There’s a popular kids movie out at the moment called “The Secret Life of Pets.” It’s about the adventures and the misadventures of our pets, when we’re not around to see what they’re up to. It’s cute. However, it would be very different if this movie were for adults, and if it were about the lives of farm animals that we don’t see.
Farm animals also lead lives that are secret from most of us. They’re secret because the livestock industry worries that their sales would drop like a ton of bricks, if we all knew how most farm animals really have to live. Most farm animals today are raised on factory farms, where they are treated as if they were objects in a factory. This results in very harsh conditions, including extreme overcrowding, and other unnatural and unsanitary conditions. Chickens are packed into cages so tightly that they can’t even turn around much less spread a wing. Veal calves are chained by the neck so they can’t move around, and are deliberately fed a bad diet so that their meat will taste different. Pregnant pigs are kept in a cage so tight they can’t move. They also suffer in cramped trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse, with no food or water. When they arrive at the slaughterhouse, it gets even worse. We’ll skip the gory details, but we can assure you this is no cute children’s movie, so the details are kept from public viewing.
Let’s also not forget about fish. Most commercial fishing vessels use very long nets, sometimes as long as a mile or more. When the fish get caught in the nets, at first they experience being crushed as the net is brought into the ship, and then they are left to suffocate until they die. Making the situation worse is the fact that these long nets also catch other fish which have no commercial value, plus sea mammals such as dolphins and porpoises, all of which are needlessly killed. Aquaculture, or fish farming, results in massive overcrowding, unsanitary conditions and the suppression of almost every natural instinct a fish might have. This is another movie not meant for children.
We’re not naïve. We know nature can be tough, but we’ve created a situation on factory farms much harsher than nature would ever provide. But it doesn’t have to be this way. It’s time to make a new, happier movie with a good ending, suitable for people of all ages. This happier movie has a happy diet associated with it. That diet is a plant-based one. If we followed a plant-based diet, the animals could live more natural lives and we could live much longer lives in a more sustainable environment.
Do animals feel pain? Of course they do! Just ask yourself this question: if animals can’t feel pain, then why do researchers test pain medication on them? Then ask yourself another question: if animals don’t feel pain, then why do they scream or wince when they are hurt? Of course they feel pain and are capable of suffering.
Famous Anthropologist Jane Goodall says that “…farm animals are treated as mere things, yet they are living beings capable of suffering pain and fear.” The Veterinary Merck Manual, perhaps the most standard reference in animal science and veterinary practice, states, “Based on what is known to date, all vertebrates, and some invertebrates, experience pain in response to actual or potential tissue damage.” Read more
If you care about the animals and value their lives and welfare, you’re not alone. Caring about animals has never been more popular in America. A study found that two thirds of Americans believe that an animal has a right to live free of suffering. In addition, a third of Americans are worried that existing laws are inadequate to protect animals.
Three factors are driving this increase in caring: the increasing public appreciation of and concern for animals, new scientific information confirming the reality of animal suffering along with the healthfulness of vegetarian diets, and religious and moral leaders who advocate extending moral questions to the humane treatment of animals.
More and more Americans are learning about the inhumane conditions under which today’s farm animals are kept. Modern factory farms revolve only around efficient, low-cost production, which unfortunately results in harsh conditions and greatly increased suffering for billions of farm animals. Science is demonstrating that both mammals and fish experience pain, and that a vegetarian diet is healthy for all. Many religious and moral leaders have long advocated for the compassionate treatment of animals, and the vegetarian diet that goes along with this.
By making vegetarian food choices, you will be saving farm animals with every bite. To learn more, see our handy brochure on farm animals and the importance of going veg.
For farm animals half the misery is just getting there. We’ve written before about the severe and harsh condition on both the factory farm and in the slaughterhouse but the transport from one to the other is just as bad.
