Understanding how animals are killed for food is clearly not a pleasant subject. However, all consumers have a right to be aware of how animals farmed for food production are killed, and to understand the extent of the killing involved, in order to make an informed choice as to whether or not they wish to be a part of it.
The following explains what happens before meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products end up on the supermarket shelves. Each person who rejects animal products and goes vegan makes a huge difference.
You can give this story a happy ending; go vegan and experience for yourself a lifestyle that is kinder to animals, people and the environment.
Cattle are gregarious animals who, in a more natural environment, would live in complex social groups. They would choose a leader and form close friendships, grooming and licking one other to show their affection. Cattle-farming upsets this hierarchy in many ways, because new members and divisions of the herd occur frequently and this can be very disruptive.
Cattle bred for beef may be kept in a variety of systems. Frequently they are kept in windowless fattening sheds until ready for slaughter. They have little room to move and no access to the outside, to feel fresh air and sunlight.
How They Are Killed
Cattle are stunned by a shot into their brain from a captive-bolt pistol. Frequently they struggle or move around because they are terrified by the situation, so sometimes the bolt misses the mark and the cattle are not stunned. Thus they are conscious while being killed by having their throat slit and bleeding to death.
Purchasing leather ensures the continuity of a massive industry based on animal suffering. The leather industry makes a huge profit each year, mainly from cattle and calf skins.
Most cows are now artificially inseminated. The cow is tied up and one hand of the inseminator manipulates the cervix through the rectum wall while the other discharges semen into the vagina and cervix using an inseminating gun. This is uncomfortable and stressful for the cow.
Both the mother and calf suffer greatly at the hands of the milk industry.
Dairy cows have been selectively bred to produce ten times more milk than they would naturally need to feed their calves. This can lead to mastitis, a painful udder infection, and lameness when they are forced to stand all day in the cow shed. In order to produce milk the mother must be kept continually pregnant. So three months after she has given birth, and while she is still producing milk, she will be made pregnant. This puts a huge strain on her. Moreover, the calf is taken away soon after birth so that any milk produced by the cow can be sold for humans to drink. The mother and calf form a strong bond very quickly and the cow continuously calls after her calf has been taken away from her. The separation also causes a lot of confusion and distress for the calf. The cow is put through this heart-breaking and exhausting procedure not once, but an average of five times, until she is deemed to be no ‘use’ to the farmer and killed.
The calf is usually disbudded, whereby a heated iron is applied to the horn buds to stop the horns from growing. This is painful and stressful. Male cattle are also castrated by methods that cause the animal acute pain. Female calves are often kept to produce milk. Male calves are usually sent abroad for veal or deemed ‘useless’ and killed.
On organic farms the dairy cow still has to deal with continual pregnancies, and the mother and calf are still separated very soon after birth. Castration and disbudding of calves may still be carried out, and, as on nonorganic farms, slaughter is inevitable.
Sheep are social herd animals who tend to be gentle and passive. They have been found to feel desolate when those close to them die or are sent for slaughter. When farmed for their flesh and wool, sheep are exposed to a series of stresses and abuses throughout their lives.
Lambs are castrated with a rubber ring around their testes or by having them cut off with a knife, usually without anesthetic.
During this mutilation the lamb’s tail is usually removed by means of a tight rubber ring, though a knife or hot iron may be used. Again anesthetic is rarely used. Sheep are also put through a barrage of other stressful procedures including artificial insemination, force-feeding, dipping and spraying.
Killing For Meat
Sheep are usually slaughtered by electrical stunning followed by having their throat slit. However, stunning is not always effective and sheep may regain consciousness when their throats are slit or while blood is being drained from their body, a terrifying experience.
The wool industry is a massive profit-making industry in itself. As well as all the cruelties involved in rearing for meat, the additional practices of mulesing and shearing cause even greater suffering to sheep used in wool production.
This is a practice carried out across Australia, where most wool comes from, and it was introduced to reduce the risk of fly-strike. Fully-conscious lambs have chunks of flesh sliced from their back end. The lamb may be in excruciating pain and left with a wound that takes weeks to heal.
This is also extremely stressful with the sheep being forcibly restrained as workers rush to shear them, and bloody injuries often occur. One worker reported, “I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off”. In Australia alone, an estimated one million sheep die every year from exposure after shearing.
Live Export and Transport
Current methods of transporting sheep are extremely crude and present a number of welfare concerns. During loading and unloading, frightened or tired sheep are not treated with sympathy. Instead they are pushed and hit by stockmen. This certainly causes unnecessary fear in the animals and may also cause them to slip or fall, resulting in cuts, bruises and even broken bones. While being transported, sheep are crammed in with not even enough space to turn around. On journeys that may last days or even weeks, conditions are often appalling. Sheep may suffer from starvation, dehydration, injury and disease and any that fall to the floor are usually crushed to death. Many die before reaching their destination.
POULTRY AND EGGS
Chickens can be very sociable. They enjoy sunbathing and, like turkeys, love to dust-bathe in order to keep clean. As with other birds, mother hens’ desire to build a nest for their young is very strong. They have a strong bond with their chicks which begins even before they are hatched, with the chick and hen calling to each other. In the wild ducks and geese spend much of their time swimming and flying and may travel for hundreds of miles during migration. Geese choose one partner who they stay with for life through thick and thin while ducks live and sleep in groups.
The Life of a Broiler Chicken and Other Birds ‘Grown’ for Meat
On factory farms these birds are taken from their mothers before birth, thus being denied most of their natural types of behavior. No water is provided for ducks and geese to swim in and there is no chance for hens and turkeys to dust-bathe. They are crammed into sheds where the stench of ammonia from their droppings is intense and often leads to respiratory problems. Selective breeding means that these young birds grow very fast. Their bones have no time to become strong enough to hold their weight, so many birds have broken bones and most have lost the ability to fly. An investigation by Compassion in World Farming found crippled birds in chicken farms unable to reach food and drink, carcasses trampled by live chickens and piles of decomposing bodies left to rot.
Birds are commonly hung upside down in shackles by their feet and passed through a bath of electrified water, which should stun them before their throats are slit. The birds are killed at the rate of 8-10,000 per hour and left to bleed to death.
Most laying hens are kept in battery cages with several birds to one cage. The amount of room in which each bird spends her life is roughly the same size as a sheet of paper or a microwave oven. In these conditions hens often fight. To prevent this they are de-beaked by having the tip of their beak sliced off. This is an agonizing procedure which leaves the hen in pain for days. It has been found that hens who have been de-beaked avoid using their beaks except for feeding. Privacy is very important to an egg-laying hen but is utterly denied to her. Her desire to make a nest is also very strong, but again this is simply not possible.
Other alternatives are free-range and barn systems but each creates its own welfare concerns. For example, in free-range and barn systems there is more aggression leading to greater feather-pecking and cannibalism. Just like hens in battery cages, free-range and barn hens are often de-beaked. As in the battery system, half of all chicks are gassed at a day old because they are males and hence no good for egg-laying.
Fish and Pain
Not only do fish feel pain, they are very sensitive to stimuli. Some of their senses are far more developed than ours. Fish are highly responsive to touch and have an incredible sense of smell. They have sensory hairs along their backs that allow them to detect gentle currents and vibrations and sense the motion of other animals. Like other animals, fish use the sensation of pain to help them survive. It tells them when they have entered a dangerous situation from which they should withdraw immediately. It is pain that motivates a fish to fight vigorously when hooked, in a desperate attempt to get away.
Net Losses of Life
Various types of nets are used in sea-fishing, including drift nets and bottom trawls. Drift nets may be over two miles long. Fish that swim into the net become trapped by their gills when they try to back out. Marine mammals, such as seals and porpoises, also become trapped and drown when unable to reach the surface to breathe. Bottom trawls are dragged over the seabed and, as well as fish, catch every other species living on the seabed.
The Way They Die
As the fish are dragged from the ocean, they experience decompression which often causes the eyes to pop and the swim bladder to rupture. Many are crushed to death under the weight of other dying fish and those that survive are left to suffocate when removed from the water or may be gutted alive.
Fishing Has Devastated the Oceans
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that all seventeen of the world's major fishing areas have either reached or exceeded their natural limits, and nine are in serious decline. Overfishing has an impact on whole ecosystems since other fish, birds, marine mammals and smaller organisms that depend on fish to survive are affected.
