The competition to produce inexpensive meat, eggs, and dairy products has led animal agribusiness to treat animals as objects and commodities. The worldwide trend is to replace small family farms with “factory farms”-large warehouses where animals are confined in crowded cages or restrictive pens.
Chickens Raised for Meat:
Virtually all birds raised for food are factory farmed. Inside the densely populated sheds, vast amounts of waste accumulate. The resulting ammonia levels commonly cause painful burns to the birds’ skin, eyes, and respiratory tracts.
Today’s broiler reaches market, weight in about one third of the time it took the traditional broiler. This rapid growth rate has been accompanied by an increasingly high incidence of conditions that cause suffering, such as ascites and painful skeletal deformities. According to Professor John Webster of the University of Bristol’s School of Veterinary Science, “Broilers are the only livestock that are in chronic pain for the last 20% of their lives.” In order to avoid problems of reproduction and lameness associated with obesity, broilers used for breeding are severely feed restricted.
Packed in cages (usually less than half a square foot of floor space per bird), hens can become immobilized and die of asphyxiation or dehydration. Decomposing corpses are found in cages with live birds. To cut losses from birds pecking each other, farmers remove a third to a half of the beak from egg-laying hens, breeding chickens, and most turkeys and ducks. Without pain relief, the beak is partially amputated with a heated blade; or the end is damaged with a laser, infrared beam, or powerful electric spark and sloughs off days later. The birds suffer severe pain for weeks. Some, unable to eat afterwards, starve.
Each week, hundreds of thousands of laying hens die on farms. Most endure one to two years of battery-cage confinement before they’re disposed of as “spent hens.” By the time their egg production declines, the birds’ skeletons are so fragile that many suffer broken bones as they’re removed from the cages. Male chicks, of no economic value to the egg industry, are typically macerated (ground up alive) or gassed. In some cases, they are simply thrown into garbage bags alive, as depicted in the picture below of chicks dead and dying in a dumpster behind a hatchery.
Dairy Cows :
For many people, dairy farming conjures up images of small herds of cows leisurely grazing on open pastures. Although scenes like this still exist in the world, most milk is produced by cows raised in intensive production systems. Some cows are housed indoors year-round, and lactating cows are often kept restrained in tie stalls or stanchions.
Although they don’t reach mature size until at least 4 years old, dairy cows first give birth at about 2 years of age and are usually bred again. It is unprofitable to keep dairy cows alive once their milk production declines. Each year, approximately one quarter of the cows who survive the farms are sent to slaughter, most often due to reproductive problems or mastitis. Cows can live more than 20 years, however they’re usually slaughtered and used to produce ground beef at about 5 years of age, after roughly 2.5 lactations.
The fastest growing food-producing sector is aquaculture; one of two fish eaten is now raised on a farm rather than caught in the wild. As with other forms of animal agriculture, the practices employed by fish farmers are designed to increase profitability but can reduce the well-being of the fish. Welfare concerns include: poor water quality, aggression, injuries, and disease associated with inappropriate stocking densities; health problems due to selection for fast growth; handling and removal from water during routine husbandry procedures; food deprivation during disease treatment and before harvest; and pain during slaughter.