- We are in the midst of terrible ecological devastation. Raising animals for food is the single greatest human-caused source of destruction to our environment. It is the largest source of greenhouse gases, land use and degradation; the number one source of water pollution and rainforest deforestation. It’s also a major contributor to air pollution, ocean dead zones, habitat loss, and species extinction. And when we include all the resources that go into raising animals for food – the land, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides, fossil fuels and freshwater – animal agribusiness is shockingly inefficient and a costly and wasteful use of our limited natural resources. Veganism is the solution. http://www.yourdailyvegan.com/environment/
- With over nine billion animals raised and slaughtered for human consumption each year in the U.S. alone, modern animal agriculture puts an incredible strain on natural resources like land, water, and fossil fuel. Factory farms yield a relatively small amount of meat, dairy, and eggs for this input, and in return produce staggering quantities of waste and greenhouse gases, polluting our land, air, and water and contributing to climate change.
- In the U.S. alone, animals raised on factory farms generate more than 1 million tons of manure per day — three times the amount generated by the country’s human population.
- Factory farms typically store animal waste in huge, open-air lagoons, often as big as several football fields, which are prone to leaks and spills. In 2011, an Illinois hog farm spilled 200,000 gallons of manure into a creek, killing over 110,000 fish.
- When lagoons reach capacity, farmers will often opt to apply manure to surrounding areas rather than pay to have the waste transported off-site. According to the USDA, animal waste can contaminate water supplies and omit harmful gases into the atmosphere when over-applied to land.
- During digestion, ruminants like cattle, sheep, and goats emit methane, an infamous “greenhouse gas” and key contributor to global warming. The EPA has estimated that, between 1990 and 2005, methane emissions from pig and cow operations rose 37 percent and 50 percent respectively, largely due to the greater amount and concentration of manure in lagoons and related storage systems.
- In order to prevent the spread of disease in the crowded, filthy conditions of confinement operations, and to promote faster growth, producers feed farm animals a number of antibiotics. Upwards of 75 percent of the antibiotics fed to farm animals end up undigested in their urine and manure. Through this waste, the antibiotics may contaminate crops and waterways and ultimately be ingested by humans.
- The demand for livestock pasture is a major driver of deforestation. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has estimated that 70 percent of land formerly supporting Amazon rainforests has been turned over to grazing.
- Between watering the crops that farm animals eat, providing drinking water for billions of animals each year, and cleaning away the filth in factory farms, transport trucks, and slaughterhouses, the animal agriculture industry has a huge impact on the water supply. Producing one pound of beef takes an estimated 1,581 gallons of water, which is roughly as much as the average American uses in 100 showers.
Graphic by CulinarySchools.org
The unnatural feeds, hormones, and excessive quantities of antibiotics used on factory farms put the human population at risk for chronic disease, obesity, and drug-resistant bacteria, and pose the threat of major zoonotic disease outbreaks.
- According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, animal products are the primary source of saturated fat in the American diet. Saturated fat has been linked to heart disease and obesity. Studies have shown that the unnatural feeds used to promote growth in animals on factory farms increase the saturated fat content of meat.
- Cows in the dairy industry can be given growth hormones in order to increase their milk production. Once their productivity declines, these cows are slaughtered for beef. The six growth hormones commonly used by the U.S. dairy industry have been shown to significantly increase the risk of breast, prostate, and colon cancer in beef consumers. Producers are not required to list the use of hormones on product labels.
- Since the 1950s, antibiotics have been used on factory farms to increase the rate of growth in animals. Today, an estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are given to farm animals for non-therapeutic purposes. Using antibiotics in this way can lead to drug-resistant bacteria; as a result, certain bacterial infections have already become or are on their way to becoming untreatable in humans. Antibiotic resistant infections kill 90,000 Americans every year.