The rearing of farmed fish can be compared to other types of factory farming. With very limited space the fish can barely exercise and injuries to the snout and fins are common. These are generally caused by rubbing against the net or by collision or aggression between fish. Wild salmon migrate over hundreds of miles and this is completely frustrated by keeping them in the small, static cages that fish-farming involves. The stocking density of salmon is equivalent to keeping a two foot salmon in a bath, while trout have even less space to move.
Before slaughter, fish are starved for up to three weeks. They may then be killed by electrocution, by a blow to the head with a club or by being frozen to death on ice. Alternatively, the fish’s gill arches are cut or torn and life is literally drained as they are left to bleed to death in the tank. Fish-farms may be rife with disease so large quantities of chemicals are used in an attempt to control it. Ironically, fish-farming also affects wild fish who are fed to farmed fish such as salmon, trout and cod. It takes up to three tons of wild fish to produce one ton of farmed salmon, and up to five tons to produce a ton of farmed cod or haddock.
The True Cost
Few consumers realize that the true cost of cheap salmon includes the deaths of millions of other animals who are seen as predators. Birds, seals, mink, otters and many other animals are killed by the fish-farmers.
Pigs are sociable, tactile and inquisitive animals. They like to roll in mud to keep cool and protect their sensitive skin from the sun. They are very clean and, given the chance, they will always keep their ‘latrine’ separate from their living quarters. In a more natural environment the sow would build a nest up to three feet high for her babies. In the factory farm the sow is given a concrete floor with no straw and the nesting instinct is totally frustrated. The pregnant sow will nose at straw that isn’t there to make a nest she’ll never have for another litter she’ll never raise. The sow can barely move and often ends up crushing some of her piglets. In the wild the sow constructs the nest so that crushing cannot happen, but in the factory farm the death of many piglets in this way is almost inevitable.
The sow’s piglets are taken away after three weeks, causing great distress to mother and babies. The piglets are still reliant upon their mother at this time, and in a natural environment would still be suckling. Most piglets have their teeth clipped and tails cut off to stop them from fighting and tail chewing. They are put into small pens or metal cages, and after about six weeks go to fattening pens where they have little room to move and never see fresh air. Their intelligent, enquiring minds are dulled down by boredom and total lack of stimulation.
Pigs to be killed are stunned with electric tongs or gas, hoisted up by one leg and have their throats slit. They are then put into a tank of boiling water to remove their bristles. Many pigs regain consciousness before they die from loss of blood. There are reports of pigs being boiled alive because they had not been stunned properly.
HONEY, SILK AND SHELLAC
Honey, silk and shellac are produced using bees, moths and lac insects respectively. Being such tiny creatures, their needs are often overlooked. This is very unfortunate because thousands are required to yield a small amount of honey, silk or shellac.
Bees are social insects who live in a well organized colony. They work together to keep the colony running smoothly, protecting and feeding one other and undertaking many other tasks together. In commercial honey production, bees undergo treatments similar to those used in factory farming. Whole colonies of bees may be killed to save feeding them during the winter, and the queen bee has her wings clipped and is artificially inseminated with sperm from decapitated male bees. Beekeepers take the bees’ honey, and to replace it often feed them artificial pollen substitutes and white sugar syrup. The honeybee flies about 500 miles in her working life and produces half a teaspoon of honey. Much of this is taken away.
This is produced by silkworms. A silk cocoon is spun by the silkworm caterpillar by manipulating a thin silk thread in a figure of eight movement some 300,000 times. Once the caterpillar is ready to turn into a moth, she must break down the cocoon in order to emerge. This process would destroy much of the silk, therefore the majority of the moths are killed by being immersed in boiling water or dried in an oven. It takes literally hundreds of silkworms to make just one small silk scarf or tie.
This is a secretion produced by Lac insects as a protective coating. The secretion is scraped off the trees on which they live and turned into shellac. Some of the insects are scraped off at the same time and die.
How has milk production changed since the 1950s? Intensive dairy practices and modified feeds have enabled U.S. dairy cows to produce 2.5 times as much milk today as they did in the 1950s. These intensive practices place dairy cattle under enormous stress to produce an abnormally large amount of milk, 10-20 times the amount of milk they need to suckle their calves. As a result, dairy cattle "burn out" at a much younger age than their normal life span or even the life span of a milk-producing dairy cow in the 1950s and consequently are culled and slaughtered at an early age.
Up to 33% of dairy cows develop mastitis, a very painful udder infection that can become systemic, and is a common reason for early slaughtering. Abnormally large udders produce problems walking, so a cow's legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Her back problems are aggravated when she must walk on hard ground and concrete.
The dairy farms of today are quite different than the picturesque sunshine-filled meadows of contented cows we imagined as children. Today, most dairy cattle are confined to a barren fenced lot with a packed dirt floor, where they must endure all types of weather, including rain and extreme temperatures 24 hours a day. Factory farming systems (sometimes known as dry-lot) seldom provide shade, shelter or clean comfortable resting areas. Dairy cattle are often covered with their own filth because they cannot escape the dirty dry lot conditions. In colder climates dairy cattle may be provided shelter in winter, but most dairy practices remain the same.
To boost their milk production, the cattle are fed high intensity feeds and grains that often cause digestive upset. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase, by up to 25%, the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH.
The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infection. The large numbers of cattle that are crammed into small spaces where the soil is hard and compact increases the incidence of injury and lameness as well. Some dairies have up to one thousand cows, which means the factory dairy farmer may often fail to recognize that veterinary care is needed until the illness or injury has progressed beyond successful treatment ... and the cows are sent to slaughter.
Fully 25% of dairy cattle are slaughtered before they are 3 years old. Only 25% of dairy cattle live more than 7 years, although the natural life span for cattle is 20-25 years. (The oldest cow on record lived to be 49 years old.) Injury, illness, milk production lower than optimum, poor conception rates, and other factory-farming-induced health problems are common reasons dairy cattle are sold for slaughter long before they have lived out their natural life span.
Every year 17 million shots of antibiotics are given to cattle for infections related to milk production and other diseases. Most commercial ground beef is made from the meat of culled dairy cattle. Because dairy cattle have not been raised specifically for human consumption, dairy cattle have often been treated with antibiotics shortly before being butchered in an attempt to cure the disease that later resulted in their being killed. Therapeutic antibiotics are also routinely given to dairy calves and cattle. This means that antibiotics are entering the human food chain through the consumption of the milk and meat of dairy cattle. Many experts feel that the excessive consumption of antibiotic-tainted animal products has created a number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (superbugs) that may be a threat to human health.
A heifer (female) calf will probably remain on the farm to replace her mother or some other worn-out milk producer. A bull (male) calf is usually thrown in a truck and sent to an auction while he is still wet with amniotic fluid, still unable to stand by himself. Many bull calves die at the auction yard and those who don't are often sold to a veal operation, where they live out their short lives confined to a tiny crate that prevents almost all movement and fed an iron-poor diet to make their flesh pale. For calves reared as replacement heifers, life is not much better -- farmers make feeding and maintenance easier by housing the heifers for the first few months of their lives in crates barely larger than veal crates.
The days of a calf being born in a field and being nurtured by her dam are long gone. Calves are separated from their mothers within 24 hours of birth, and weaned from milk within 8 weeks (calves will gladly suckle for as long as eight months if allowed to do so). A calf separated from her mother at an early age does not receive any immunities through her mother's milk, and is therefore vulnerable to disease -- a 10% mortality rate is common.
The nearly half a million factory farms in the U.S. produce 130 times more waste than the human population. Cattle produce nearly one billion tons of organic waste each year. The waste from livestock, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides are a primary source of water pollution in this country. Wastes from dairies, feedlots and chicken and hog farms enter waterways, damaging aquatic ecosystems and making the water unfit for consumption. Cattle also emit methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide, three of the four gases responsible for trapping solar heat.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can take an active role by decreasing or eliminating meat and dairy products from your diet. You and the cattle will both benefit from your efforts. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses vegetarian diets. Seven common diet-related conditions -- heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity, and food-borne illness -- are attributable to meat consumption. (For a copy of the report, write: Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250.) Report any suspected farm animal abuse or neglect to your local authorities.
Every year, approximately 35,000 bulls are tormented and killed in bullfights in Spain alone. Although many bullfight attendees are American tourists, 90 percent of these tourists never return to another fight after witnessing the relentless cruelty that takes place in the ring. Spanish bulls and their many counterparts in Mexico and other countries are victims of a savage display disguised as "art" or "entertainment".
Spanish and Mexican bullfight advertisers lure American tourists with mystique. They claim the fight is festive, artistic, and a fair competition between skill and force. What they do not reveal is that the bull never has a chance to defend himself, much less survive.
