The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years.
There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as “pets” in developed countries.
Domesticated donkeys are also used as guard animals for goats, sheep and cows against the threat of coyotes. Coyotes are the only natural threat to donkeys.
Wild donkeys, called burros, live in desert plains, where they survive on little food and water for long periods.
A male donkey or ass is called a jack; a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal. Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules.
Donkeys were first domesticated around 3000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world.
Donkeys vary considerably in size, depending on breed and management. The height at the withers ranges from 31 to 63 inches, and the weight from 180 to 1,060 lb. Working donkeys in the poorest countries have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years; in more prosperous countries, they may have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.
Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands. Unlike wild and feral horses, wild donkeys in dry areas are solitary and do not form harems. Each adult donkey establishes a home range; breeding over a large area may be dominated by one jack. The loud call or bray of the donkey, which typically lasts for twenty seconds and can be heard over long distances, may help them keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert. Donkeys have large ears, which pick up more distant sounds and may help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys can defend themselves by biting, striking with the front hooves or kicking with the hind legs.
A jennet is normally pregnant for about 12 months, though the gestation period varies from 11 to 14 months, and usually gives birth to a single foal. Births of twins are rare, though more common than in horses. Although jennets come into heat within 9 or 10 days of giving birth, their fertility remains low and it is usual to wait one or two further oestrous cycles before rebreeding.
Donkeys can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, and are commonly interbred with horses. The hybrid between a jack and a mare is a mule. The hybrid between a stallion and a jennet is a hinny, and is less common. Like other inter-species hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile. Donkeys can also breed with zebras in which the offspring is called a zonkey.
Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness. This has been attributed to a much stronger sense of self-preservation than exhibited by horses.
Although formal studies of their behavior and cognition are rather limited, donkeys are quite intelligent, cautious, playful, and eager to learn. Donkeys are affectionate animals and enjoy the companionship of people. Donkeys require companions or they become depressed. The donkey's favorite pastime is rolling.
THREATS TO DONKEYS
Over 40 million donkeys exist worldwide. China has the most, followed by Pakistan, Ethiopia and Mexico. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass and another relative, the onager, are endangered.
In many societies donkeys are regarded as low status animals and are commonly mistreated. They are forced to perform more work than their small bodies can handle. Since new donkeys are cheaper than veterinary care, ill and injured donkeys are often tied to posts without food or water and left to die.
In Spain and Greece, donkeys are used as "donkey taxis". Profit is placed above the care of the animals. They are exposed to temperature extremes with little or no food, shelter or water and are made to carry people too heavy for their bodies. At night their feet are tied together to prevent them from wondering off.
Donkeys are abused at live animal markets in China. Some restaurants offer fresh donkey meat where pieces of donkey are sliced off while the donkey is still alive.
Donkeys are sometimes kept as "pets", often poorly cared for. Many are left to fend for themselves. They develop deformed and crippled feet, become emaciated or obese and suffer from dental problems and parasite infestation.
Donkey basketball has been practiced in the United States since the 1930s. Donkey basketball involves human basketball players riding donkeys, usually as a fundraising event. The events typically take place in public schools where children are taught that animal abuse and humiliation is entertaining. The donkeys are often dragged, kicked and punched by participants who have no animal-handling experience. Unethical commercial firms provide donkeys and equipment, splitting the proceeds with the hiring party. Donkey basketball is inhumane and cruel to animals.
Donkeys are not protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act.
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.
What could be more romantic than a leisurely carriage ride on a warm summer evening?
In the late 1980s, Whitey, a nine-year-old gelding, collapsed while pulling a carriage during a summer heat wave in New York City. A passing nurse gave Whitey an IV saline solution, and sympathetic police officers sprayed him with cool water for two hours. Eventually Whitey managed to get back on his feet. Another carriage horse, Misty, died from apparent heat exhaustion during the same heat wave. Despite the national attention that was focused on the carriage horse industry after Whitey's collapse--and the outrage of romantics everywhere--little has changed for the horses.