Even under the most controlled conditions within the industry, farm animal transport is stressful and harsh. The animals are deprived of food, water, and bedding during transport. Trucks are so overcrowded that animals are unable to rest, and may trample or fight with one another in search of space. Chickens are so cramped that they can’t even turn around or spread their wings. The risk of injury is particularly high during loading and unloading, when electrical prodding and other painful handling methods are often used to move fearful and disoriented animals. Trucks waiting in line to unload is a serious problem, too; animals in trucks that are stalled in queues or stuck in traffic, especially on asphalt in hot weather, are extremely stressed and may even die as a result.
One brave woman decided to do something about this sad state affairs. To help ease suffering during transport, a Toronto Canada woman, Anita Krank, would go up to the trucks and give the animal water through the little spaces on the side of the trucks in Toronto . For this she was charged with a criminal mischief and faced jail time or $5,000 fine. Anita says, “I just find it unfathomable that someone would be charged for giving thirsty animals water.” Fortunately, the Judge found no basis in the charge and declared her not guilty.
While we’re happy she was found not guilty, the best answer to the transportation problem is the same as for the factory farm and slaughterhouse problem. A vegetarian diet helps all three. The solution to this problem also means better health for us and the environment.
US District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill
The farm animals badly needed this win. They have relied heavily on people documenting abuses on harsh “factory farms” and in the slaughterhouses, but a new law in Idaho would have made this illegal leaving the animals defenseless. So animal welfare groups cheered the decision on the Idaho law last week from U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The judge found the state’s “Agricultural Security Act” unconstitutional for criminalizing certain types of speech. This would have not only criminalized legitimate reporting by the news media and advocacy groups, they would have also criminalized whistle-blowing conducted by conscientious workers.
What about the handful of other states with similar laws on the books? Laws in Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa have also made it illegal for workers and activists to smuggle cameras into industrial animal operations. A new North Carolina law goes into effect in January 2016. But now those laws’ days could be numbered, according to the lead attorney for the coalition of animal welfare groups that sued the state of Idaho.
Had these laws gone into effect it’s not only the animals who would be hurt. As we have previously reported, abuse of slaughterhouse workers is also all too common. While reporting abuses is very valuable, it is still better to prevent them in the first place and the best way is through a healthy and oh so delicious vegetarian diet.
After 20 years of producing award-winning goat cheese, farmers Carol and Julian Pearce are now going vegan and so is their cheese. The Pearces are just a recent example of a number of farmers who are choosing to go vegan in order to save the lives of animals. While trying to save the goats on their farm, most end up being slaughtered. Explaining their decision they say, “We did the best we could for our animals while still producing cheese, but then we realized a vegan farm will allow us to do even better.”
The couple is hoping that their new found love for vegan cheese making will help to spread the message about animal-free cheese, and help them to rescue more animals from the exploitation by the farm industry at the same time. There are many options for animal farmers wishing to give up their current practices in favor of kinder ones. Whether it’s switching from goat cheese to vegan cheese, or from pig farming to vegetable farming, it is possible to create a better future for farm animals. Stories like this one show that it is indeed possible for us to change our ways and to find more compassionate alternatives. We congratulate the Pearces for embracing their new lifestyle and setting an example for future farmers to do the same.
It breaks our heart. Cute and harmless bunny rabbits are not meant for dinner. Yet it’s part of the latest trend where they’re being served at a number of America’s top restaurants.
Part of the heartbreak is that rabbit farms are not required to follow the Humane Slaughter Act. Rabbits are classified as “non-amenable” animals, a designation that removes them from humane slaughter regulations. Recently, Last Chance for Animals, a Los Angeles based animal advocacy group, conducted an investigation of Pel Freez, the nation’s largest rabbit processing plant, located in Rogers, Arkansas. We’ll skip the gory details but it’s as bad as we’ve heard about anywhere.
While clearly rabbit slaughter is bad for these cute critters, it’s none too good for us either. Consider that as with other meat, rabbit has artery-clogging saturated fat, cholesterol, and produces cancer-causing heterocyclic amines when cooked, while lacking any fiber or health-promoting phytonutrients.
We haven’t yet seen any rabbit-meat substitutes as there are with beef, chicken and fish, but that shouldn’t stop us from finding better things to eat. Given the creative abilities of the nations top chefs, we’re sure they can come up with something inspired by their humanity. Let’s hope they give it a try.