- Poor sanitation and waste management on factory farms and the poor management of animal waste can lead to the contamination of the food supply by bacteria like E.coli and salmonella. Each year 76 million Americans become ill from food borne illness, and thousands die.
- Some diseases, like H1N1 (Swine Flu) and Avian Flu, are communicable from animals to humans. These “zoonotic” diseases have the potential to become pandemics. Experts believe that the outbreak of H1N1 was likely caused by the overcrowding of pigs on factory farms and the storage of their waste in giant manure lagoons.
For more information on the health risks for humans living near and working on factory farms, visit Factory Farming and Rural Communities
One Green Planet article on animal products and cancer: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/dr-t-colin-campbell-declares-war-cancer-failing-because-meat
Cows Raised for Dairy and Meat
- More than 9.3 million cows were used to produce milk in the United States in 2008, and more than 2.5 million dairy cows were slaughtered for meat. Cows used by the dairy industry are intensively confined, continually impregnated, and bred for high milk production with little concern for their well-being. Far from being the “happy cows” the industry makes them out to be, these typically playful, nurturing animals endure immense suffering on factory farms.
- Like all mammals, dairy cows must be impregnated in order to produce milk. Cows in the dairy industry spend their lives in a constant cycle of impregnation, birth, and milking with just a few short months of rest between pregnancies.
- Nearly all cows used for dairy in the U.S. are eventually slaughtered for human consumption. At an average of less than 5 years of age, exhausted cows are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter, and millions of them are eaten by Americans as hamburger. In a natural setting, a cow can live more than 20 years.
- Usually just within hours of birth, calves are taken away from their mothers. Calves can become so distressed from separation that they become sick, lose weight from not eating, and cry so much that their throats become raw.
- Because male calves will not grow up to produce milk, they are considered of little value to the dairy farmer and are sold for meat. Millions of these calves are taken away to be raised for beef. Hundreds of thousands of other male calves born into the dairy industry are raised for veal. Many people consider veal to be cruel, but they don’t realize that veal production is a product of the dairy industry.
- In the vast majority of dairy operations in the U.S., cows spend their lives indoors, typically on hard, abrasive concrete floors, frequently connected to a milking apparatus.
- In 2007, the average cow in the dairy industry was forced to produce more than 20,000 lbs. of milk in one year — more than double the milk produced 40 years before. Breeding cows for this unnaturally high level of milk production, combined with damage caused to the udders by milking machines, contributes to high levels of mastitis, a very common and very painful swelling of glands of the udder.
- In the name of increased milk production and profit, some dairy cows are repeatedly injected with bovine growth hormone, a genetically-engineered hormone that has been shown to increase the risk of health problems like mastitis and lameness.
- Arguing that it improves hygiene, dairy producers cut off cows’ tails, called “tail docking,” either by placing a tight rubber ring around the tail until it falls off or by cutting it off with a sharp instrument. Each method causes chronic pain. Cows use their tail to swish away flies and can suffer immensely during fly season.
- Investigations have found that cows who collapse because they are too sick or injured to walk or stand, known as “downers” by the industry, are routinely prodded, dragged, and pushed around slaughter
Cows Raised for Meat
- In 2010, 34.2 million cattle were slaughtered for beef in the United States. Often beginning their short lives on rangeland, calves are soon separated from their nurturing mothers and endure a series of painful mutilations. Before they are a year old, young calves endure a long and stressful journey to a feedlot, where they are fattened on an unnatural diet until they reach “market weight” and are sent to slaughter.
- After being taken from their mother, calves’ cries can be so intense that their throats become irritated.
- Calves raised for beef may be subject to a number of painful mutilations, including dehorning, castration, and branding. Even though each of these procedures is known to cause fear and pain, pain relief is rarely provided.
- Because it is thought to improve meat quality and tenderness, male calves are castrated at a young age. Methods include removing testicles surgically with a scalpel, crushing spermatic cords with a clamp, and constricting blood flow to the scrotum until testicles die and fall off. Each method is known to cause pain that can last for days.