Many horses who end up pulling carriages through city streets are "breakdowns" from harness racing tracks. Standardbreds are often trained to race by being tethered to the back of a truck that drives increasingly faster, so carriage horse operators consider these horses "street savvy." But standardbreds are much smaller and lighter than traditional "draft horses" and are not accustomed to pulling heavy loads. Many other carriage horses are breakdowns from Amish farming communities. Regardless of their source, most horses, as veterinarian Holly Cheever points out, "enter the carriage horse trade with a legacy of previous injuries and debility." When horses can no longer pull heavy carriages, they are sold to rendering plants or dog food companies.
HARD & HARSH CONDITIONS
Even for healthy horses, a carriage ride is not an easy trip. Most cities have only minimal regulations governing working conditions for carriage horses, and these regulations are rarely enforced. Carriage horse operators know all the loopholes in their city's laws. An officer with the Canadian SPCA has said, "[I]f regulations state that a horse can work for nine consecutive hours, but [fail] to say within a 24-hour period, [drivers will] work the horse for nine hours, give the horse an hour or two of rest, then come back on the road." As a result, many horses work 12 or more hours a day, often in extreme weather conditions.
As in the case of Misty, weather conditions sometimes prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to bitter cold and scorching heat. Carriage Operators of North America, a trade organization to which only a small percentage of carriage horse operators belong, says horses may work if the temperature is nine degrees Fahrenheit, well below freezing. In summer months, horses suffering from dehydration or heat stress can die in just a few hours. Some cities outlaw carriage rides when the temperature reaches a certain degree, but often the official weather bureau reading does not accurately reflect the temperature on the streets. A study published by Cornell University, for example, found that the air temperature recorded by the weather bureau can be nearly 50 degrees cooler than the actual asphalt temperature. And the New York City Department of Transportation found that asphalt surfaces can reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
INJURIES & ACCIDENTS
Horses and heavy city traffic can also be a deadly mix. Despite carriage horse operators' claims, most horses are not comfortable working among cars and trucks, and many accidents, injuries, and even deaths--to horses and humans--have been caused by horses becoming "spooked" in traffic. According to Cheever, it is normal for horses to "react to threatening situations with panic and flight." A survey of national carriage horse accidents revealed that 85 percent of all accidents were the result of an animal spooking. Seventy percent of the time there was a human injury, and 22 percent of the time there was a human death. The survey also found that in New York City, which has the highest carriage horse accident rate in the country, 98 percent of the horses who "spooked" became injured.
Injuries and fatalities resulting from collisions between cars and carriage horses have occurred in almost every city that allows carriage rides, including Cincinnati, Ohio; Salt Lake City, Utah; Charleston, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; and Houston, Texas.
SMOKE & EXHAUST
The smoke and exhaust fumes from urban traffic are also dangerous for horses. In a study by veterinarian Jeffie Roszel, "tracheal washes and samples from respiratory secretions of these horses showed enormous lung damage, the same kind of damage you would expect from a heavy smoker." Horses' nostrils are usually only 3 to 3 1/2 feet above street level, so these animals are "truly ... living a nose-to-tailpipe existence."
ABUSE & NEGLECT
Carriage horses also routinely suffer at the hands of poorly trained drivers. Because they are constantly walking and standing on hard streets, "lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable" in carriage horses, says Cheever. "The problems are worsened by the inexperience of the gross majority of the owners and drivers, who are either incapable of recognizing lameness or are unwilling to suffer financial loss by removing a horse from service for a few days." Many drivers don't know how to fasten harnesses correctly, and either leave straps so loose they rub and chafe the horse's skin, or buckle the straps so tightly they pinch. And few horses are fitted with new horseshoes as often as is needed. Conditions for carriage horses aren't much better when the horses are off the streets.
