More poultry is raised and killed for food than the total of all other farm animals combined; however, there are no federal laws protecting them from abuse. 

Chickens raised in captivity for our food spend their entire lives in cramped, filthy sheds or cages with high levels of ammonia (from waste accumulation) that burn their skin, eyes, and respiratory tracts.   They share these quarters with tens of thousands of other birds, all of whom are given a steady stream of drugs to grow so large so fast that many experience organ failure or become crippled under their own weight.  Chickens and turkeys have the ends of their sensitive beaks cut off with a burning-hot blade, but no anesthesia, to prevent them from injuring one another in their frustrating and overcrowded confinement.   They experience pain for weeks afterwards, making it difficult to eat; many starve to death.  These animals are unable to breathe fresh air, exercise or engage in their basic behaviors which results in severe physical and psychological maladies.  They are routinely subjected to torment by industry workers who have been documented beating, whipping, spray-painting, stomping, sexually abusing, slamming them into walls and urinating on them.  Birds often have their legs and wings broken when they’re shoved into the transport trucks; further, they’re shipped through all weather extremes without food or water.

Undercover investigators have witnessed birds with broken legs and wings and open wounds shackled on the slaughter line.  Others were seen writhing on the floor in agony for hours.  Workers ripped the heads off birds who were trapped inside transport cages.  In 2005, a PETA investigator observed many birds who had been mangled by the throat-cutting machines, yet were still alive when they reached the scalding tanks.  Shackled upside down by their feet, they were systematically immersed into the tanks, where they were either boiled alive or drowned.

Egg-laying hens are typically packed inside cages so tightly that they can’t even spread their wings.  Due to constantly scraping against the wire cages, their feathers are worn away, while their bodies become battered and bloodied.  The cages (typically less than half a square foot of floor space) contribute to asphyxiation or dehydration. 

Decomposing corpses are frequently found in cages with live birds. The birds live this way before being sent to slaughter.  Once at the slaughterhouse, they are roughly pulled from their transport crates and shackled by their feet upside down on a moving rail.  They experience untold suffering as speed is emphasized over humane consideration. 

Male chicks, who are of no value to the egg industry, are typically gassed, suffocated, or ground up alive.  Many dead and dying birds are found in dumpsters behind hatcheries.  Free-range farms, while a small improvement over factory farms, are by no means free of suffering.

In the case of foie gras production, severely movement-restricted ducks are violently handled and force-fed enormous quantities of food daily via a long pipe that is rammed down their throat.  The ducks are haggard, depressed, sick; and many do not even have the strength to raise their heads.  They tremble from fear and illness while they await feeding times.

The giant corporations that profit from factory farming spend millions of dollars trying to convey the image of animals living an idyllic barnyard existence.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Try to get a tour of a slaughterhouse and ask to see ALL the areas.  Go to a factory farm and ask for an impromptu tour.  Don’t make prior appointments for either if you want to see the reality versus a contrived scenario.  Or click on the links below to get an idea of what you would see:

The USDA does a poor job of enforcing regulations.  This is not only detrimental to the animals’ welfare, but to YOURS.  According to a recent study by Consumer Reports, two-thirds of grocery-store chicken meat is contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as salmonella and/or E. coli.  The overuse of antibiotics on farm animals has been linked to this bacteria as well as to Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), threatening our ability to treat illness and disease in humans.  This is especially true for the most vulnerable among our society, including the elderly and children.  The FDA has issued a draft guidance document acknowledging this connection between human health and antibiotic use on factory farms; ironically, they’ve made unenforceable recommendations to limit the use of certain drugs.  Do you need to wonder whose side they’re on?  Despite the potentially serious threats to human health, approximately 70 percent of antibiotics in the U.S. are used by the animal agriculture industry.  This use has become necessary to maintain the cruel and unnatural conditions of factory farms; thus, agriculture interests have pushed for relaxed regulations.  Now, the FDA is considering a rule that may make it easier for factory farmers to obtain and use these drugs.  No big surprise here, folks.  Now would not be the time to weaken antibiotic regulations as the many negative effects of factory farming on human health, animal welfare and the environment are becoming undeniable. 

Although hidden from public view, the abject cruelty that occurs on factory farms is being exposed thanks to the excellent work of animal activists and advocacy organizations; and as more and more people are taking a look at how horribly farmed animals are treated and killed, they are deciding that it’s too cruel to support.  Fish aren’t exempt, by the way, and we’ll look at that industry in another post.

– Annoula Wylderich