- Cattle in the U.S. are often branded by having an iron hotter than 950 °F pressed into their skin for several seconds. This is done so that beef producers can identify cattle and claim ownership.
- Between 6 months and a year of age, cattle are moved from pasture to feedlots to be fattened for slaughter. Calves gain weight on an unnatural diet and reach “market weight” of 1,200 pounds in just 6 months.
- The majority of cattle are fattened in feedlots in just four U.S. states. Since calves are born all over the country, they often endure long and stressful trips from their place of birth to these states without food, water, or protection from the elements.
- Once they reach “market weight,” cattle in the beef industry are trucked to slaughter. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires that livestock be rendered insensible to pain before shackling and slaughter; however, investigations have found that some animals are still conscious when they are shackled and have their throats cut.
- The life of a breeding sow in the U.S. pork industry is one of extreme confinement, stress, and suffering. There were more than 5.8 million pigs used for breeding in the United States in 2011, most of whom were confined to gestation crates, typically lined up row after row in large sheds. These naturally curious and intelligent animals are first impregnated at 7 months of age and live out their lives in a cycle of pregnancy, birth, and nursing until they are eventually sent to slaughter.
- The majority of breeding sows spend nearly the entirety of each pregnancy confined to a gestation crate, which is only slightly larger than their body, making it impossible for them to lie down comfortably or even turn around.
- Gestation crate floors are usually made of slats, which allow manure to fall through, meaning that sows live directly above their own waste. This design exposes sows to high levels of ammonia, and respiratory disease is common in confined sows.
- Standing on the hard, unnatural slatted flooring of a gestation crate takes a toll on pigs’ feet, causing excessive foot injuries, damage to joints, and even lameness.
- The intense boredom and frustration pigs suffer in gestation crates have been blamed by researchers for abnormal, neurotic behaviors confined pigs sometimes exhibit, like repetitively biting at the bars of the gestation crate or chewing with an empty mouth. These behaviors can lead to additional suffering by causing sores and mouth damage.
- Shortly before piglets are born, sows are moved to “farrowing crates” where the piglets will be nursed. The crates, meant to separate the mother from the piglets to avoid crushing, are restrictive to the point that the mother pig can only stand and lie down — she cannot even turn around to see her piglets.
- At only 17–20 days old, the piglets are taken away from their mothers and undergo a series of mutilations, including being castrated and having a portion of their tails removed without any sort of pain relief. The piglets spend the next 6 months of their lives confined to pens until they reach “market weight”; they are then trucked to slaughter.
- Once piglets are weaned, their mothers are put back into the restrictive gestation crates and re-impregnated, and the cycle continues at an average of 2.1–2.5 litters per year until the sow is considered spent and is sent to slaughter herself.
Goats and Sheep
- In the U.S., sheep and goats are raised for meat, for milk, and for fibers used in textiles. In all three industries, these playful, intelligent animals routinely suffer inhumane treatment throughout their lives and are ultimately slaughtered for human consumption. In the U.S., an estimated 2.2 million sheep and lambs and 1.5 million goats are slaughtered for meat every year.
- Sheep used for meat in the U.S. are typically slaughtered when they are very young, because consumers prefer lamb. A lamb is typically slaughtered when he six to eight months old, a tiny fraction of his natural lifespan.
- Most sheep and lambs are “tail-docked” within a few weeks of birth to reduce the build up of fecal matter around their backside. This involves either cutting off the tail or fastening a tight rubber ring around the appendage until it rots and falls off. Lambs exhibit signs of pain when subjected to either method. Tail docking can also lead to chronic pain and an increase in the occurrence of rectal prolapse.
- A sheep’s wool production naturally declines with age. In the wool industry, sheep with decreased wool production are sent to slaughter. In Australia, the source of most of the world’s wool, these sheep are typically exported to Middle Eastern countries by sea, enduring grueling journeys of up to three weeks. The death by throat-slashing that awaits these sheep at their destination often occurs while they are fully conscious.