Raids on carriage horse stables have exposed stalls with no hay or other bedding, stall floors covered with urine and manure, poor ventilation in the stables, and horses who had no free access to water. Many stables have stacked floors--like parking garages--with steep ramps leading from one floor to the next. The floors in one stable were so rotten, they often gave way under the weight of the horses, repeatedly causing animals to break their legs. In 1991, two horses owned by a carriage horse operator in New York died after being fed bad hay.
Not surprisingly, carriage horse operators view attempts to regulate their industry--through stipulations on where and how long horses can work, temperature restrictions, and mandatory veterinary care--as economic threats. One carriage horse operator in Charleston, S.C., even said,"[L]egislation is ridiculous."
In her classic novel, Black Beauty, Anna Sewell wrote, "My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt." People around the world agree and are increasingly recognizing that it's the carriage horse industry--not just the horses--who are taking them for a ride.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Don't patronize the carriage horse industry.
Educate others about carriage horses.
Pressure from concerned residents has resulted in bans on carriage horses in a growing number of cities. Educate your local officials on the issue.
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.
Humans like eating meat more than the thought of eating animals. Scientists conclude that humans choose not to really think about what we eat, because if we do we lose the appetite.
When we eat beef, chicken wings, hot dogs or spaghetti bolognese, we do it in denial. Already by referring to what we eat as “beef” instead of “cow”, we have created a distance between our food and an animal with abilities to think and feel.
“The presentation of meat by the industry influences our willingness to eat it. Our appetite is affected both by what we call the dish we eat and how the meat is presented to us”, says Jonas R. Kunst, a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo.
Kunst and his colleague Sigrid M. Hohle conducted five studies in Norway and the U.S. In the first study, chicken was presented at different processing stages: a whole chicken, drumsticks, and chopped chicken fillets. The scientists measured participants’ associations to the animal, and how much empathy they felt with the animal.
In the second study, participants saw pictures of a roasted pork – one beheaded, the other not. The scientists examined their associations to the animal, and to which extent they felt empathy and disgust. They also asked participants whether they wanted to eat the meat or would rather choose a vegetarian alternative.
Participants felt less empathy with the pig without a head.
“Highly processed meat makes it easier to distance oneself from the idea that it comes from an animal. Participants also felt less empathy with the animal. The same mechanism occurred with the beheaded pork roast. People thought less about it being an animal, they felt less empathy and disgust, and they were less willing to consider a vegetarian alternative.”
In a third study participants saw two advertisements for lamb chops, one with a picture of a living lamb, another without. The picture of the lamb made people less willing to eat the lamb chops. They also felt more empathy with the animal.
Philosophers and animal rights activists have long claimed that we avoid thinking about the animal we eat, and that this reduces the feeling of unease. This mechanism is described by the “disassociation hypothesis”. Celebrities have spoken up for the animals as well. Founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, ate only self-slaughtered meat for one year, claiming, “Many people forget that a living being has to die for you to eat meat”. Vegetarian Paul Mc Cartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian”.
Kunst and Hohle are the first scientists to test the hypothesis empirically, and it gains support from all five studies. We do have a tendency to distance ourselves from the thought of what we actually eat; this reduces discomfort and increases the willingness to eat meat.
In the three first studies, the scientists examined processing stages and presentation. In the next two studies, they investigated the use of words and phrases. They found that replacing "pork" and "beef" in the menu with "pig" and "cow" made people less willing to eat meat. The choice of words also affected feelings of empathy and disgust. Lastly, researchers investigated the effect of using the word "harvest". Traditionally the word has referred to plants, but in the U.S., it is now increasingly replacing words like "slaughtered" or "killed". The scientists found a clear effect: When the word "harvest" was used, people felt less empathy with the animal.
In total, more than 1000 people participated in the studies, and most of them were meat eaters. For some of them, eating meat was difficult, for others less so. Everyone disassociated meat from animals in their daily lives, but those that spent the most effort on disassociating were more sensitive when the presentations and descriptions of meat changed.