Many prominent former bullfighters report that the bull is intentionally debilitated with tranquilizers and laxatives, beatings to the kidneys, petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to blur vision, heavy weights hung around their neck for weeks before the fight, and confinement in darkness for hours before being released into the bright arena.
A well-known bullfight veterinarian, Dr. Manuel Sanz, reports that in 1987 more than 90 percent of bulls killed in fights had their horns "shaved" before the fight. Horn shaving involves sawing off several inches of the horns so the bull misses his thrusts at the altered angle.
The matador, two picadors on horses, and three men on foot stab the bull repeatedly when he enters the ring. After the bull has been completely weakened by fear, blood loss, and exhaustion, the matador attempts to make a clean kill with a sword to the heart. Unfortunately for the suffering bull, the matador rarely succeeds and must make several thrusts, often missing the bull's heart and piercing his lungs instead. Often a dagger must be used to cut the spinal cord and spare the audience the sight of a defenseless animal in the throes of death. The bull may still be fully conscious but paralyzed when his ears and tail are cut off as the final show of "victory."
Mexican bullfighting has an added feature: novillada, or baby bullfights. There is no ritual in this slaughter of calves. Baby bulls, some no more than a few weeks old, are brought into a small arena where they are stabbed to death by spectators, many of whom are children. These bloodbaths end with spectators hacking off the ears and tail of the often fully conscious calf lying in his own blood.
The so-called "bloodless bullfights" that are legal in many U.S. states are only slightly less barbaric than their bloody counterparts. Although the bulls in these "fights" are not killed in the ring, they are often slaughtered immediately afterward. During the fights they are tormented, teased, and terrified.
The bulls aren't the only victims of the intense cruelty of the arena. According to Lyn Sherwood, publisher of an English-language bullfight magazine, horses used in bullfights are "shot behind the ear with dope. The horses are drugged and blindfolded and they're knocked down a lot." These horses, who are often gored, usually have wet newspaper stuffed in their ears to impair their hearing, and their vocal cords are usually cut so their cries do not distract the crowd. Fight promoters claim the horses are "saved" from glue factories; this means these animals are often old, tired plow horses who end up being knocked down by bulls weighing up to a half a ton.
Bulls today are specially bred for bullfighting. They are raised on hundreds of registered bull ranches located in various parts of Mexico. Selective breeding has enabled ranchers to create a bull who will die in a manner most satisfying to the public. Because the sight of a wounded bull desperately trying to retreat from the ring would ruin the image of the "sport," bulls are bred to return to the torture repeatedly and appear to be a wild and vicious challenge to the matador.
While its exact origins are not known, bullfighting is believed to have emerged in connection with ancient fertility rites. In 1567, Pope Pius V decreed that "exhibitions of tortured beasts or bulls is contrary to Christian duty and piety." He called for "an end to such bloody amusements, abject and more appropriate for devils than for men." The penalty for violating this decree, which has never been repealed, is excommunication. In 1725, bullfighting began to assume its present state when Francisco Romero invented a stick with a red cloth suspended from the end, which he used to tease and torment the bulls. Today's bullfighting maneuvers became defined in the 1700s and have changed little since. Recent polls of Spanish citizens show they are not particularly interested in attending bullfights. But tourists' money keeps bullfight profiteers in business.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you are planning to visit a country that permits or encourages bullfighting, please tell your travel agent you are opposed to animal cruelty in any form. Many tourist resorts are building bullfight arenas as part of their "recreation" facilities; refuse to stay at such a resort, and write a letter to the owner explaining why you will not stay there. Instead, visit the resort town of Tossa de Mar, which was the first town in Spain to ban bullfights and related advertising. Tell others the facts about bullfighting and urge them to protest as well. When tourists stop attending bullfights, profiteers will stop the cruelty. Bloody or bloodless, bullfighting is a senseless, degrading spectacle that has no place in a civilized society.
Many people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool. But without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. The fleece provides effective insulation against both cold and heat. Until shears were invented in 1000 B.C., the only way to obtain wool was to "pluck" sheep during molting seasons. Breeding for continuous growth began after the advent of shears.
With an estimated 148 million sheep, Australia produces eighty percent of all wool used worldwide. Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, and individual attention to their needs is virtually impossible.
Just weeks after birth, lambs' ears are punched, their tails are chopped off, and males are castrated without anesthetic. According to Australian Law Reform Chairman, M.D. Kirby, Australian sheep suffer over 50 million operations a year that would constitute cruelty if performed on dogs or cats. Extremely high rates of mortality are considered "normal": 20-40 percent of lambs die at birth or before the age of eight weeks from cold or starvation; eight million mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect. One million of these die within 30 days of shearing.
In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are Merinos, specifically bred to have wrinkly skin (which means more wool per animal). This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can literally eat sheep alive. To prevent "flystrike," Australian ranchers perform a barbarous operation--"mulesing"--or carving huge strips of skin off the backs of unanesthetized lambs' legs. This is done to cause smooth, scarred skin that won't harbor fly eggs. Yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they heal; and despite the feeling by many that mulesing may kill more sheep than it saves, the mutilation continues.
Aging sheep are subjected to "tooth-grinding," an unanesthetized procedure that sheep farmers claim reduces tooth loss and extends the sheep's productive life. A battery-operated grinder is used to wear down the teeth. Another method involves using the edge of a disc cutter to cut right through the teeth near the level of the gums. This terrifying and painful procedure exposes the sensitive pulp cavities inside and causes the teeth to bleed profusely.
Faced with such vast amounts of death and disease, the rational step would be to reduce the numbers of sheep so as to maintain the existing ones decently. Instead, sheep are forced to bear more lambs by the administration of drugs. Malnourished ewes are taken into laboratories and placed in climate-controlled chambers to determine how much exposure they can withstand before they die.
Like other "commodities," animals can fall victim to fluctuations in the economy. In 1990, 10 million Australian sheep were shot and buried in mass graves when they became practically valueless due to a lingering drought and low wool prices.
Sheep are sheared each spring, after lambing, just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Timing is critical: shearing too late means loss of wool. In the rush, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year of exposure after premature shearing. A closely shorn sheep is, in fact, more sensitive to cold than a naked man since a sheep's normal body temperature is about 102 degrees F, much higher than a human's.
When shearing, speed is everything. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by hour, which encourages working quickly and carelessly. Says one eyewitness: "the shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals. I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or fists until the sheep's noses bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off."
When the sheep age and are no longer effective wool producers, they are transported long distances to slaughterhouses in trucks and trains without food or water. Those who fall are trampled by other frightened animals. On arrival, the dead and dying are piled into heaps. Those with foot rot attempt to drag themselves on their knees.
The ultimate cruelty is the live export of seven million sheep every year from Australia to the Middle East, which the Wool Council of Australia supports as "an important component of the wool and sheep industry." These sheep travel vast distances until they reach the feedlots where they are held before being loaded onto ships. Many sheep, ill or wounded from the journey, faced with intensive crowding, disease, and strange food, die in the holding pens. Eighteen percent of sheep die during the 3-6 week transport process; in just one Australian feedlot, 15,000 sheep died from cold in 1983.
The surviving sheep--7 million a year--are herded onto huge 14-tier-high ships resembling the old slave-trade ships. Up to 125,000 sheep are packed tightly into each ship, each allocated an area hardly bigger than themselves, so that not all can lie down at once, or reach the feed troughs. Mired in their own waste for three weeks or more, the sheep suffer from sea-sickness, temperature extremes, disease, and injuries. Younger animals or babies born en route are often trampled to death. Shipboard mortality ranges up to 10 percent, and for every sheep who dies, many others become ill and are injured.
When the three-week trip to the Middle East is over, the surviving sheep are killed in ritual slaughter (Halal). Since Moslem religious law does not require that the knife be sharpened between kills, sheep often have their throats sawed open with dull knives. According to one witness in the Sitra abbatoir in Bahrain, men would begin slaughtering as soon as a pen was full. The sheep would "wave their heads in obvious confusion, trying to stand up and call out as the blood gushed from their throats." Other sheep are loaded into the trunk of a car for later slaughtering at the buyer's home.