- Goats used for meat are slaughtered very young, at just a fraction of their natural lifespan. A kid is typically slaughtered when he is just three to five months old.
- Like dairy cows, goats used for dairy are kept continually impregnated through artificial insemination so that they keep producing milk. Kids are taken away at birth, so that their mother’s milk can be used for human consumption. Male kids, considered useless in the dairy industry, are immediately killed.
Chickens raised for eggs
- Chickens used for egg production are among the most abused of all farm animals. In order to meet the consumer demand for eggs, 280 million hens laid 77.3 billion eggs in 2007. From hatching to slaughter, egg-laying hens are subjected to mutilation, confinement, and deprivation of the ability to live their lives as the active, social beings they are.
- Because male chicks will not grow up to lay eggs and, therefore, have little value to the egg industry, 260 million are killed each year upon hatching. Methods include being sucked through a series of pipes onto an electrified “kill plate,” being ground up alive and fully conscious in a “macerator,” or being gassed.
- Female chicks are “debeaked” at a young age, most commonly having a portion of their beaks seared off with a hot blade. Debeaking is meant to prevent the abnormal feather-pecking that can result from the stress of confinement in a battery cage. A chicken’s beak is filled with nerves, and debeaking can result in severe and possibly chronic pain.
- 95% of egg-laying hens spend their lives in battery cages. Battery cages commonly hold 5–10 birds, and each chicken may be given an amount of floor space equivalent to less than a sheet of letter-size paper. Constantly rubbing against and standing on wire cages, hens suffer severe feather loss, and their bodies become covered with bruises and abrasions.
- Today’s hen, selectively bred and artificially induced to yield high egg production, will produce more than 250 eggs annually, compared to 100 eggs annually a century ago.
- In order to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle when production declines, hens are sometimes starved and denied any food for up to two weeks — a process known as “force molting.”
- The lifespan of an industry chicken would be 5–8 years. However, when egg production declines after 1–2 years, hens are considered “spent” and sent to slaughter. Chickens and turkeys are exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act, a federal law that requires some animals to be rendered insensible to pain before slaughter.
- Due to a declining market for “spent” hens, producers often elect to kill them by gassing them with high concentrations of carbon dioxide. In some cases, the gas does not kill the birds, and there have been reports of live hens found at landfills crawling out from piles of decomposing chickens.
Chickens farmed for meat
- Every year, 9 billion chickens are slaughtered for meat in the United States. Called “broilers” by the industry, these curious, social birds are treated simply as production units, selectively bred and fed for abnormally fast growth without consideration for their well-being. The resulting large size contributes significantly to suffering, disease, and early death.
- Chickens raised for meat are selectively bred to grow to “market weight” at an alarming pace. In the past 50 years, the amount a chicken used for meat grows each day has increased by more than 300%.
- Chickens in the meat industry typically spend their lives confined to warehouse-like buildings, each packed with as many as 20,000 chickens. On average, the space per chicken is only slightly larger than a sheet of letter-size paper. This crowding can result in scratches and sores from the birds being forced to walk all over each other.
- A 2006 study found that 55% of uncooked chicken purchased from supermarkets contained arsenic, which is known to cause cancer in humans. Arsenic is added to the feed of approximately 70% of the broilers raised each year because it is believed to promote growth.
- Since more than one flock is sometimes kept on the same litter before the floor is cleaned, floors can be covered in the waste of tens of thousands of chickens. Excessive ammonia levels that can result from the waste breaking down can lead to health problems for chickens, including difficulty breathing.
- The lights are kept on nearly constantly in the buildings where chickens raised for meat are confined. This can stimulate eating and unnaturally rapid growth and limits the opportunity for chickens to sleep and rest, all of which leads to serious health problems.