“We did not test whether these sensitive persons ate less meat than others in general. However, we all have a sensitivity in us, but this sensitivity is rarely activated because of the presentation of meat,” said Kunst.
He is not a vegetarian himself, but during these studies, he has become more aware of his meat consumption.
“The science results support a line of philosophers and animal rights activists who have said that the way meat is presented and talked about in our culture, makes us consume more of it”, said Kunst.
The results are published in the journal Appetite and might help authorities limit people’s meat consumption.
“For instance, authorities can influence people’s diets by presenting pictures of the animals in meat advertisements or contexts where meat is consumed. However, the will to do this is probably limited, since there are strong financial interests involved,” said Jonas R. Kunst.
The horse is an odd-toed ungulate mammal belonging to the taxonomic family Equidae. The horse has evolved over the past 45 to 55 million years from a small multi-toed creature into the large, single-toed animal of today. Humans began to domesticate horses around 4000 BC, and their domestication is believed to have been widespread by 3000 BC. Horses in the subspecies caballus are domesticated, although some domesticated populations live in the wild as feral horses. These feral populations are not true wild horses, as this term is used to describe horses that have never been domesticated, such as the endangered Przewalski's horse, a separate subspecies, and the only remaining true wild horse.
Horse breeds are loosely divided into three categories based on general temperament: spirited "hot bloods" with speed and endurance; "cold bloods", such as draft horses and some ponies; and "warmbloods", developed from crosses between hot bloods and cold bloods.
"Hot blooded" breeds include "oriental horses" such as the Akhal-Teke, Arabian horse, Barb and now-extinct Turkoman horse, as well as the Thoroughbred, a breed developed in England from the older oriental breeds. Hot bloods tend to be spirited, bold and learn quickly. They tend to be physically refined - thin-skinned, slim, and long-legged.
Muscular, heavy draft horses are known as "cold bloods". They have a calm, patient temperament; sometimes nicknamed "gentle giants". Well-known draft breeds include the Belgian and the Clydesdale. Some, like the Percheron, are lighter and livelier. Others, such as the Shire, are slower and more powerful. The cold-blooded group also includes some pony breeds.
"Warmblood" breeds are a cross between cold-blooded and hot-blooded breeds. Examples include breeds such as the Irish Draught or the Cleveland Bay.
There are more than 300 breeds of horse in the world today.
Horses are herd animals, with a clear hierarchy of rank, led by a dominant individual, usually a mare. They are also social creatures that are able to form companionship attachments to their own species and to other animals, including humans. They communicate in various ways, including vocalizations such as nickering or whinnying, mutual grooming and body language. When confined with insufficient companionship, exercise, or stimulation, individuals may develop stable vices, stereotypies of psychological origin, that include wood chewing, wall kicking, "weaving" (rocking back and forth), and other problems.
Horses are also prey animals with a strong fight-or-flight response. Their anatomy enables them to make use of speed to escape predators. Their first reaction to threat is to startle and usually flee, although they will stand their ground and defend themselves when flight is impossible or if their young are threatened. They also tend to be curious; when startled they will often hesitate an instant to ascertain the cause of their fright, and may not always flee from something that they perceive as non-threatening.
Related to this need to flee from predators is an unusual trait: horses are able to sleep both standing up and lying down. In an adaptation from life in the wild, horses are able to enter light sleep by using a "stay apparatus" in their legs, allowing them to doze without collapsing. Horses sleep better when in groups because some animals will sleep while others stand guard to watch for predators. A horse kept alone will not sleep well because its instincts are to keep a constant eye out for danger. Unlike humans, horses do not sleep in a solid, unbroken period of time, but take many short periods of rest. Horses must lie down to reach REM sleep. If a horse is never allowed to lie down, after several days it will become sleep-deprived, and in rare cases may suddenly collapse as it involuntarily slips into REM sleep while still standing.