Sheep aren't the only animals who suffer as a result of the wool industry. The Australian government permits the slaughter of approximately 5 million kangaroos a year because it views them as "pests" who eat grass ranchers want for their sheep and cows. Ninety percent of kangaroo killers are "weekend" hunters, killing by the most expedient methods available: running kangaroos down in trucks, poisoning their water, beating them to death, even impaling them on stakes and meat hooks and skinning them alive. The standard kangaroo hunting technique, as recounted by Paul and Anne Erlich in their book Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species, is to "spotlight" them from cars at night. "The kangaroos would freeze in the light and were shot with rifles. Some were killed immediately, but some hunters purposely just wounded them--sometimes leaving them to suffer for hours or days so that their meat would remain fresh until they could be collected." According to Dr. Susan Lieberman of the Humane Society of the U.S., joeys, or young kangaroos "are not considered to be worth the cost of a bullet...and are often killed by being thrown against a tree or car bumper or kicked in the head."
In the U.S., coyotes, vilified for allegedly preying on sheep and other livestock, are poisoned, shot and burned alive by the hundreds of thousands every year by ranchers and the U.S. government.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Refrain from purchasing products made from wool or other animal products.
A vegan (pronounced Vee-g'n) is someone who tries to live without exploiting animals, for the benefit of animals, people and the planet. A vegan is someone who does not eat any meat, poultry, fish, dairy products (milk, butter, cheese, cream etc), eggs, honey or any other animal derived by-products such as gelatin and whey. They also avoid wearing leather, suede, wool and silk - as these have all been obtained from animals - and toiletries, cosmetics and cleaning products that have been tested on animals or contain animal based ingredients. Instead, vegans choose from thousands of animal-free foods and products.
Veganism is a philosophy, not a diet. This philosophy is the belief in the right of all sentient beings to be treated with respect, not as property, and to be allowed to live their lives.
IT'S A HEALTHY CHOICE
A balanced vegan diet (also referred to as a ‘plant-based diet’) meets many current healthy eating recommendations such as eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains and consuming less cholesterol and saturated fat. Balanced vegan diets are often rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fiber and can decrease the chances of suffering from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers. Well-planned plant-based diets are suitable for all age groups and stages of life.
Many people become vegan through concern of the way farmed animals are treated. Some object to the unnecessary ‘use’ and killing of animals – unnecessary as we do not need animal products in order to feed or clothe ourselves.
Public awareness of the conditions of factory-farmed animals is gradually increasing and it is becoming more and more difficult to claim not to have at least some knowledge of the treatment they endure. Sentient, intelligent animals are often kept in cramped and filthy conditions where they cannot move around or perform their natural behaviors. At the same time, many suffer serious health problems and even death because they are selectively bred to grow or produce milk or eggs at a far greater rate than their bodies are capable of coping with.
Regardless of how they were raised, all animals farmed for food meet the same fate at the slaughterhouse. This includes the millions of calves and male chicks who are killed every year as ‘waste products’ of milk and egg production and the animals farmed for their milk and eggs who are killed at a fraction of their natural lifespan. Choosing a vegan diet is a daily demonstration of compassion for all these creatures.
IT'S BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
Plant-based diets only require around one third of the land and water needed to produce a typical Western diet. Farmed animals consume much more protein, water and calories than they produce, so far greater quantities of crops and water are needed to produce animal ‘products’ to feed humans than are needed to feed people direct on a plant-based diet. With water and land becoming scarcer globally, world hunger increasing and the planet’s population rising, it is much more sustainable to eat plant foods direct than use up precious resources feeding farmed animals. Farming animals and growing their feed also contributes to other environmental problems such as deforestation, water pollution and land degradation.
There are mouth-watering plant-based dishes from around the world: from India, vegetable curries and dhals; from the Far East, tofu stir fries; from Italy pastas and salads; from Turkey, hummus and babaghanoush; and from Mexico beans and tortillas… the list goes on! Many familiar foods have vegan versions - vegans can enjoy pizza, vegan sausage and mash, casseroles and even chocolate cake. The variety of vegan food available in shops and restaurants is growing all the time – eating a vegan diet has never been easier.
Choosing to live a life free from animal products means choosing a path that is kinder to people, animals and the environment. In fact, there are so many good reasons to reject meat, eggs and dairy products and so many delicious animal free alternatives that the real question is not ‘why vegan?’ but ‘why not?’.
The practice of cock fighting, though illegal, is a tradition going back several centuries, and thus difficult to stamp out. Cock fights, like other illegal animal fights, take place surreptitiously.
Cock fights usually result in the death of one, if not both roosters. Handlers place two roosters in a pit. These roosters, armed with sharp steel projections called gaffs, then proceed to peck and maim one another with their beaks and with the weapons that have been imposed upon them. The pit allows roosters no opportunity to escape. Although they have been bred to fight, the animals often become tired, incapable, and suffer severe injuries.
Spectators viewing the fights bet large sums of money. The handler of a winning rooster often makes a big profit. Handlers sometimes give roosters steroids or methamphetamine to make them fight harder and faster.
Although birds in a flock will often fight over pecking order, these battles rarely result in injury. Only birds that have been bred and provoked to fight will inflict the serious injuries seen in cock fighting. Children often witness this cruel spectacle. Because adults bring children to fights as a form of cultural initiation, kids may come away from fights with an insensitivity to violence against animals. Studies have shown that violence against animals is a precursor to violence against humans.
While the United States has a long tradition of cock fighting, as do several Asian cultures, cock fighting should be stopped because of the cruel imposition of violence and death on the animals involved, and for the mental health of children who may attend such fights.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Always boycott all forms of animal entertainment. Report cock fighting to local, state and federal authorities. Educate others on the issue.
The methods used to turn duck and goose livers into the "delicacy" known as pâté de foie gras are anything but delicate. Foie gras is a French term meaning "fatty liver" and it is produced by force-feeding birds. The ducks and geese force-fed for foie gras are compelled to consume much more high-energy food—mostly corn—than they would eat voluntarily. This damages their liver and often kills them.
The Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Welfare for the European Union found many examples of abuse as a result of force-feeding, including:
Birds are routinely confined to small cages or crowded pens.
Birds are force-fed tremendous amounts of feed via a 12- to 16-inch plastic or metal tube, which is shoved down their throats and attached to a pressurized pump.
The force-feeding may be performed twice daily for up to two weeks for ducks and three to four times daily, for up to 28 days for geese.
Force-feeding causes the liver to increase in size about 6-10 times compared to the normal size for a bird.
Increased liver size forces the abdomen to expand, which makes moving difficult and painful. An enlarged abdomen increases the risk of damage to the stretched tissue of the lower part of the esophagus.
Force-feeding results in accumulated scar tissue in the esophagus.
The liver can be easily damaged by even minor trauma.
Ducks and geese are social animals who suffer when confined in individual cages. The confinement also can lead to lesions of the sternum and bone fractures, as well as foot injuries from the cage floors. Ducks and geese also suffer when they're not allowed enough water to swim and preen, which they do naturally in the wild.
Originally, all foie gras came from France, but now the United States has gotten into this cruel niche industry.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Refrain from eating foie gras.
The next time you go into a store or restaurant that sells foie gras, please let them know that a product that comes from force-feeding ducks and geese is more than you can stomach.
A vegan eating pattern is a healthy, responsible and humane option for you, the planet and animals. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie and nutrient needs.
Your protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant foods. Sources of protein for vegans include beans and peas, nuts, and soy products (such as tofu, tempeh).
Sources of Calcium
Calcium is used for building bones and teeth. Sources of calcium for vegans include calcium-fortified soymilk (soy beverage), tofu made with calcium sulfate, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard, turnip, and mustard greens; and bok choy).
Many popular main dishes are or can be vegan — such as pasta with marinara or pesto sauce, veggie pizza, vegetable lasagna, tofu-vegetable stir-fry, and bean burritos.
Enjoy a Cookout
For barbecues, try veggie or soy burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and fruit kabobs. Grilled veggies are great, too!
Include Beans and Peas
Because of their high nutrient content, consuming beans and peas is recommended for everyone. Enjoy some vegetarian chili, three bean salad, or split pea soup. Make a hummus filled pita sandwich.
Try Different Veggie Versions
A variety of vegan products look — and may taste — like their non-vegan counterparts but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol. For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links. For dinner, rather than hamburgers, try bean burgers or falafel (chickpea patties).
Most restaurants can make vegan modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces or nonmeat items, such as tofu and beans for meat, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. Ask about available vegetarian options.
Nuts Make Great Snacks
Choose unsalted nuts as a snack and use them in salads or main dishes. Add almonds, walnuts, or pecans instead of cheese or meat to a green salad.
