The Fellowship of Life
a Christian-based vegetarian group founded in 1973


Dying for Christmas

From the December 1987 edition of Agscene - journal of Compassion In World Farming: 

Dying for Christmas is the article contributed to the Choose Cruelty-Free This Christmas magazine by CIWF. It is reproduced here to summarise for both regular and new readers of Agscene the cruelty of the Christmas turkey trade and the suffering of pigs in factory farms.

For many years CIWF has attempted to highlight the fact that Christmas should be a time of goodwill to all living creatures - not just to man. As part of this campaign we have always asked people to boycott the traditional Christmas dinner for a meatless alternative. Recipes for an alternative and humane Christmas dinner are given both in the Choose Cruelty-Free This Christmas magazine and on the CIWF Christmas leaflet. We hope that by joining together with BUAV, Lynx and The Vegan Society this Christmas that our message will be received by a new and wider audience and that the campaign will result in more people deciding to celebrate Christmas without cruelty.


The first decorations are in the shops already. It gets earlier every year. What we can't see, however, are 13 million young chicks in gigantic turkey factories. They're discovering that their world is four walls and a ceiling. It's lit by dim electric light. And it's a little too crowded for comfort.

Several million piglets are busy discovering their new world. The world of the factory farm. Bars and wire, cages and crates. Their mothers are imprisoned, unable to turn round, exercise or tend them. By the end of the month their piglets will have been castrated and had their tails cut off. Without anaesthetic.


We're buying our first Christmas presents to avoid the crush later. Cards have already gone off to relatives overseas. More shop window decorations. Families are busy arranging who's going to stay with whom and which party to go to.

But it's starting to stink in the turkey factories. And it's getting really crowded. There's up to 20,000 birds in each shed and what little space there was is almost gone. They're climbing over each other and squabbling, but they can't hurt each other. The farmer has chopped off their beaks with a red hot guillotine. And that stink. . . the throat burning stench of ammonia from a quagmire of rotting turkey litter.

The piglets have gone off to new prisons - walled pens with mesh floors and battery cages, just like those used for battery chickens. It's dark, so dark. The factory farmer has doused the lights to stop them fighting from boredom - that uses up valuable fat.

The next time they see the light will be the time they die. They've also lost their mothers. The sows have been put into sow stalls - pens only a few feet wide. They stand on bare concrete, awaiting the next litter. Many are chained to the floor for good measure, but none can move in any event. They spent up to 40 weeks of the year like that. Standing and waiting.


Humans are fighting for space in car parks, shops and supermarkets. Turkeys are fighting - literally fighting for space down on the factory farm. The stench . . . It's so bad the factory farmer has to wear a mask. The birds' legs vanish amid the stinking litter. Many are burned on their hocks by the ammonia.

The piglets, now nearly full-grown, have been moved into concrete floored pens. Their instincts to root about and explore are completely frustrated. Life has no purpose. They wander in circles, looking at each other, looking at the walls, wondering why it's so very dark and grow fatter.


Presents have been bought, wrapped and hidden. The drinks cabinet is overflowing, the cupboards bulge with food. There's booze-ups aplenty in the pub, office and livingroom. We're all having a ball. Up go the decorations, in come the relatives and out come the nuts and dates.. Happy Christmas!

Meanwhile, millions of turkeys and pigs are being killed. On the factory farm their blood is spilled the fortnight before the peace and goodwill of Christmas Day. The turkeys are stuffed - stuffed into crates on lorries and driven to the slaughterhouse. Some break legs and wings in the process, but it'll soon be over in any event. Once there the birds are hung upside down on a conveyor belt, their heads pass through an electric stunning bath and their throats are cut by an automatic knife. Many miss the stunning bath, some miss the knife. All end up in a scalding tank, a few will be boiled alive.

The pigs have just seen the light as they're loaded on lorries bound for the abattoir. It's the first natural light they have ever seen. And the last. At the slaughterhouse terror grips them. They sense something dreadful is awaiting them. They're right. Electric tongs stun them, they're hung upside down and have their throats slit. The place is redder than Santa's coat, but then that's Christmas.

Boxing Day

Well, it's all over for another year. The turkey was a bit tough, the pork was OK, but we all had a great time, didn't we? So this is what they mean by peace and goodwill to all Men. But isn't it time that the Christmas spirit of friendship and celebration was extended to animals - all year round? Their misery is not confined to Christmas - they're imprisoned on factory farms 365 days a year, living in cages or tiny crates, deprived of movement, exercise, fresh air, of everything that makes their lives worth living.

It doesn't have to be that way. There are alternatives. Alternatives of a cruelty-free diet based on non-animal or free range products. It simply takes a small decision - a vote with your shopping bag. If you don't like the cruelty, then don't support it.


"On this earth animals are our brothers and sisters; we should treat them with the same love." Spike Milligan

Reproduced with Thanks.

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