Horses are grazing animals, and their major source of nutrients is good-quality forage from hay or pasture. They can consume approximately 2% to 2.5% of their body weight in dry feed each day.
The horses' senses are based on their status as prey animals, where they must be aware of their surroundings at all times. They have the largest eyes of any land mammal, and are lateral-eyed, meaning that their eyes are positioned on the sides of their heads. This allows horses to have a range of vision of more than 350°, with approximately 65° of this being binocular vision and the remaining 285° monocular vision. Horses have excellent day and night vision, but they have two-color, or dichromatic vision; their color vision is similar to red-green color blindness in humans where certain colors, especially red and related colors, appear as a shade of green.
Their sense of smell, while much better than that of humans, is not quite as good as that of a dog. It is believed to play a key role in the social interactions of horses as well as detecting other key scents in the environment.
A horse's hearing is good, and the pinna of each ear can rotate up to 180°, giving the potential for 360° hearing without having to move the head. Noise impacts the behavior of horses and certain kinds of noise may contribute to stress.
Horses have a great sense of balance, due partly to their ability to feel their footing and partly to highly developed proprioception - the unconscious sense of where the body and limbs are at all times. A horse's sense of touch is well developed. The most sensitive areas are around the eyes, ears and nose. Horses are able to sense contact as subtle as an insect landing anywhere on the body.
Horses have an advanced sense of taste, which allows them to sort through fodder and choose what they would most like to eat. Their prehensile lips can easily sort even small grains. Horses generally will not eat poisonous plants.
Female horses, called mares, carry their young for approximately 11 months, and a young horse, called a foal, can stand and run shortly following birth. They reach full adult development by age five, and have an average lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.
Horses are highly intelligent animals. They perform a number of cognitive tasks on a daily basis, meeting mental challenges that include food procurement and identification of individuals within a social system. They also have good spatial discrimination abilities.
They excel at simple learning, but also are able to use more advanced cognitive abilities that involve categorization and concept learning. They can learn using habituation, desensitization, classical conditioning, operant conditioning and positive reinforcement. Domesticated horses may face greater mental challenges than wild horses because they live in artificial environments that prevent instinctive behavior while also learning tasks that are not natural.
The wild horse (Equus ferus) is a species of the genus Equus, which includes as subspecies the modern domesticated horse (Equus ferus caballus) as well as the undomesticated Tarpan (Equus ferus ferus), now extinct, and the endangered Przewalski's horse (Equus ferus przewalskii). The Przewalski's Horse was saved from the brink of extinction and reintroduced successfully to the wild. The Tarpan became extinct in the 19th century. Since the extinction of the Tarpan, attempts have been made to reconstruct its phenotype, resulting in horse breeds such as the Konik and Heck horse. However, the genetic makeup and foundation bloodstock of those breeds is substantially derived from domesticated horses, and therefore these breeds possess domesticated traits.
The term "wild horse" is also used colloquially to refer to free-roaming herds of feral horses such as the Mustang in the United States, the Brumby in Australia, and many others. These feral horses are untamed members of the domestic horse subspecies (Equus ferus caballus).
THREATS TO HORSES
Horses are exploited by the unethical horse racing industry. Commercial horse racing is a ruthless industry motivated by financial gain and prestige. Cruelty, slaughter, injuries and accidental deaths are common. Horses are pushed to their physical limits and beyond, all for profit. Some horses are raced when they are under three years old, leading to fractures. Horses are drugged so they can compete with injuries, or given prohibited performance enhancing drugs. Jockeys often whip horses. The racing industry breeds thousands of horses looking for its next champion, contributing to an overpopulation crisis. Loosing and winning horses are commonly sent to the slaughterhouse when their careers have ended.