- Studies have consistently shown that approximately 26–30% of broiler chickens suffer from difficulty walking because their skeletons have trouble supporting their rapidly growing bodies. This can also lead to deformities and lameness.
- The rapid growth of broiler chickens is often associated with acute heart failure. The hearts and lungs of the rapidly growing birds are not able to effectively get oxygen circulated throughout the body. This problem is the leading cause of death in chickens as they reach “market weight.”
- With bodies taxed beyond belief, chickens who survive their time in production are often slaughtered at just 42 days old. They are still “peeping” the sound of baby chicks when they are killed – even though their bodies have ballooned to the size of giant adult chickens in this short time due to industry practices.
- At the slaughterhouse, there is no law in place requiring chickens to be rendered unconscious before slaughter, and the electrified water bath stunning used has been shown to cause painful shocks before it stuns the birds.
- Turkeys raised for human consumption are crowded into poorly ventilated industrial production facilities, sometimes with as many as 10,000 birds packed into a single factory building. In 2007, 265 million of these naturally explorative and socially sophisticated birds were slaughtered in the United States. Bred to grow alarmingly faster than their wild counterparts, turkeys suffer from numerous health complications, including heart disease and painful leg disorders.
- Due to selective breeding, commercial male turkeys rapidly grow to a weight 3 times larger than wild male turkeys in only 4 months. Rapid growth and resulting heavy body weight can lead to heart problems and painful leg issues, which can eventually lead to crippling.
- Male turkeys are bred to develop such large breasts that they can no longer mount females to reproduce naturally. Artificial insemination managed by humans is responsible for all reproduction in domesticated turkeys.
- Turkeys may be confined so tightly that each bird has only between 2.5 to 4 square feet of space each. This space only gets tighter as the turkeys grow larger.
- The dusty, ammonia-filled air inside these facilities is a consequence of poor ventilation and overcrowding. This highly contaminated air is associated with a host of health issues, including respiratory damage and irritated, swollen eyes.
- Because a single worker may be responsible for the care of as many as 30,000 birds, these and other illnesses and injuries can easily go unnoticed.
- Crowding at this level can cause turkeys to injure each other with sharp beaks and toes — a concern to producers because it damages the flesh — so turkeys often have portions of their beaks and toes removed at a young age. Turkeys are routinely debeaked, a painful process in which part of the sensitive, nerve-filled beak is removed using a hot blade, shears, or a high-voltage electrical current. It is also a practice for turkeys to have a portion of their toes removed with surgical shears. Each mutilation is done without pain reliever or anesthetic of any kind.
- Once they reach market weight — on average, 99 days for hens and 136 days for toms — turkeys are thrust into crates and transported to slaughter. Severe injuries, such as dislocated hips and wing fractures, have been reported as a result of rough handling during crating.
- Transport may involve travel over long distances, subjecting turkeys to unfamiliar noises, motion, and extreme temperatures. These stresses, coupled with the deprivation of food and water during transport, contribute to the hundreds of thousands of turkeys who die before they even reach slaughter.
- Following a stressful transport, turkeys arrive at the slaughterhouse. Although the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires animals to be rendered insensible before shackling and slaughter, the USDA does not interpret this law to include birds killed for food, and it does not protect turkeys.
Wool, Leather and Down
Each year, millions of animals in the U.S. are killed to produce wool, leather, down, and other fibers used in the textile industry. These animals are raised in miserable conditions, subjected to cruel practices, and killed young — all to produce fibers that are unnecessary for comfort, utility, or even fashion. Thanks to innovations in plant-based and synthetic materials, excellent alternatives now exist for all these animal-based products.
- Sheep used for wool suffer profoundly. Most wool comes from Australia, where Merino sheep are the most prevalent breed. Bred to have wrinkly skin, Merinos are vulnerable to infestations of fly larva, and the preventative measure favored by farmers is “mulesing,” in which large swaths of skin are sliced from a lamb’s backside. The lambs are given no anesthetics or painkillers during this mutilation.