Get Your Vitamin B12
Vegans can choose fortified foods such as cereals or soy products, or take a vitamin B12 supplement if needed. Check the Nutrition Facts label for vitamin B12 in fortified products.
Only pigs in movies spend their lives running across sprawling pastures and relaxing in the sun. On any given day in the U.S., there are more than 65 million pigs on factory farms, and 110 million are killed for food each year.
Mother pigs (sows)—who account for almost 6 million of the pigs in the U.S.—spend most of their lives in individual “gestation” crates. These crates are about 7 feet long and 2 feet wide—too small to allow the animals even 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.
Piglets are separated from their mothers when they are as young as 10 days old. Once her piglets are gone, the sow is impregnated again, and the cycle continues for three or four years before she is slaughtered. This intensive confinement produces stress- and boredom-related behavior, such as chewing on cage bars and obsessively pressing against water bottles.
After they are taken from their mothers, piglets are confined to pens until they are separated to be raised for breeding or meat. Every year in the U.S., millions of male piglets are castrated (usually without being given any painkillers) because consumers supposedly complain of “boar taint” in meat that comes from intact animals. Piglets are not castrated in the U.K. or Ireland, and the European Union is phasing out the practice by 2018.
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. For identification purposes, farmers also cut out chunks of the young animals’ ears.
Farms all over North America ship piglets (called “feeder pigs”) to Corn Belt states such as Illinois and Indiana for “growing” and “finishing.” When they are transported on trucks, piglets weighing up to 100 pounds are given no more than 2.4 square feet of space.
Once pigs reach “market weight” (250 to 270 pounds), the industry refers to them as “hogs” and they are sent to slaughter. The animals are shipped from all over the U.S. and Canada to slaughterhouses, most of which are in the Midwest. 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. Pigs tend to resist getting into the trailers, which can be made from converted school buses or multideck trucks with steep ramps, so workers use electric prods to move them along. No federal laws regulate the voltage or use of electric prods on pigs.
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 alive when they reach the scalding-hot water baths, which are intended to soften their skin and remove their hair.
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 believe that meat-eaters’ unwitting consumption of these drugs gives rise to strains of bacteria that are resistant to treatment.
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. Reduce or eliminate pork from your diet.
As the animal agriculture industry continues to take over the Earth's landmass, species rich habitats are being quickly destroyed. A frightening one acre of land is cleared every second. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, habitat destruction and ocean dead zones.
Animal agribusiness already occupies about 40% of Earth’s landmass and accounts for 75% of global deforestation. The rapid destruction is causing species to disappear, negatively impacting the biodiversity of native ecosystems and furthering our path into the 6th mass extinction of all species on Earth.
There are about 1.7 million documented species of flora and fauna. Over 86% of 10 million known species of flora and fauna have not been described or documented. The UN is reporting an estimate of up to 100 plant and animal species lost every day.
Our planet is about 4.5 billion years old. Through its ancient lifespan, Earth has encountered a few mass extinctions. 5 to be exact: Ordovician (444 million years ago), Devonian (375 million years ago), Permian (251 million years ago), Triassic (200 million years ago), and Cretaceous (66 million years ago).
Out of the billion years of our planet’s life, humans have only been here for around 6 million years. Of those 6 million years, the current human species (Homo sapiens) has been here only 200,000 years – with our current civilization a mere 6,000 years old. The industrialization of this civilization is only 200 years old, and in the last 500 years 1,000 species of animals have gone extinct. Presently, the rate of extinction is as high as 140,000 species each year.
Massive destruction is occurring in countries with mega diverse habitats that are home to some of the largest number of species. In the Amazon, 3 quarters of the rainforest have been (and continue to be) cleared for both international and domestic animal agriculture companies. In the US, where 260 million acres of forests have been cleared, 1 in 5 animal and plant species are at risk of extinction.
Animal agribusiness has also devastated our marine environments. Billions of animals are stripped from the ocean every year. The rapid rates of oceanic animal harvesting doesn’t allow species enough time to reproduce. The inability to recover their populations puts the planet at risk of fishless seas by 2048.
The facts and statistics are clear. The animal agriculture industry is killing our environment and putting every species on this planet at risk of extinction. The animal agriculture industry’s pollution of our air, water and land, along with deforestation and soil degradation, all contribute to habitat loss and species extinction. Like a domino effect, a multitude of aspects is leading to the destruction of Earth’s biodiversity.
Animal farming has become the greatest threat to the world’s plants and animals. The clearing of forests and rainforests for livestock pasture and feed crops is extinguishing Earth’s biodiversity, which allows life to continue in balance regardless of natural changes to the environment.
It all begins with the choices humans make and put on our plates, and that is also where it can end. Livestock farming is only in demand because of human consumption. By making healthier food choices that are more plant based, we can put a halt and reversal to the destruction of our planet and its animals.
People become vegans for a variety of reasons, including conscience, health, ethics and even family tradition. Veganism has become increasingly popular, while research has been providing support regarding multiple benefits of a plant-based diet. Animals, humans, and the environment all benefit from it. Below are the ten most important reasons to turn to veganism.
Vegan diets provide significant amounts of several vital nutrients such as minerals (iron, calcium, etc.), vitamins, protein, and so on. Moreover, plant-based foods contain lots of fiber and are rich in antioxidants, while being low in saturated fat. This renders veganism ideal for fighting the majority of chronic conditions of the modern era, such as diabetes, hypertension, and obesity.
A lot of today’s chronic diseases can be traced back to obesity. Vegan diets are highly effective for people wanting to shed off excess weight. When you remove dairy and meat from your daily diet, your saturated fat intake goes down. Research shows that overweight people that switch to a vegetarian diet low in fat may lose up to 24 pounds in the first year alone.
Numerous studies have shown that vegans live longer than meat eaters by a large margin. Vegetarians and vegans live 3 to 6 years longer on average than their meat-eating counterparts. Switching to veganism from the typical American diet can result in a life extension of over 13 years.
Meat, fish, eggs and dairy products are packed with cholesterol. By taking them out of your daily eating plan, you remove all the dietary cholesterol in one strike. Switching to a well-balanced vegan diet is your best bet to avoid cardiovascular disease, the chronic condition that is responsible for more than 1 million deaths per year in America alone.
Veggies and fruits are rich in several phytochemical compounds that bolster your body’s immune defenses. When your immune system is fed with the antioxidants and nutrients that come with a vegan diet, it becomes stronger – defeating conditions like cancer.
There are several meat-borne illnesses that you steer clear of when you abstain from meat. Approximately 76 million people come down every year with a food-borne illness, of whom around 325 thousand end up in the hospital and almost 5 thousand die. The vast majority of these cases can be attributed to seafood, poultry, and meat.
Your diet greatly affects the way you look. Most vegans enjoy a natural glow in their skin, and that’s not just by luck; fruits and veggies are behind this phenomenon. Removing meat from your daily eating habits cuts down blemishes, body odor, and foul breath. What’s more, your nails and hair also thrive on a vegan diet.
The evidence is clear that no-meat diets drastically reduce environmental destruction. Animal farming is the number one cause of water consumption, pollution, and deforestation. Animal agriculture has a higher greenhouse effect on the atmosphere than fossil fuel consumption. What’s more, a significant amount of fossil fuel is consumed during transportation and processing of meat and dairy products, loading the atmosphere with unneeded carbon dioxide. The meat industry is the leading cause of rainforest destruction, soil erosion, habitat loss, species extinction and dead zones in the oceans.
Vegan diets do much more good than just keeping you healthy and protecting the environment; your wallet will thank you too. Americans eat about 200 pounds of meat on average per year, making up for 10% of their total food budget. By replacing meat with plant-based food, your annual food budget will go down by approximately 4 thousand dollars.
Peace Of Mind
To be truly healthy, you need to be truly conscious. You will achieve peace of mind when you realize that you are protecting the planet and other sentient beings by simply resisting the urge to satisfy your gluttony!
Chickens form strong family ties. A mother hen begins bonding with her chicks before they are even born. She will turn her eggs as many as five times an hour and softly cluck to her unborn chicks, who will chirp back to her and to one another. After they are hatched, the devoted mother dotes over her brood, teaching them what to eat, how to drink, where to roost, and how to avoid enemies. Male chickens (called roosters) are most famous for greeting each sunrise with loud crows, often acting as alarm clocks for farmers.
Chickens are fascinating creatures. They have more bones in their necks than giraffes, yet they have no teeth. They swallow their food whole and use a part of their stomach called the gizzard to grind it up. Chickens actually have many similarities to humans: the majority are right-footed (just as most humans are right-handed), they see a similar color range, and they love to watch television. Many also enjoy classical music, preferring the faster symphonies to the slower ones.