While no horse slaughterhouses currently operate in the United States, American horses are still trucked over borders to slaughtering facilities in Mexico and Canada. Horses suffer horribly on the way to and during slaughter, often shipped for more than 24 hours at a time without food, water or rest. Horses are often injured even before arrival due to overcrowded conditions during transport. The methods used to kill horses rarely results in quick deaths: they often endure repeated stuns or blows, and sometimes remain conscious during their slaughter.
Horses are forced to pull oversized loads by the animal entertainment industry. Carriage horses are forced to perform in all weather extremes. They face the threat and stress of traffic, often working all day long. The horses suffer from respiratory ailments from exhaust fumes, and develop debilitating leg problems. Carriage horses also face the threat of heatstroke from summer heat and humidity. Living conditions for these animals are often deplorable. When the horses grow too old, tired, or ill they may be slaughtered and turned into food for dogs or zoo animals, or shipped overseas for human consumption.
The animal entertainment industry also uses horses in rodeos. They are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank area. During bucking events, horses may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death.
Each year, hundreds of wild (feral) horses are rounded up by United States government agencies using inhumane methods. The horses are put in holding pens where, for a small fee, anyone can "adopt" them. The lucky ones are adopted by people who love and care for them, but many are traded or sold at auctions. Some are sent to Canada or Mexico to be slaughtered for their meat.
The Horse Protection Act is a federal law that prohibits sored horses from participating in shows, exhibitions, sales or auctions. Soring is a cruel and abusive practice used to accentuate a horse’s gait. It is accomplished by irritating or blistering a horse’s forelegs with chemical irritants (such as mustard oil) or mechanical devices. The Horse Protection Act also prohibits drivers from transporting sored horses to or from any of these events.
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.
The veal calf industry is one of the most reprehensible of all the kinds of intensive animal agriculture. Male calves used for veal are taken from their mothers one or two days after birth. They are chained inside tiny crates barely larger than their bodies and are usually kept in darkness, except to be fed two or three times a day for 20 minutes. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. About 14 weeks after their birth, they are slaughtered.
The veal calf's permanent home is a veal crate, a restraining device that is so small (22 inches by 54 inches) that the calves cannot turn around. Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves' muscles, thus producing tender "gourmet" veal. The calves often suffer from open sores caused by the constant rubbing against the crates.
In 1996, the European Union voted to ban the veal crate across Europe. Yet it is still perfectly legal in the United States.
The calves are generally fed a milk substitute intentionally lacking in iron and other essential nutrients. This diet keeps the animals anemic and creates the pale pink or white color considered desirable in veal. Craving iron, the calves lick urine-saturated slats and any metallic parts of their stalls. Farmers also withhold water from the animals, who, always thirsty, are driven to drink a large quantity of the high-fat liquid feed.
Because of such extremely unhealthy living conditions and restricted diets, calves are susceptible to a long list of diseases, including chronic pneumonia and "scours," or constant diarrhea. Consequently, they must be given massive doses of antibiotics and other drugs just to keep them alive. The antibiotics are passed on to consumers in the meat and that's not all that's passed along.
Federal agents have found more than a dozen veal production companies giving calves clenbuterol, a dangerous and illegal drug that speeds growth and increases anemia in the calves, producing more expensive white meat. Calves treated with clenbuterol can be sold for slaughter at 12 to 13 weeks, rather than the standard 16 weeks. Even trace amounts of clenbuterol can cause severe illness in humans, including increased heart rate, tremors, breathing difficulties, fever and even death.
Veal calves are a byproduct of the dairy industry; they are produced by dairy cows, who are kept constantly pregnant to keep milk production high. Their female calves are raised to be living milk machines like their mothers...confined, fed synthetic hormones and antibiotics, artificially inseminated, and slaughtered after their milk production drops or they are slaughtered for the rennet in their stomachs (used to make commercial cheese). Since male calves cannot produce milk, they are often taken away from their mothers at 1 or 2 days old and put into crates to be killed for veal. The milk that nature meant for them ends up on our supermarket shelves instead.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Factory farming is an extremely cruel method of raising animals, but its profitability makes it popular. Farm animals are sentient beings that experience all the same emotions we do. The best way to save animals from the misery of factory farming is to stop or reduce your consumption of meat, milk, cheese and eggs.
