On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and stuffed into wire cages, metal crates, and other torturous devices. These animals will never raise their families, root around in the soil, see the sun, build nests, or do anything that is natural and important to them.
The factory farming industry strives to maximize output while minimizing costs—always at the animals’ expense. The giant corporations that run most factory farms have found that they can make more money by squeezing as many animals as possible into tiny spaces, even though many of the animals die from disease or infection.
The Truth on Factory Farming
Animals are given so little space that they can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably. Egg-laying hens are kept in small cages, chickens and pigs are kept in jam-packed sheds, and cows are kept on crowded, filthy feedlots.
Antibiotics are used to make animals grow faster and to keep them alive in the unsanitary conditions.
Most factory-farmed animals have been genetically manipulated to grow larger or to produce more milk or eggs than they naturally would.
When they’ve grown large enough or their bodies have been worn out from producing milk or eggs, animals raised for food are crowded onto trucks and transported for miles through all weather extremes, typically without food or water.
At the slaughterhouse, those who survived the transport will have their throats slit, often while they’re still conscious. Many remain conscious when they’re plunged into the scalding-hot water for the defeathering or hair-removal tanks or while their bodies are being skinned or hacked apart.
Mother pigs (sows) spend most of their lives in individual “gestation” crates which are too small to allow them to turn around. After giving birth to piglets, sows are moved to “farrowing” crates, which are wide enough for them to lie down and nurse their babies but not big enough for them to turn around or build nests for their young. Once her piglets are gone, the sow is impregnated again and the cycle continues for three or four years before she is slaughtered.
Piglets are separated from their mothers when they are as young as 10 days old. Then they are confined to pens until they are separated to be raised for breeding or meat.
In extremely crowded conditions, piglets are prone to stress-related behavior such as cannibalism and tail-biting, so farmers often chop off piglets’ tails and use pliers to break off the ends of their teeth—without giving them any painkillers.
Once pigs reach “market weight” (250 to 270 pounds), the industry refers to them as “hogs” and they are sent to slaughter. According to industry reports, more than 1 million pigs die en route to slaughter each year. No laws regulate the duration of transport, frequency of rest, or provision of food and water for the animals.
A typical slaughterhouse kills about 1,000 hogs per hour. The sheer number of animals killed makes it impossible for pigs’ deaths to be humane and painless. Because of improper stunning, many hogs are still alive when they reach the scalding-hot water baths to soften their skin and remove their hair.
Health Problems and Environmental Hazards
Because crowding creates an environment conducive to the spread of disease, pigs on factory farms are fed antibiotics and sprayed with huge amounts of pesticides.
The antibiotics and pesticides remain in their bodies and are passed along to people who eat them, creating serious health hazards for humans.
Pigs and other factory-farmed animals are fed 20 million pounds of antibiotics each year, and scientists linked these drugs to cause new strains of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
Senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld reported that the meat industry is “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems.”
Each factory-farmed pig produces about 9 pounds of manure per day. As a result, many tons of waste end up in giant pits, polluting the air and groundwater. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agricultural runoff is the number one source of pollution in our waterways.
What You Can Do
Stop factory-farming abuses by supporting legislation that abolishes intensive-confinement systems. Stop buying factory-farmed products and support local organic farms. By knowing your farmer and where your food comes from, you can support animal welfare and environmental conservation. And ultimately, eat safer and healthier.