in the Meredith breeding facility, shouldn't we be outraged by the cruelty to the millions of pigs and chickens locked away in our factory farms?
The humble act of grocery shopping provides the greatest opportunity to turn this outrage into action. Shunning the products of these cruel establishments and opting for humanely derived vegetarian alternatives is the single best way to help stop this abuse.