Last night I finished reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Eating Animals. I liked the book because, although the topic of factory farming is quite substantial, Foer was able to write about it in a such a way that this book was really a light, casual read. That’s not to say that my mouth didn’t drop on several instances in which he recounted inhumane treatment of the very animals that are on our dinner plates every night.
Lately I’ve been pretty consumed with watching videos, and reading books and articles about ethical animal treatment. Lately I’ve entirely lost my appetite for meat, dairy, eggs, and fish. Let me tell you why:
The following are things that I have learned from the book Eating Animals interspersed with videos on the same topic.
- Layer hens produce eggs. They are not to be confused with broiler chickens which are intended as food.
- Egg-laying hens live their lives in battery cages, stacked up to 9 levels high, with the floor space the size of a sheet of paper. They can’t even turn around. Many go crazy and even cannibalistc in these conditions.
- The farmers manipulate the light in the barn that these hens are housed, creating an artificial springtime so the hens begin laying eggs. Chickens lay over 300 eggs per year (2-3x as many as in nature)
- Layer hens are killed at one year old because it is cheaper to kill them and replace them with a more productive chicken.
- Since male layer chicks can not be raised as broilers and cannot be raised as layer, they are useless to the industry and are sent into a grinding machine while still alive.
- Broilers have been bred as food animals. They have been engineered since the 1930s to grow twice as large in half the time with half the feed. killed at 6 wks (life exp. 15-20years).
- Deformities, chronic pain, and disease are a result of the birds’ flesh growing faster than their bones.
- Due to cramped, stressed, unsanitary living conditions, 95% of chickens are infected with E.coli, 8% with salmonella, and up to 90% with campylobacter.
- At time of slaughter, birds are dragged through an electrified water bath to render them paralyzed but they are still conscious.
- In the US birds are cooled after slaughter in a large communal water tank that is contaminated with feces and bacteria from the birds. The carcasses absorb much of this contaminated water. Up to 11% liquid absorption is allowed by the USDA (so 11% of that chicken you buy is basically toilet water)
- Slatted floors of factory hog farms collect all the pig feces (as well as stillborn piglets, afterbirths, vomit, blood, urine, etc) which is liquefied and pumped into 30 feet deep lagoons adjacent to the hog sheds, spanning 120,000 sq ft. This waste contains over 100 microbial pathogens than can make humans sick.
- Pregnant sows are forced into gestation crates so small that they can’t turn around, they will develop sores from chafing against the crate, and their bone density decreases due to lack of exercise. Their muscle mass deteriorates to the point that it affects their ability to lie down. Many of the pigs go insane in these crates.
- Piglets are weaned from their mother after only 2 weeks (15 weeks is natural for piglets) and fed solid food that they cannot properly digest (enter drugs to prevent diarrhea) . They are placed in cages stacked on top of each other as long as possible until they grow too big. Then they are moved to overcrowded pig pens.
- Run piglets are “euthanized” in a process called thumping which involves them being bashed head first into the concrete floor then tossed in the garbage.
- Turkeys are treated much the same way as factory farmed chickens.
- Turkeys have been bred to create so much meat that they cannot jump, fly, or have sex. Many even have trouble walking.
- Every turkey is the product of artificial insemination because they are no longer capable of natural reproduction
- 10-15% of turkeys die on their way to the slaughter house
And this is just the standard treatment of animals. It doesn’t even include the environmental impacts of factory farming, the effect of feeding animals antibiotics, or the sadistic treatment of animals by farm workers.
So I’m going to be holding off on the meat-eating for a little while. I’ll leave you with my favourite line from the book:
Why is taste, the crudest of our sense, exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses? . . . Try to imagine any end other than taste for which it would be justifiable to do what we do to farmed animals.
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