There are so many reasons why people decide to try veganism. For most, though, it is a love for animals that is the main reason. Whereas, some people just want to feel better about themselves and the impact they make on the world. Either way, the results are the same!
Animals are sentient beings, which means that they are capable of emotion and feel pain, as well as happiness. They can feel calm or they can suffer from stress. Just like us.
Animals are the victims of an industry that cares little for their well-being, and causes them to suffer in innumerable ways. Consumers, also, tend to be so disconnected from what they are eating, where it’s come from and the fact their food once had a life.
Below you will find out some facts about the meat, dairy and egg industry, in regards to three of the main animals killed for food. Warning, some people may find the information and the pictures provided upsetting.
Chickens raised for meat, are manipulatively breed to grow much, much quicker than they would do naturally, so that they reach slaughter weight in a lot less time and the industry’s profits are increased. The rate that these chickens grow at is astonishing. Did you know that if humans were to grow at the same rate as these chickens, we would weigh 25 stone at age two! Can you imagine!? This unnatural rate of fattening results in many health issues for the poor chickens.
In today’s egg production industry, all hens are bred and reared to produce more than 300 eggs a year, whilst a wild hen would lay only around 60 eggs a year. That is 6x more eggs a year. The majority of these hens are kept in wire cages, like those in the picture. They spend the majority of their lives inside, and have very little space – the space they have works out no larger than a single sheet of A4 paper, which allows them barely any room at all to move. Due to the confinement, diseases spread much quicker (diseases which can often be find in the meat people eat), the chickens often end up crushed, with foot deformities from the wire cages, and with severe feather loss from the stress.
People often assume that ‘free-range’ means cruelty-free. Unfortunately, that is not true, as these hens are still predominately confined in barns with up to four hens per square metre. Less than 10% (on average) of the chickens are outside at any given time, and many never go outside at all. The stressful, unnatural living conditions often lead chickens, who are normally very social animals, to behave aggressively towards one another by pecking and pulling out each other’s feathers. This has led to the routine debeaking of the chickens using infrared technology. This procedure is usually carried out when chicks are only a day old. The chick’s head is restrained on a carousel while a high intensity infrared beam is used to penetrate up to a third of their beak.
When chickens are being taken to the slaughterhouse, they are caught by their legs and carried (usually several at a time) upside down before they are loaded into small crates on the truck. Some chickens will have to face long distance journeys in the truck, which can be as long as 24 hours before they are provided with food and water. Can you imagine going 24 hours without food or water, in an extremely confusing and stressful situation?
A chickens natural lifespan is 7 years old. However, chickens raised for meat are killed at only 40-50 days old, hens that lay eggs are killed at 18 months old and male chicks are gassed or crushed to death at only 1 day old simply because they cannot lay eggs for the industry to sell.
Once the chickens have arrived at the slaughterhouse, they are hung upside down by their legs on metal shackles along a moving conveyor belt. This tends to cause more stress and injury to the chickens as they are often just left hanging like this for several minutes. They move along the production line, to water bath which stuns them the moment their head makes contact with the water, due to an electrical circuit between the water bath and their shackles. This is used to paralyse the chickens, before their necks are cut, however, this it is not always effective and in some instances, when the bath water is too low or insufficient voltage has been used. The conveyor belt then moves the chickens to a mechanical neck cutter that cuts the major blood vessels in the neck. Due to it being an automatic cutter, it may only administer a single cut which will then leave the chicken to bleed out for several minutes before dying.
Another way that chickens are killed, is by being gassed. In order for them to gassed, they are kept in their transport crates and placed in a gas chamber, until they are dead. Which, again, can be a very slow process.
Research has shown us that chickens probably suffer the most miserable existence of all factory farmed animals. After doing some research, I can understand why.
Cows raised for beef, are often dehorned, branded with red hot irons and castrated within the first week of their lives. In order to dehorn the calves, their horn buds are burned with a hot iron, or applied with a chemical paste which results in the erosion of the horn buds. No pain relief is required for either of these procedures. Both of these procedures can be legally performed by an unqualified person. The castration of the calves is an extremely painful procedure that often leads to complications and infections. In the UK, there are 3 legal methods of castration; the use of a rubber ring to restrict the blood flow to the calf’s testicles, the use of a ‘burdizzo’ (a plier-like instrument) to crush the spermatic cord of the calf or surgical removal. No pain relief is administered, nor required by law, under the first two methods.
After those traumatic experiences, the calves are then fed on cereals in ‘fattening sheds’, where numbers can reach as high as 8,000 per shed, before they are sent to slaughter at the very young age of 11 – 12 months.
Like all female mammals, to produce milk, a cow must give birth. And just like human females, a cow’s pregnancy lasts nine months. A dairy cow usually has her first calf at around 18 months old. Typically, this calf is taken away from her within hours of birth. The separation is traumatic for both her and her calf. This, however, does not happen only once to dairy cows. To ensure there is a constant supply of milk, a cow will suffer this same process of pregnancy, and separation several times in her life. As long as she can produce ‘profitable’ milk, she will artificially inseminated every 13 months, meaning she will give birth to a calf nearly every year. Due to the health toll of constant pregnancies and milk production, the lifespan of a dairy cow is only five to seven years, whereas a cow would naturally live 15-20 years.
In intensive dairy farms, to reduce costs and control feeding, cows are often kept within ‘zero-grazing’ systems. Which are, basically, indoor environments where the cows are unable to graze and carry out any natural behaviour. High-protein feed is given to the cows to increase their milk yield.