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.
The domestic sheep is the most common species of the sheep genus. They probably descend from the wild mouflon of south-central and south west Asia. Sheep breeders refer to female sheep as ewes, intact males as rams, castrated males as wethers, yearlings as hoggets, and younger sheep as lambs. In sheep husbandry, a group of sheep is called a flock or mob.
Sheep are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Sheep like to stick close to one another for comfort and security. Either black or white, these animals are incredibly gentle. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, but they have also been known to bond closely with humans. If a person hangs a piece of clothing outside, a goat who has bonded with that person will run to it for safety when frightened.
Some breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior. This was used as an example to Israelites in the Christian bible to instruct them to obey their shepherd, or master. Flocking behavior is advantageous to non predatory animals; the strongest animals fight their way to the center of the flock which offers them great protection from predators. It can be disadvantageous when food sources are limited and sheep are almost as prone to overgrazing a pasture as goats. In Iceland, where sheep have no natural predators, and grasses grow slowly, none of the various breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior.
Sheep flocking behavior is so prevalent in some English breeds that special names apply to the different roles sheep play in a flock. One calls a sheep that roams furthest away from the others an outlier, a term originally used to refer to someone who lives far from where they work. This sheep ventures further away from the safety of the flock to graze, due to a larger flight zone or a weakness that prevents it from obtaining enough forage when with the herd. Another sheep, the bellwether, leads the others. Traditionally this was a castrated Ram (or wether) with a bell hung off a string around its neck. The tendency to act as an outlier, bellwether or to fight for the middle of the flock stays with sheep throughout their adulthood; that is unless they have a scary experience which causes them to increase their flight zone.
Most Americans don’t know the true meaning of food labels like “cage-free,” “free-range,” or “grass fed” and falsely believe that farm animals are protected by laws or independent oversight, according to the results of a national survey released by the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®).
The survey also showed that, despite their misconceptions, approximately three quarters of consumers surveyed are concerned about the welfare of animals raised for food and are paying more attention than they were five years ago to food labels that indicate how those animals were raised.
Key findings of the survey:
There are widespread misconceptions about what common labels actually mean for animal welfare: For example, 65 percent of consumers surveyed believe the term “free-range” ensures that the animal spent most of its time in a pasture. But in reality, there is no legal definition of “free-range” for pork, beef or dairy products. On poultry products, birds must have access to the outdoors, but the size, duration and quality of that outdoor experience is not defined.
Consumers are confused about how animal welfare is monitored on farms: Nearly half of those surveyed believe that an independent inspector verifies the health and welfare of animals living on most farms. Actually there is no independent inspection or oversight of animal welfare on the vast majority of farms – a fact that sparked concern in three quarters of survey takers.
Consumers are willing to pay more for products from farms that were audited to higher welfare standards, and desire more options: Sixty-seven percent of consumers say they are likely to buy meat, eggs and dairy products bearing a welfare certification label with meaningful standards, even if it meant paying a higher price for those products. In addition, 75 percent of consumers would like stores to carry a greater variety of welfare-certified meat, eggs and dairy.
There are now over 9 billion land animals raised for food in the U.S. each year, the vast majority of which exist in inhumane factory-like facilities. Sales of ‘higher-welfare’ animal ‘products’ are rising each year, demonstrating consumers’ ever-increasing desire for animals to be treated compassionately.
But buying ‘higher-welfare’ animal products does not reduce animal exploitation. If consumers want to ensure that the food they buy is ‘cruelty-free’, by far the best way to achieve this is to buy vegan food. It is entirely possible and increasingly easy to have nutritious and tasty food and practical and stylish clothing without exploiting animals.
