By Wanda Embar of Vegan Peace
Animals are our fellow creatures. Like us, they can feel pain. Since we can be perfectly healthy on a vegan diet, why should we kill and torture them? Unlike lions or crocodiles, we have the ability to choose what we eat, so why eat animals?
I would like to include this childhood memory by Michael Klaper:
The very saddest sound in all my memory was burned into my awareness at age five on my uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. A cow had given birth to a beautiful male calf. The mother was allowed to nurse her calf but for a single night. On the second day after birth, my uncle took the calf from the mother and placed him in the veal pen in the barn – only ten yards away, in plain view of the mother. The mother cow could see her infant, smell him, hear him, but could not touch him, comfort him, or nurse him. The heartrending bellows that she poured forth – minute after minute, hour after hour, for five long days – were excruciating to listen to. They are the most poignant and painful auditory memories I carry in my brain.
Since that age, whenever I hear anyone postulate that animals cannot feel emotions, I need only to replay that torturous sound in my memory of that mother cow crying her bovine heart out to her infant. Mother’s love knows no species barriers, and I believe that all people who are vegans in their hearts and souls know that to be true.”
— Michael Klaper, M.D.
A lot of people never consciously make the choice to consume animal products. They are given meat and milk their whole childhood and are just used to it. There are no school outings to the slaughterhouse or to factory farms, so children don’t really realize what they are eating. A piece of steak doesn’t come with a picture of the cow who was killed for it. If people had to kill the animals themselves, there would be a lot more vegetarians. The dirty work is done in places we choose not to think about and never visit.
Each year an average of 43.2 billion animals are killed for food worldwide. I will list here some of the cruelty that goes on every day in the animal industry. You can find more detailed information on my Animal Cruelty pages.
Cow at Farm Sanctuary.
Most dairy cows spend their whole life in a concrete stall on a slatted metal floor chained at the neck. They are forced to bear a calf every year. 90% of calves are removed from their mother within 24 hours of birth. 50% of calves never get to suckle from their mothers’ udders. Most male calves are sent to auctions when they are just one day old and female calves are raised to become dairy cows.
A dairy cow only lives about 5 years instead of the normal 20 years. After those 5 years, she will be slaughtered.
Normally hens lay an average of 70 eggs per year. In factory farms, they lay an average of 250 eggs.
About 300 million egg laying hens in the U.S. are confined in battery cages. The USDA recommends giving each hen four inches of ‘feeder space’, which means the agency would advise packing 4 hens in a cage just 16 inches wide. The birds cannot stretch their wings or legs. Constantly rubbing against the wire cages, they suffer from severe feather loss, and their bodies are covered with bruises and abrasions.
After one year in egg production, the birds are classified as ‘spent hens’, and sent off to slaughter. They usually end up in soups, pot pies, or similar low grade chicken meat products where their bodies can be shredded to hide the bruises from consumers.
Male chicks, who are considered worthless, are usually killed on their first day of life by suffocation, gas or grinding.
Sheep have been genetically manipulated to produce abnormally excessive amounts of wool. As a result, they are no longer capable of shedding their wool and must be shorn.
Sheep shearers are paid by piece rate. They often handle the sheep very roughly. Sheep are frequently cut and injured during shearing. After being sheared, the animals must endure extreme weather conditions without protection. During cold weather, hundreds of thousands of sheep die of exposure or freeze to death. In hot weather, freshly shorn sheep suffer painful sunburns.
Merinos are the most commonly raised wool-producing sheep. Their unnatural skin folds and excessive coats cause severe heat exhaustion and fly infestations. To reduce fly problems, the sheep are subjected to mulesing, a surgical procedure performed on about 20 percent of Australia’s 150 million sheep. Mulesing involves cutting large strips of flesh of the hind legs of four-week-old lambs.
Another procedure performed is tail docking, designed to maintain the salable condition of the wool surrounding a sheep’s anus, whereby the tail and some skin on each side of the tail stump is cut off with a knife.
These procedures are performed on fully conscious lambs without any analgesic, producing varying degrees of acute pain that may last for hours or even days.
“The pain system in fish is virtually the same as in birds and mammals.”
— Dr. Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare, Cambridge University
When fish are hooked or netted, they try desperately to escape, which shows their strong will to survive.
Fish are dragged from ocean depths and undergo excruciating decompression. Often the intense internal pressure ruptures their swimbladder, pops out their eyes and pushes their stomach through their mouth. Then they are tossed onboard where many slowly suffocate or are crushed to death. Others are still alive when their throats and bellies are cut open.
Even though pollen is the honeybee’s primary source of nutrition, honey is its sole food source during cold weather and other times when alternatives are not available. Half an ounce of honey involves between eight hundred and eleven hundred nectar-collecting expeditions.
Besides honey, beekeepers harvest beeswax, bee pollen, propolis, and royal jelly. To be able to remove these materials from the hive, bees are forced out of their homes. This is usually done by smoking or shaking the hives or with the use of repellents and forced air. In the process, some bees are killed.
During unproductive months, some large commercial beekeepers poison or starve their bees to death or burn the hive. Getting new bees is cheaper than maintaining the hives. They will also often take all the honey, instead of leaving enough for the bees to get through the winter. The honey is then replaced with a cheap sugar substitute.
Many beekeepers will cut off the wings of queen bee, so that she cannot leave the colony.
A lot of people who don’t like the way animals are treated in factory farms buy free-range meat and eggs. But how well are animals treated on those free-range farms? I include some facts about free-range farms here. More detailed information can be found on my Organic Meat, Dairy & Eggs page.
“Free-range” means that the animals are not kept in cages. However, instead of being able to enjoy the outdoors, they are often confined indoors in very crowded places their whole lives. And, like factory farm animals, they are often still subjected to a lot of abuse.
Companies that promote their eggs as being “free-range”, organic where hens run free “in a natural setting” and are “humanely housed”, do not necessarily treat their animals very well. Chickens at some of those farms get no more than 11/2 square feet of space each, which is not enough room to spread their wings. They also lay 250 eggs a year, instead of the normal 70. And they are occasionally force-molted. Force-molted means that the chickens are denied food for several days, which forces them to loose their feathers, or molt, and stop laying eggs for a couple of months. Force-molting is used by farmers to adjust egg prices.
Chickens can live for 15 years. Chickens on commercial free-range farms don’t produce enough eggs to remain profitable after 1 or 2 years. Even on small family farms, chickens are usually kept for only 2 or 3 years. When the chickens don’t produce enough eggs anymore, they are sold to slaughterhouses.
Just like on factory farms, most “free-range” male chicks are considered worthless and are killed at birth.
Some “humanely raised” dairy cows, like factory-farm cows, also have their days-old male baby taken from them to be sold to veal farmers.
All animal products are linked to suffering. If you want to live your life in this world contributing as little as possible to the suffering, staying away from animal products is the only way.
Even if you can’t solve world hunger or attain world peace, you can absolutely control what you put in your mouth. You don’t necessarily have to become an animal activist. You don’t have to hold up banners in front of a slaughterhouse. You can make a huge change for these animals, just by choosing not to contribute to their suffering. Just by choosing to put something on your plate that does not include death body parts. Just by drinking something that wasn’t meant for the baby of a cow.
Read more from Wanda Embar at her website, Vegan Peace.