Dairy cows are bred to produce extremely large quantities of milk, roughly around ten times more than necessary to feed a calf. The weight of this excess milk puts a huge strain on the cow’s body and often causes teat and udder infections (mastitis), and foot problems (laminitis). Mastitis is a painful infection of the udder that causes painful swelling or hardening of the udder. It is the most common health complication for dairy cows, for example, in a herd of 100 cows in the UK, there could be as many as 70 cases of mastitis every year on average. This results in one-quarter of dairy cows dying prematurely from mastitis or are slaughtered rather than treating it. Laminitis, is foot and/or leg damage that leads to lameness. This is happens by long periods of standing on hard floors and lack of mobility from being confined.
Due to the fact that so many dairy cows are having baby after baby to ensure a constant supply of milk, the dairy industry produces millions of ‘surplus’ calves. Which means that, since male calves do not produce milk, they are of no use to a dairy farmer. So they auction them off at very low prices. The males of dairy-producing breeds do not grow as large as breeds raised for beef, so these calves are often killed at birth, sold for low-quality meat, or raised for veal.
Veal crates have been banned across the entire European Union and 7 U.S states, however
some countries still use veal crates to confine dairy calves. The baby calves are confined to very small pens, hutches, or crates to restrict their movement, and fed nutrient-deficient diets, because veal is prized for its pale, tender texture. Veal calves, whether in crates or pens, are slaughtered at around six months.
All cows end up at the slaughterhouse, and experience the same horrors, no matter what they were raised for (beef or dairy). Once at the slaughterhouse, most cows in the UK are stunned with a pistol-like captive bolt gun to the brain, then shackled, bled, disembowelled, and skinned. Due to the high speed of the production, however, the law stating that the cows must be rendered unconscious before being killed is routinely ignored as cows and unskilled workers struggle and many animals have their throats cut and their skin removed while fully conscious.
80% of piglets within the meat industry in the UK have their tail docked and their teeth clipped(/grinded). The piglets are held by their back leg or around the hips, while a heated blade or pliers are used to remove their tails. If this procedure is conducted before seven days of age, no anaesthetic is required. The piglets four corner teeth are typically cut with clippers, or ground down with a grinder tool.
The pig industry claims that these procedures are necessary to prevent the piglets from injuring one another. However, this is rarely seen in pigs living in the wild and is, in fact, a problem related to their stressful living conditions where overcrowding, lack of food, poor temperature control and boredom is rife. All pigs, in the UK, must also be marked with their herd identification. This often involves painful procedures including tagging, cutting or tattooing their ears. Male piglets are often castrated in order to make them easier to handle and to encourage weight gain. This can be done without pain relief on piglets up to seven days old.
Over half of all female pigs in the meat industry are kept in farrowing crates prior to giving birth. These crates are very similar to the ‘gestation crate’, which have been banned in the European Union and several U.S. states, due to their cruel nature. These metal crates are extremely restrictive, not even allowing the pig to turn around, so she can only lie down, stand up, or sit. The mother pig is then barely able to touch her children, as her piglets have to suckle through the bars of the crate. They are then kept in this confinement for a further 28 days until the industry consider her piglets weaned. In nature, however, weaning is a gradual process which often takes 3 to 4 months. On farms, the early separation between mother and piglets causes distress to them both.
Like all female animals in the food industry, this cycle of artificial insemination, pregnancy and separation is repeated until the pigs’s reproductive system is exhausted and her body can no longer endure this strain. She is then deemed ‘useless’ by the farmers, so she will be killed to produce low quality products like pork pies and sausages.
Pigs are transported long distances, frequently with poor ventilation and temperature control, before they reach the slaughterhouse. As pigs are sensitive to high temperatures and humidity, this stressful journey can often cause them to die from heatstroke. Current UK legislation allows for pigs to be transported up to 24 hours followed by a day’s rest with food and water, followed by a further 24 hours transportation.
A pigs natural lifespan is around 15 years, however in the meat industry pigs are killed between the ages of 3 to 6 years old.
Upon arrival at the slaughterhouse, the pigs are stunned then shackled and hoisted upside down by their back legs, their throats are then slit. A study of slaughterhouses in the UK, over a three year period, found that the stunning of pigs was often ineffective due to mistakes made in the procedure. Over 20% of pigs during this research were found to have become conscious before their throats were cut, making their death slow and extremely painful.
- Over 56 billion farmed animals are killed every year by humans.
- That’s 40,000 animals a second.
- This does not even include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes.
- More than 100 million animals —including mice, rats, frogs, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, monkeys, fish, and birds—are killed in U.S. laboratories alone every year for biology lessons, medical training, curiosity-driven experimentation, and chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics testing.
- More than 50 million animals are violently killed for use in the fashion industry every year. There are various methods used to kill animals for their fur, which include gassing, electrocution (often anal electrocution), and neck breaking.
- 20,000 Greyhounds are killed every year when they are deemed too slow to race. That is just one tiny portion of the animal entertainment sector, now think about the other ways animals are exploited for entertainment; circuses, zoos, marine parks, hunting, sports, fishing, rodeos, bull fighting, etc and the deaths just seem to become greater and greater.
I cannot even begin to imagine what it must be like to be subjected to mutilation, captivity and murder, just because you were unlucky enough to be born as something that people have a “use” for.
There are so many incredible replacements, such as mock meat, dairy free cheeses, ice creams and milks, faux fur, faux leather and much much more. These days, there are vegan alternatives for everything and any meal can be made vegan. With all these cruelty free options so easily accessible to us, why choose mutilation, captivity and death? There has never been a better time to try veganism!
So why not try veganism this January and lessen the death toll, even if it’s just for a month. All animals used in the meat, dairy and egg industry are sentient beings and have a right to life and freedom. Avoiding animal products is one of the most obvious ways you can take a stand against animal cruelty and animal exploitation everywhere.
You can sign up to take part in Veganuary here, for free.
Peace & Love, Sian