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The Language of Normalizing Animal Commodities
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

From Free From Harm
August 2013

The industry and its scientific researchers present a highly-professional, clinical and authoritative platform for discussing their use of animals. It’s easy to see how one could be fooled into believing that animals are commodities instead of animals after being indoctrinated into their worldview.

animals as commodities

The modern animal-using industries and the scientific research engine behind them celebrate the biological and genetic manipulation of chickens and other animals for the sole purpose of rendering their eggs, secretions and flesh more marketable and profitable. In comparison, the only permissible form of genetic manipulation of humans — which remains controversial — is for life-saving medical advancements. Their key messages are that 1. their use of animals is a “win-win,” good for the animals and us; 2. technological innovations in animal science serve the greater good by feeding the world’s growing population.

Here’s a case in point:

“The modern broiler industry has developed a hybrid that is unlike any other breed.” “Today’s broiler can achieve a 5-pound market weight in five weeks. These advances are the result of scientific progress in genetic, nutritional, and environmental research.” — Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

This short statement actually reveals an entire worldview about our relationship with animals and the natural world that is central to animal agriculture. There is a dual function to the message here: 1. to further reinforce the entrenched belief that animals like chickens simply exist to be exploited as our resources and; 2. to erase any individual identity beyond their role as this resource, thereby effectively stripping them of their rich and sophisticated minds and life experiences. Following are some other common examples of the language or rhetoric of the industry:

  • Slaughtering birds is referred to as “harvesting,” as if to liken this act of bloody violence to picking a piece of fruit from a tree.
  • In describing artificial breeding practices, chickens are said to mate “naturally” when in fact the conditions under which these birds are subjected are completely controlled in terms of lighting, ambient temperature, flooring, confinement, feeding, social interaction, drugs, mutilations and other painful procedures. In fact, as one delves into the literature of the industry, the environmental controls are considered critical to productive and profitable breeding.
  • The industry refers to egg-laying females as “layers,” as if to suggest that their sole purpose in life is to ovulate daily (which in reality is a very small part of the complex lives of their undomesticated, wild cousins). They refer to chickens bred for meat as “broilers,” a name divorced from any description of the highly-aware, living bird and instead a reference to the processed, cooked and prepared body parts on our plate.
  • The industry uses phrases like “open floor houses” to refer to what are nothing more than barren warehouses with cement flooring covered in shavings that become wet with feces and full of pathogens, upon which thousands of birds are forced to live in typically crowded quarters.

Here is a quote that embodies many of the above examples:

“The parent breeders are the birds that produce the fertile eggs that will become the broiler chickens that are harvested for meat. Breeders are raised in open floor houses with automatic watering, feeding, and egg collection systems. Males and females are allowed to mate naturally. Females begin producing eggs around 24 weeks of age and will lay efficiently for 40 weeks per cycle.” — Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences.

In addition to the strategic use of humane-washing language, these same agricultural scientists often omit any mention of animal suffering that is systemic and widespread. Many of these conditions are caused by engineering these birds to grow too quickly as well as controlled environmental factors. They commonly develop even before broiler birds are sent to slaughter at 42-days-old and egg laying hens are slaughtered at one- to two-years-old. These include but are not limited to:

  • lameness, immobility and crippling bone diseases
  • malfunctioning ovaries in females
  • ovarian cancer
  • heart failure
  • respiratory illness and failure (due to high levels of airborne toxins such as ammonia)

The industry and its scientific researchers present a highly-professional, clinical and authoritative platform for discussing their use of animals. It’s easy to see how one could be fooled into believing that animals are commodities instead of animals after being indoctrinated into their worldview.  


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