Having a private nest in which to lay eggs is extremely important to hens. The desire is so strong, in fact, that a hen will often go without food and water, if necessary, to use a nest. The nest-building process is fascinating. A hen will first scratch a shallow hole in the ground, then reach out to pick up twigs and leaves, which she drops onto her back. After she has gathered some material, she'll settle back in the hole and let the material fall off around the rim. She will continue to do this until her nest is completed.
As highly social animals, chickens can bond very closely to other animals, including humans. They will fight to protect their family and will mourn when a loved one is lost. When they have bonded with a human, chickens will often jump into his or her lap to get a massage that they enjoy fully with their eyes closed, giving every indication of being in ecstasy.
"It's just a chicken" is a retort heard often when concern for the welfare of chickens is exhibited. This comment reflects just how misunderstood these animals are. Chickens are just as deserving of our respect and compassion as are all other animals.
Vegetarian diets can easily meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.
Protein has many important functions in the body and is essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers).
Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources for vegetarians and vegans include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins).
Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength. Sources of calcium for vegetarians and vegans include calcium-fortified soymilk, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens). Calcium supplements are another potential source.
Zinc is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians and vegans include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, soymilk, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast. B12 supplements are another potential source.
Tips for Vegetarians
- Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don't overload meals with high-fat foods to replace the meat.
- Calcium-fortified soymilk provides calcium in amounts similar to milk. It is usually low in fat and does not contain cholesterol.
- Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Consider:
- pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
- vegan pizza
- vegetable lasagna
- tofu-vegetable stir fry
- vegetable lo mein
- vegetable kabobs
- bean burritos or tacos
A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.
- For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links.
- Rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers. A variety of kinds are available, made with soy beans, vegetables, and/or rice.
- Add vegetarian meat substitutes to soups and stews to boost protein without adding saturated fat or cholesterol. These include tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture), tofu, or wheat gluten (seitan).
- For barbecues, try veggie burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and veggie kabobs.
- Make bean burgers, lentil burgers, or pita halves with falafel (spicy ground chick pea patties).
- Some restaurants offer soy options (texturized vegetable protein) as a substitute for meat, and soy cheese as a substitute for regular cheese.
- Most restaurants can accommodate vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fries, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.
- Many Asian and Indian restaurants offer a varied selection of vegetarian dishes.
Deforestation causes drastic loss of tropical forest biodiversity, and most deforestation occurs due to animal agriculture. Remaining areas of undisturbed and recovering forest provide the last refuge for many species unable to withstand the impact of human activity.
As one of the most comprehensive surveys of the impacts of disturbance on tropical forest biodiversity ever conducted, an international team of scientists found where forests had been cleared for animal agriculture, plant and animal life was impoverished and remaining species invariably consisted of the same subset of the original flora and fauna. There is irrefutable evidence that biodiversity is declining across the tropics due to animal agriculture.
The rapid growth of animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation. 70% of the Amazon Rainforest has already been destroyed and is now occupied by pastures and feed crops. One of the main crops grown in the rainforest is soybeans used specifically for animal feed. Tropical deforestation and forest clearing have adverse consequences that contribute to climate change, biodiversity loss, reduced timber supply, flooding and soil degradation.
Deforestation through farming also has a major effect on species loss and simplification across large areas. The lower species diversity in degraded forests indicates that many species are restricted to undisturbed forests. And the way in which they are altered by human activity has an impact on which species survives.
To preserve maximum species diversity, we must shift from animal-based agriculture to plant-based agriculture. Already 56 million acres of land are used to feed farmed animals, while only 4 million acres produce plants for human consumption. It takes 20 times less land to feed someone on a plant based diet than it does to feed meat eaters.
Studies have also determined that reserves should not be concentrated in one part of a region, but as a widespread network of forest reserves. These should include secondary forests where no primary forests remain. While there remains a widespread assumption that concentrating conservation efforts on the protection of isolated reserves is the best way to safeguard biodiversity, areas of private land already disturbed – which dominate much of the tropics – need to be maintained and protected as a wide network of forest areas. Without such a landscape-scale approach, many species will go regionally extinct.
The unsustainable ways in which we produce eggs, meat and dairy is damaging our environment. Switching to plant-based agriculture results in significant reductions in climate change, rainforest destruction and pollution of our air, water and land.
The food that people eat is just as important as what kind of cars they drive when it comes to creating the greenhouse-gas emissions that many scientists have linked to global warming, according to experts.
Both the burning of fossil fuels during food production and non-carbon dioxide emissions associated with livestock and animal waste contribute to the problem.
The average American diet requires the production of an extra ton and a half of carbon dioxide-equivalent, in the form of actual carbon dioxide as well as methane and other greenhouse gases compared to a strictly vegetarian diet. However close you can be to a vegan diet and further from the mean American diet, the better you are for the planet.
The average American drives 8,322 miles by car annually, emitting 1.9 to 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide, depending on the vehicle model and fuel efficiency. Meanwhile, Americans also consume an average of 3,774 calories of food each day.
Energy used for food production accounts for a large percentage of fossil fuel use. And the burning of these fossil fuels emits three-quarters of a ton of carbon dioxide per person. That alone amounts to approximately one-third the average greenhouse-gas emissions of personal transportation. But livestock production and associated animal waste also emit greenhouse gases not associated with fossil-fuel combustion, primarily methane and nitrous oxide.
An example would be manure lagoons that are associated with large-scale pork production. Those emit a lot of nitrous oxide into the atmosphere. While methane and nitrous oxide are relatively rare compared with carbon dioxide, they are--molecule for molecule--far more powerful greenhouse gases than carbon dioxide. A single pound of methane, for example, has the same greenhouse effect as approximately 50 pounds of carbon dioxide.
Vegan diets are the most energy-efficient. Fish and red meat are the least efficient. Research also indicates that plant-based diets are healthier for people, as well as for the planet.
Despite their reputation, pigs have many positive attributes including cleanliness, intelligence and a social nature. Pigs are indeed clean animals. Yes, they do roll in mud, but only because they can't sweat like people do; the mud (or water) actually keeps them cool. If available, pigs, who are excellent swimmers, prefer water to mud. Pigs also carefully keep their sleeping area clean, and will designate a spot as far from this area as possible for waste. Even piglets only a few hours old will leave the nest to relieve themselves.
Those who know pigs can't help but be charmed by their intelligent, highly social and sensitive nature. Pigs are actually more intelligent than any breed of dog. Like dogs, piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called. They are also very discriminating eaters, and are particular about their living space. Pigs enjoy novelty and are extremely active and inquisitive.
When free to roam, pigs spend much of their day enthusiastically smelling, nibbling, manipulating objects with their snouts and rooting ("nosing") about in the soil for tidbits. Rooting is so essential to a pig that some animal scientists say that "a rooting pig is a happy pig." Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. A pig's sense of smell is so keen that the animal is trained in France to unearth truffles. Using their snouts as shovels, pigs toss clumps of soil and twigs high into the air, searching for the rare and delicious fungus that grows underground near the roots of oak trees. They are also used by police to help search for drugs.
Few species are more social than pigs; they form close bonds with each other and other species, including humans. They are quite gregarious and cooperate with, and defend, one another. Adults in the entire social group will protect a piglet, leaving their own litters if necessary to defend an endangered youngster. If one pig starts to dig out tree roots, others invariably join in.
Touch and bodily contact are especially important to pigs. They seek out and enjoy close contact, and will lie close together when resting. They also enjoy close contact with people familiar to them; they like being scratched behind the ears and shoulders, and, at the touch of your hand, will grunt contentedly and roll over for a belly rub.
Pigs are vocal and communicate constantly with one another. More than 20 of their vocalizations have been identified. Pigs most often say "gronk" (more commonly known as "oink"), and will say "baawrp" when happy. They have an elaborate courtship ritual, including a song between males and females. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother's voice, and the mother pig sings to her young while nursing. After nursing, a piglet will sometimes run to her mother's face to rub snouts and grunt. Pigs also enjoy music.
When she is ready to give birth, a sow selects a clean, dry area apart from the group, sometimes walking several miles to search for a good nest site and to gather preferred bedding materials. She hollows out a depression in the ground and lines it with grass, straw or other materials. For several days after her babies are born, she defends the nest against intruders. When her babies are five to ten days old, she encourages them to leave the nest to socialize with the other pigs.