- Shearers are paid by the sheep, not by the hour. This policy encourages them to rush, resulting in painful nicks and cuts in the sheep’s skin. These wounds can easily become infected, and in herds of thousands, individual medical care for this or any other ailment is rare.
- After years of brutal and often bloody shearing, sheep are slaughtered for meat. Australian sheep are packed by the thousands onto crowded ships for torturous journeys of up to three weeks. Their destination is the Middle East, where poorly enforced slaughter regulations and local religious customs mean sheep may have their throats cut while fully conscious.
- Leather is not simply a byproduct of the meat industry. but an in-demand product that helps keep the meat industry in business. Purchasing leather allows the beef industry to be more profitable and fuels the entire market for cows’ bodies.
- Leather comes from cows, pigs, sheep, goats, and other animals slaughtered for meat. This means that every leather shoe or handbag is made from the flesh of an animal who spent his or her life suffering on a factory farm.
- Some down comes from slaughtered ducks and geese. After birds slaughtered for meat have their throats slashed, they are dunked into tanks of boiling water to remove their feathers. Some of the birds are still conscious when they enter the tanks; they are boiled alive. A single down coat is the product of the suffering and deaths of several ducks or geese.
- In some regions, ducks and geese are “live-plucked.” This means that living birds are held down as feathers are ripped from their bodies. They endure this painful process three to four times before slaughter.
To learn more about cruelty-free clothing, visit our vegan fashion page.
Many people wonder if buying meat, milk, and eggs with labels like “cage-free,” “grass-fed,” or “free-range” is a humane option. They’re concerned about where their food comes from and genuinely want to make better choices. Unfortunately, these labels can be misleading and are not a guarantee of humane treatment.
- Cage-free hens are subject to many of the cruelties inherent to battery cage systems. For instance, cage-free producers typically purchase hens from hatcheries, where male egg-type chickens are considered useless and killed at birth because they will not lay eggs and will not grow as large as chickens bred for meat. Hatcheries kill 260 million male chicks each year.
- Just like caged hens, “cage-free” hens suffer de-beaking, in which a portion of the upper beak is amputated without pain relief. Also like caged hens, “cage-free” layers are kept only for a few years, until their productivity begins to decline. Then they are typically shipped to industrial slaughterhouses. Since poultry animals are excluded from the federal Humane Slaughter Act, packing plants are not required to render these animals unconscious before slaughter.
- Though “cage-free” hens are not confined to battery cages, they may still be packed by the thousands into poorly ventilated, windowless warehouses. Undercover investigations have revealed “cage-free” hens commonly living indoors, packed so tightly that they can barely move or spread their wings.
- USDA regulations do not specify the amount, duration, or quality of outdoor access provided to “free-range” animals. This means that a warehouse with thousands of “free-range” hens could have a single door leading to a small, enclosed outdoor area that hens would have to struggle to access.
- “Grass-fed” labels indicate that animals receive a majority of their nutrients from grass throughout their life, but USDA grass-fed stipulations do not limit the use of antibiotics, hormones, or pesticides, all of which are harmful to the environment and human health.
- Organic dairy may be free of antibiotics and hormones, but it is not free of cruelty. Because cows produce milk only when pregnant or nursing, all dairy farms subject their cows to a relentless cycle of impregnation and birth. Their babies are taken away immediately, so that the milk can be collected for human use. Male calves, since they are of no use to the dairy industry, are sold for beef or veal. When a cow’s milk production declines at an average of less than five years, she too is slaughtered for meat.
- Investigations have shown that some organic milk producers keep cows confined indoors much of the time. Because the requirements for the “organic” label prohibit the use of many medicines, producers frequently allow cows to languish with ailments that otherwise could easily be treated.
To learn more about the truth behind labels, download our brochure The Truth Behind Humane Meat, Milk, and Eggs