Factory farming is one of the biggest systems of mass production in the world. It is a business and thus an industry driven by the incentive for profit, not humane considerations. Farmers receive more money for the pounds of meat they produce and therefore employ a variety of practices to achieve that end.
To say these animals live under harsh conditions is putting it mildly. The way farm animals are treated could accurately be described as having little to no life at all. Cages and pens are made to allow for the minimum living space for an animal and to fit as many of them together as possible.
9 billion chickens are killed annually in the United States. Chickens are actually much more intelligent animals than society would have you believe. They understand object permanence (the idea that an object taken out of sight still exists). Cows have proven to have sophisticated social dynamics and create communities in much the same way as wolves do.
But, for however smart and emotional we now understand these animals to be, their life is reduced to nothing more than a statistic, grown for the meat on their bones. Their lives are severely reduced and the time they do have is spent in misery for the most part. Their confinement leads to a lack of exercise and an inability to use their muscles and motor skills in a natural way.
There are obvious ethical concerns. These animals have no family life like they would in the wild. They are separated and individualized and thrown in with thousands of other animals in close confinement systems. Ghandi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. The operations and practices of this industry need to be judged with a sharp critical eye. Warning: graphic content.
These types of crates are primarily used on pigs; the pigs are confined to cages that are barely wider than the animal itself. They are unable to turn around and often develop leg problems and terrible skin conditions. Their inability to move creates an extremely stressful psychological environment. The pigs’ behaviour often becomes increasingly erratic and anxious. “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life,” said a spokesperson from the Humane Society.
Health problems can evolve for animals that are put through different types of genetic engineering. These animals are designed to grow fast, which can cause problems for muscle and bone development. Cows live in a never-ending cycle of impregnation, to birth and then milking. This is repeated as long as the cow is mature. The cows are given BGH (bovine growth hormone), which grow the cows’ size but also leads to lameness and udder infection. When these cows have been “worked” for roughly four or five years, they become unproductive and are slaughtered for their meat, typically used for ground beef.
This practice is used for hens in increasing their egg production. At the end of their laying cycle, the hens are cut off from food and water for over two weeks. They are kept in complete darkness and because of this their bodies are shocked into quickly forming another laying cycle. This process is meant to simulate a new season for the hens, but of course it is done completely artificially. After this process is done repeatedly, the hens face significant health problems and weight issues.
If animals are not killed directly at the farm, they are often transported to auctions and stockyards. During their journey they are stuffed into overcrowded trucks with inadequate ventilation. They suffer stress from the overcrowding inside these vehicles and there are many cases of trampling injuries and death. Despite the deaths that occur, the industry keeps cramming as many animals inside the trucks as they can, because this system is “cheaper” for them.
Opponents of these practices, like the Humane Society, often send people out to these trucks during their journey. They approach the vehicles and try to get as much water through to the animals as they can.
It is essential for the industry to create the highest output of food at the lowest cost. Pigs are kept in overcrowded filthy pens that they share with numerous others. The floors of these pens are often concrete, which combined with their inability to move around much gives the pigs serious bone and joint issues. Natural light in these environments is spare at best.
The overcrowding mixed with pesticides in the air leads to repertory issues for the pigs. The air quality is so poor in some factory farms that the animals breathe-in a huge amount of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide. A higher risk of disease can come from this over crowding of animals as well. It was believed that the H1N1 virus (swine flu), which became transmittable to humans, began in factory farms and their over-crowding of pigs.
This is a very common practice among the farms that deal in large chicken production. Their beaks are trimmed with clippers or sometimes the use of a laser is employed in removing the sharp tip. This practice is employed because chickens living in these harsh and overcrowded conditions sometimes take their aggression out on each other. There are also instances of cannibalism in these farms.
The philosophy behind debeaking is that the animals won’t be able to hurt each other without their only weapon. The debeaking of any kind of bird causes them a large amount of stress and sometimes, considerable long-term pain. Their ability to eat is often impaired.
Animals who are overfed risk a shorter lifespan and a variety of health problems. Animals that are overfed on a grain-based diet can develop digestive tract problems. Animals are designed to consume high-cellulose plants like grass.
Foie Gras, a famous French delicacy, is made from the enlarged liver of a duck. To get this enlarged liver, farmers force-feed ducks and stuff a giant metal rod down their throats. This often causes health problems for the ducks, including pneumonia. The stomachs of ducks have also been known to burst open because of overfeeding. Overfeeding the animals can lead to excess manure, which often seeps into the ground and ends up in the nearest water supply. If the animals are being fed chemically enhanced food, this can contaminate the water.
Separation from family
With cows particularly, the mother-calf bond is quite strong. The mothers of these cows have been known to mourn for their offspring. They even call out for their baby calf, long after they have been shipped away to veal farms. The social dynamics of cows are actually quite complex, and they act similarly to packs of wolves. They develop social hierarchies and often will pick leaders based on positive attributes like intelligence, self-confidence, and good social skills.
This housing system is primarily used for hens that are in their egg-laying phase. Often eight to ten hens are stuffed into these cages that are barely the size of a drawer in a filing cabinet. The wiring that makes up these cages is so uncomfortable that it leads to deformities in the feet and chaffing of the skin. 60 percent of eggs produced worldwide for food are made from chickens that are forced to live in these types of cages.
This is often the way chickens and cows are slaughtered. It is a type of electrocution where the animals are “stunned” with a bolt or other kind of device. This causes a cardiac arrest before they receive the knife at the end of their journey. If the stunning isn’t done right, the animals will receive severe pain from only a partial stun. This process is meant to stop the animal’s hearts on impact, yet the animals often suffer from agonizing heart attack symptoms.