Weaning occurs naturally at three months of age, but young pigs continue to live with their mothers in a close family group. Two or more sows and their piglets usually join together in an extended family, with particularly close friendships developing between sows. Young piglets play with great enthusiasm, play-fighting and moving or throwing objects into the air. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction, too, as they have found their way home over great distances. Adults can run at speeds around 11 miles an hour, and can trot for relatively long distances.
Yet many pigs do not lead such noble lives; the hog industry confines many female pigs to farrowing crates, claiming these are necessary to protect piglets from being crushed by their careless mothers. Yet when given more room, sows are very gentle with their piglets. Before a mother pig lies down in a bed of straw, she roots around to make sure all the piglets are out, a safeguard against accidentally harming one of them.
Peacocks, also known as peafowl, are medium sized birds most closely related to pheasants. Peacocks inhabit warm climates of the Southern Hemisphere. All peacocks are believed to have originated in Asia, but they now inhabit Africa and parts of Australia. They are most common in India. Peacocks live in deserts, dry savannas, forests and dense foliage areas.
There are three main types of peacock, the Indian peacock, the African Congo peacock and the Green peacock. All three peacock species are known for the elaborately colored feathers and tales of male peacocks. Female peacocks are dull brown.
The giant tail feathers of male peacocks, called coverts, spread out in a distinctive train of over 60 percent of the peacock’s body length. It has vibrant eye shaped markings of blue, red, gold and other colors. Microscopic, crystal-like structures in the feathers reflect different wavelengths of light creating the bright, fluorescent colors.
The train of a peacock is used for mating and defense. Male peacocks attract female peacocks by showing off this array of elaborate feathers. When threatened, they also fan their tails out in order to look larger and intimidating. When the peacock quivers his feathers, they emit a low-frequency sound inaudible to humans. The peacock can change the sound to communicate different messages. Male peacocks shed their train each year after mating season.
Despite their giant tail feathers peacocks are able to fly, though they do not fly very far. When in danger, peacocks fly up into trees. They also spend nights in trees. Peacocks can also run quickly.
Male peacocks are called peacocks, while female peacocks are called peahens. Male peacocks are usually about twice the size of female peacocks. Male peacocks look especially larger than female peacocks when displaying their plumage (feathers). When male peacocks are not displaying, their tail feathers, called trains, drag behind them.
Peacocks are omnivores, feeding on plants, seeds, flower heads, insects, small mammals, amphibians and reptiles. They are known for their snake-fighting abilities.
Peacocks are social birds, but very aggressive towards invaders of their territories. They often play together, especially under the sunlight. Playing peacocks always follow one direction. Peacocks usually travel in groups of up to 10 peacocks.
Peacocks are one of the loudest animals on earth, calling out to each other during the morning and late evening. Peacocks make meowing sounds when it is going to rain. They also make alarm calls when they sense danger. Male peacocks sing to attract female peacocks.
During the mating season, male peacocks mate with up to six different female peacocks. Peahen lay 4 to 8 brown eggs. Mother peacocks incubate the eggs. Peacock babies hatch following an incubation period of about one month. Mother peacocks take care of the peacock chicks without assistance from the father peacock. Male peachicks do not begin to grow their trains until they are about 3 years old.
Peacocks have numerous natural predators, including dogs, cats, raccoons, tigers and the mongoose.
Peacocks live 20 years or more in the wild.
THREATS TO PEACOCKS
Peacocks are threatened due to habitat loss, smuggling, hunting and predation. Peacock populations are declining. Congo peafowl is a vulnerable species, and the Green peafowl is an endangered species.
The poaching of peacocks for their feathers is one of the main reasons peacock populations have decreased by more than 50 percent.
Peacocks face habitat loss like most bird species, causing them to have fewer sources of food, shelter and water. Mining, timber harvesting, animal agriculture, acquisition of their eggs, and hunting are all contributing to reduced numbers of peacocks.
Peacocks are also victims of the pet trade and animal entertainment industry.
Consumers who avoid meat for ethical and/or health reasons often still consider dairy foods nutritious and humane. But products made from cow's milk are far from "natural" for humans and anything but humane for cows and their calves.
Cow's milk is suited to the nutritional needs of calves, who, unlike human babies, will double their weight in 47 days (as opposed to 180 days for humans), grow four stomachs, and weigh 1,100-1,200 pounds within two years. Cow's milk contains about three times as much protein as human milk and almost 50 percent more fat.
No other species besides humans drinks milk beyond infancy, and no other species drinks the milk of another species (except domestic cats and dogs, who are taught the habit by humans). After four years of age, most people develop lactose intolerance, the inability to digest the carbohydrate lactose (found in milk), because they no longer synthesize the digestive enzyme lactase. Lactose-intolerant people who drink milk can experience stomach cramps, gas, and diarrhea. By some estimates, up to 70 percent of the world's population is lactose intolerant.
In addition to being an unnatural food for humans, cow's milk, like other dairy products, is unhealthful. Dr. John A. McDougall calls dairy foods "liquid meat" because their nutritional contents are so similar. Rich in fat and cholesterol, dairy products, including cheese, milk, butter, cream, yogurt, and whey (found in many margarines and baked goods), contribute to the development of heart disease, certain cancers, and stroke our nation's three deadliest killers. Robert Cohen, author of Milk: The Deadly Poison, estimates that, by the time the average American is 50, he or she has consumed from dairy foods the same amount of cholesterol found in 1 million slices of bacon. Perhaps most surprisingly, the consumption of dairy foods has also been linked to osteoporosis--the very disease milk is supposed to prevent.
Osteoporosis is a debilitating disease characterized by low bone mass and deteriorating bone tissue. Contrary to the protestations of the dairy industry, this bone loss is not halted or prevented by an increased calcium intake so much as by a drop in protein consumption. Indeed, after studying the diets of 78,000 American women over a 12-year period, researchers at Harvard University concluded that "it is unlikely that high consumption of milk or other food sources of calcium during midlife will confer substantial protective effects against hip or forearm fractures"; participants in the study who consumed more than 450 milligrams of calcium from dairy foods per day actually doubled their risk of hip fractures. Foods high in animal protein, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products, leach calcium from the body in order to buffer the acidic byproducts that result from the breaking down of the excess protein; this causes a net loss of calcium. Societies with little or no consumption of dairy products and animal protein show a low incidence of osteoporosis. Furthermore, Dr. McDougall notes, "Calcium deficiency caused by an insufficient amount of calcium in the diet is not known to occur in humans."
Other illnesses are also more prevalent among those who consume significant amounts of dairy products than among vegans. Ninety percent of asthma patients who were put on a completely vegetarian diet (without meat, eggs, or dairy products) experienced great improvements in the frequency and severity of their attacks. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, milk is the leading cause of food allergies in children, causing symptoms as diverse as runny noses, ear problems, muscle fatigue, and headaches. Dairy foods have also been implicated in congestive heart failure, neonatal tetany, tonsil enlargement, ulcerative colitis, Hodgkin's disease, and respiratory, skin, and gastrointestinal problems.
At least half of the 10 million cows kept for milk in the United States live on factory farms in conditions that cause tremendous suffering to the animals. They do not spend hours grazing in fields but live crowded into concrete-floored milking pens or barns, where they are milked two or three times a day by machines.
Milking machines often cause cuts and injuries that would not occur were a person to do the milking. These injuries encourage the development of mastitis, a painful bacterial infection. More than 20 different types of bacteria cause the infection, which is easily spread from one cow to another and which, if left unchecked, can cause death.
In some cases, milking machines even give cows electric shocks due to stray voltage, causing them considerable discomfort, fear, and impaired immunity and sometimes leading to death. A single farm can lose several hundred cows to shocks from stray voltage.
Large dairy farms also have a detrimental effect on the surrounding environment. For example, in California, which produces one-fifth of the country's total supply of milk, the manure from dairy farms has poisoned hundreds--perhaps thousands--of square miles of underground water, rivers, and streams. Each of the state's more than 1 million cows excretes 120 pounds of waste every day equal to that of two dozen people.
Cows on today's farms live only about four to five years, as opposed to the life expectancy of 20-25 years enjoyed by cows of an earlier era. To keep the animals at high levels of productivity, dairy farmers keep them constantly pregnant through the use of artificial insemination. Farmers also use an array of drugs, including bovine growth hormone (BGH); prostaglandin, which is used to bring a cow into heat whenever the farmer wants to have her inseminated; antibiotics; and even tranquilizers, in order to influence the productivity and behavior of the cows.
