This topic is always difficult to write about, as I have viewed video footage and read numerous investigative reports of abuses too horrendous to comprehend.  It is unfathomable, the evil acts that man is capable of committing towards other living beings who have no voice or protection.

Factory farm animals are among the most exploited and abused of all species because animal welfare laws have excluded them.  Agribusiness, their politician friends, and the drug companies who profit have all hindered progress towards more humane treatment of factory farm animals since the current status quo is so profitable for them.
 
In the case of pigs, industrial pig farms now dominate the pork industry.  This has been harmful for family farmers, consumers, the environment, and especially the animals. Pigs are sensitive, intelligent, and clean animals who are naturally active and social.  It is said they have more cognitive ability than a three-year-old, a dog or a cat.  Where once family farms were able to raise them in near-natural, healthful environments, today’s factory farm profiteers utilize drug-dependent confinement methods.  Pregnant sows are housed in crates too small to even turn around.  They must give birth, nurse, eat, drink, defecate, sleep, stand, and lie in the same cramped space.  Imagine yourself being locked in a tiny closet for the rest of your life, where you are unable to even turn around.  

The piglets fare no better.  After approximately three weeks of age, they are torn from their mothers, have the ends of their teeth cut off with wire cutters, their tails docked (cut off), and ears notched without any pain relief or anesthesia. One-fourth of pigs suffer from mange and three-fourths have pneumonia by the time they reach the slaughterhouse.  The sheer number of animals makes it impossible for them to be given humane, painless deaths.  

In addition to filthy, cramped, overcrowded conditions while captive, they are also exposed to extreme abuse and torture by factory workers, much of which has been documented and is available to the public at the websites of the organizations below. Workers have been known to hook pigs in the eye and drag them, kick, beat, burn and sexually abuse them.  They have sliced off their snouts, stomped on them, bashed unwanted piglets against concrete floors, hung adult pigs until they are dead, and committed numerous other acts of violence that were completely unwarranted.  At one North Carolina farm, dead pigs had been left in pens with the living, while others were tossed in the aisles, barely alive and unable to reach food or water.  A Pennsylvania farm was abandoned, leaving over 800 pigs to perish in their confinement without any food or water. . .or hope of rescue.  

At the slaughterhouses, many pigs are improperly stunned and thus emerged head-first and shackled by a leg into the scalding tanks to soften their skin and remove their hair, while still alive.  Consequently, they are either scalded to death or drowned.

“Slaughterhouse,” by Gail Eisnitz details many slaughterhouse workers’ stories as well as her findings.  The book can be found at local bookstores or libraries.  

Cows experience the same abuse and misery as pigs, if not more.  Don’t be fooled by the advertisements that depict happy cows.  Dairy cows have been bred to produce unnaturally large quantities of milk.  As a result, production puts the animals’ bodies under extreme stress and at risk for infections.  They are slaughtered after three to five years, whereas normal cows can live in excess of 20 years.  None are spared from cruelty.  Many are castrated without the benefit of any anesthesia.  Calves raised for veal frequently live their entire lives tethered by their necks inside wooden crates where they can’t walk, turn around, or lie down.  

During transport, farm animals are packed inside trucks with inadequate ventilation and become stressed.  Many sustain injuries from being trampled by others.  They can be legally transported for up to 36 hours without food; transportation law is rarely, if ever, enforced.  Due to inadequate ventilation, many animals die from heat exhaustion; in the winter, they freeze to death on the trucks, many actually sticking to the floor and sides of the vehicle.  In some investigations, workers have been filmed tearing live cows from the trucks, leaving behind their flesh.

Every year, countless farm animals become sick and injured, rendering it difficult for them to stand or walk.  These animals, called “downers” by the industry, are often dragged wth chains or pushed with tractors and forklifts after suffering for hours or days without food, water or veterinary care.  Workers have routinely beaten or shocked them with electric prods, whipped them, kicked them, stomped on them or discarded them into the trash while still alive.

At the slaughterhouse, the frightened animals are herded onto the kill floor. Although Federal law requires that animals be stunned prior to slaughter, speed, not humane consideration guides the process; intolerable suffering is the rule. One method of stunning utilizes a captive bolt gun, which shoots a metal rod into the animal’s brain. Since animals struggle, the rod often misses its mark and the animal proceeds down the line, still conscious while it is being dismembered. Cows experience having their tails and hooves cut off, being skinned and hacked apart while still alive.  

While the Humane Slaughter Act dictates that cattle, pigs and other livestock are stunned, this law is routinely violated; most especially in the case of poultry which comprise more than 90% of those slaughtered annually for food and who are denied the minimal consideration of death before slaughter.

Please keep in mind that there IS something you can do if you feel the urgency in your hearts.  Among the most obvious is to avoid eating animal flesh and their byproducts. There are many excellent free guides available from PETA, HSUS or Vegan Outreach. It’s easy to cut down slowly and replace animal products with healthier alternatives.

The aforementioned organizations, as well as Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine are all excellent sources of additional information, as well as an opportunity to get involved in campaigns that raise awareness, promote legislation, and compel changes.  These hardworking organizations make it easy for you to take some positive action, whether you want to contribute financially to their ongoing work, or just spend a few minutes that will go a long way towards helping animals via their “Action Alerts.”  Never underestimate the power you have to bring about compassionate change to the world.

Some sources to get you started: mercyforanimals.org; peta.org; pcrm.org; hsus.org; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHcBoPOv0xE (the video the meat industry doesn’t want you to see).

 – Annoula Wylderich

 
 

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