Many of the country's dairy cows are routinely injected with BGH, which manufacturers say increases a cow's production by 20 percent. That's not all BGH increases. According to the government warning that, by law, must accompany packages of the Monsanto company's BGH, the use of this hormone "has been associated with increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus" and may increase the number of cows afflicted with mastitis. The increased rates of infections in cows have led to an increase in the use of antibiotics at a time when scientists say the overuse of antibiotics has caused more and more strains of bacteria to become drug-resistant. Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, warns that higher infection rates in cows also mean more pus in the milk people drink.
Some researchers also worry about the long-term effects of consuming milk from BGH-treated cows. For example, Dr. Samuel Epstein, a professor of environmental medicine at the University of Illinois School of Public Health, believes such milk could increase the risk of some types of cancer in humans.
Perhaps the greatest pain suffered by cows in the dairy industry is the repeated loss of their young. Female calves may join the ranks of the milk producers, but the males are generally taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth and sold at auction either for the notorious veal industry or to beef producers. If the calf is killed when young, his fourth stomach is also used in cheese-making; it contains rennin, an enzyme used to curdle (or coagulate) milk to turn it into cheese. Rennet, from whose membrane rennin is an extract, can also be used in this process. It is possible to make rennetless cheese (available at health food stores), but the close connection between the dairy, veal, and leather industries makes it cheaper for cheese producers to use calf parts than a vegetable-derived enzyme.
Within 60 days, the cow will be impregnated again. For about seven months of her next nine-month pregnancy, the cow will continue to be milked for the fluid meant for her older calf. A typical factory-farmed dairy cow will give birth three or four times in her short life. When her milk production wanes, she is sent to slaughter, most likely to be ground up into fast-food burgers.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Reduce or eliminate milk and dairy products from your diet.
Rodeos are promoted as rough and tough exercises of human skill and courage in conquering the fierce, untamed beasts of the Wild West. In reality, rodeos are nothing more than manipulative displays of human domination over animals, thinly disguised as entertainment. What began in the late 1800s as a skill contest among cowboys has become a show motivated by greed and profit.
Standard rodeo events include calf roping, steer wrestling, bareback horse and bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer roping and wild cow milking.
The animals used in rodeos are captive performers. Most are relatively tame but understandably distrustful of human beings because of the harsh treatment that they have received. Many of these animals are not aggressive by nature; they are physically provoked into displaying "wild" behavior to make the cowboys look brave.
Electric prods, sharp sticks, caustic ointments, and other torturous devices are used to irritate and enrage animals used in rodeos. The flank or "bucking" strap used to make horses and bulls buck is tightly cinched around their abdomens, where there is no rib cage protection. Tightened near the large and small intestines and other vital organs, the belt pinches the groin and genitals. The pain causes the animals to buck, which is what the rodeo promoters want the animal to do in order to put on a good show for the crowds.
In a study conducted by the Humane Society of the United States, two horses known for their gentle temperament were subjected to the use of a flank strap. Both bucked until the strap was removed. Then several rodeo-circuit horses were released from a pen without the usual flank straps and did not buck, illustrating that the "wild," frenzied behavior in the animals is artificially induced by the rodeo cowboys and promoters of rodeo events.
Dr. C.G. Haber, a veterinarian who spent 30 years as a federal meat inspector, worked in slaughterhouses and saw many animals discarded from rodeos and sold for slaughter. He described the animals as being "so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached (to the flesh) were the head, neck, leg, and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and at times, puncturing the lungs. I have seen as much as two to three gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin." These injuries are a result of animals' being thrown in calf-roping events or being jumped on from atop horses during steer wrestling.
Rodeo promoters argue that they must treat their animals well in order to keep them healthy and usable. But this assertion is belied by a statement that Dr. T.K. Hardy, a Texas veterinarian and sometime steer roper, made to Newsweek: "I keep 30 head of cattle around for practice, at $200 a head. You can cripple three or four in an afternoon . . . it gets to be a pretty expensive hobby."
Unfortunately, there is a steady supply of newly discarded animals available to rodeo producers when other animals have been worn out or irreparably injured. As Dr. Haber documented, the rodeo circuit is just a detour on the road to the slaughterhouse.
Although rodeo cowboys voluntarily risk injury by participating in events, the animals they use have no such choice. Because speed is a factor in many rodeo events, the risk of accidents is high.
A terrified, squealing young horse burst from the chutes at the Can-Am Rodeo and within five seconds slammed into a fence and broke her neck. Bystanders knew that she was dead when they heard her neck crack, yet the announcer told the crowd that everything would "be all right" because a vet would see her. Sadly, incidents such as this are not uncommon at rodeos. For example, in 1999, three men and seven horses died at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada.
In San Antonio, yet another frightened horse snapped his spine. Witnesses report that the horse dragged himself, paralyzed, across the stadium by his front legs before collapsing. During the National Western Stock Show, a horse crashed into a wall and broke his neck, while still another horse broke his back after being forced to buck. Bucking horses often develop back problems from the repeated poundings they endure. Because horses do not normally jump up and down, there is also the risk of leg injury when a tendon tears or snaps.
Calves roped while running up to 27 miles per hour routinely have their necks snapped back by the lasso, often resulting in neck and back injuries, bruises, broken bones and internal hemorrhages. Calves have become paralyzed from severe spinal cord injury, and their tracheas may be totally or partially severed. Even San Antonio Livestock Exposition Executive Director Keith Martin agrees that calf roping is inhumane. Says Martin, "Do I think it hurts the calf? Sure I do. I'm not stupid." At the Connecticut Make-A-Wish Rodeo, one steer's neck was forcefully twisted until it broke. Calves are only used in one rodeo before they are returned to the ranch or destroyed because of injuries. Frequently, animals break loose from their pens and escape. They are often shot by police unfamiliar with and untrained in capturing livestock.
Rodeo association rules are not effective in preventing injuries and are not strictly enforced, nor are penalties severe enough to deter abusive treatment. For example, if a calf is injured during the contest, the only penalty is that the roper will not be allowed to rope another calf in that event on that day. If the roper drags the calf, he or she might be disqualified. There are no rules protecting animals during practice, and there are no objective observers or examinations required to determine if an animal is injured in an event.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If a rodeo comes to your town, protest to local authorities, write letters to sponsors, leaflet at the gate or hold a demonstration. Check state and local laws to find out what types of activities involving animals are and are not legal in your area. For example, a Pittsburgh law prohibiting cruelty to rodeo animals in effect banned rodeos altogether, since most rodeos currently touring the country use the electric prods and flank straps prohibited by the law. Another successful means of banning rodeos is to institute a state or local ban on calf roping, the event in which cruelty is most easily documented. Since many rodeo circuits require calf roping, its elimination can result in the overall elimination of rodeo shows.
Processed meats are now considered “carcinogenic to humans,” according to the World Health Organization.
Recent estimates by the Global Burden of Disease Project, an independent academic research organization, found around 34,000 cancer deaths per year worldwide are attributable to processed meat.
The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) delivered a damning report linking meat consumption and cancer. IARC is the leading authority that determines the cancer-causing risks of exposure to substances. IARC classifies substances from Group 1 (carcinogenic to humans) to Group 4 (probably not carcinogenic to humans).
Processed meat, according to WHO, refers to “meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.”
WHO states that most processed meats contain pork or beef, but processed meats may also contain other red meats, poultry, offal, or meat by-products such as blood. Examples of processed meat include hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, and beef jerky, as well as canned meat and meat-based preparations and sauces.
Processed meat has been given a Group 1 classification, putting it in the same class of cancer risk as tobacco smoking and asbestos. Red meat has been categorized as a Group 2A carcinogen, “probably carcinogenic to humans,” the same classification assigned to the pesticide glyphosate.
The Group 1 category is used when there is sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in humans. In other words, there is convincing evidence that the agent causes cancer. The evaluation is usually based on epidemiological studies showing the development of cancer in exposed humans.
The recommendation was based on epidemiological studies suggesting that increases in the risk of several cancers may be associated with high consumption of red meat or processed meat.
In the case of red meat, the classification was based on evidence from epidemiological studies showing positive associations between eating red meat and developing colorectal cancer, as well as strong mechanistic evidence.
The IARC Working Group considered more than 800 different studies on cancer in humans (some studies provided data on both types of meat; in total more than 700 epidemiological studies provided data on red meat and more than 400 epidemiological studies provided data on processed meat). The IARC Working Group consisted of 22 experts from 10 countries.