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.
According to a paper published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, the International Journal of Comparative Psychology, pigs perform as well or better than dogs on some tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication, and they compare favorably to chimpanzees, our closest human relatives, in addition to other primates.
The article reviews pigs’ full range of abilities by detailing dozens of studies and extrapolating from those results to determine what we do and do not know about pigs. The areas examined by the article include cognition, emotion, self-awareness, personality and social complexity.
Scientists have concluded that “pigs possess complex ethological traits similar … to dogs and chimpanzees.” For example, pigs:
have excellent long-term memories;
are whizzes with mazes and other tests requiring location of desired objects;
can comprehend a simple symbolic language and can learn complex combinations of symbols for actions and objects;
love to play and engage in mock fighting with each other, similar to play in dogs and other mammals;
live in complex social communities where they keep track of individuals and learn from one another;
cooperate with one another and show signs of Machiavellian intelligence such as perspective-taking and tactical deception;
can manipulate a joystick to move an on-screen cursor, a capacity they share with chimpanzees;
can use a mirror to find hidden food;
exhibit a form of empathy when witnessing the same emotion in another individual.
Scientists have shown that pigs share a number of cognitive capacities with other highly intelligent species such as dogs, chimpanzees, elephants, dolphins, and even humans.
Water buffalo, or Asian buffalo, are believed to have originated in Asia, but have been introduced to Africa, Australia, Europe and North America. Wild water buffalo inhabit tropical and subtropical forests. They live in swamps, grasslands, savannas, lowland floodplains, glades and mixed forests – never far from water.
Water buffalo spend much of their time submerged in muddy waters to keep cool and to remove parasites, flies and other pests. Water buffalo hooves are spread out to keep them from sinking into the mud. They are large members of the Bovidae family, the same family as wild cows, the American bison, the African buffalo, the zebu and the yak. The water buffalo is the second largest wild cattle species in the world.
Water buffaloes are black or white in color. They have large, distinctive, curved horns. Males have larger horns than females and are about a third larger than female water buffaloes. The horns of male water buffaloes are crescent-shaped with a ridge along the body of the horns.
Water buffalo live in herds of a few buffalo to hundreds of buffalo. Living in communities provides better protection against predators. Wild buffalo communicate using low grunts and calls. Water buffalo are social animals and are not territorial. Herds are usually led by a dominant, older, female – often accompanied by a single adult male. Water buffalo can be active during the day or night, with feeding usually occurring in the late afternoon and evening.
Water buffaloes are herbivores, feeding on a purely vegetarian diet. Water buffaloes eat aquatic plants when they are in water, but often leave the water to find grasses, herbs and leaves.
Water buffaloes once engaged in long-distance seasonal migrations. They now occupy stable home ranges. Water buffalo travel in single-file, lead by a female adult with calves in the middle and the remaining adults in the rear.
Water buffalo mating season takes place during the rainy season. Males may be aggressive with each other to earn females. After mating, a female water buffalo will chase away the male. The male water buffalo will then seek other females to mate with. Female water buffaloes have one baby every couple of years, following a gestation period of 9 to 11 months. Baby water buffaloes stay with their mother for several years. After about three years, male water buffaloes join all male water buffalo communities. Female water buffaloes often remain with their mother's herd. Older males may lead a more solitary life, or live near female communities.
Water buffalo are preyed upon by large predators including lions, tigers and crocodiles. Their horns are used to protect them against predators. Water buffalo can also run very fast when faced with danger. They are extremely protective of their calves. Female water buffalo will form protective lines in front of their young when threatened by predators. If the threat continues, they flee into forests, tall grass or water.
Water buffaloes can survive over 25 years in the wild and in captivity.
THREATS TO WATER BUFFALOES
Wild water buffaloes are an endangered species due to loss of habitat and hunting, with less than 4,000 remaining. Their numbers are also diminishing as they are interbred with domesticated water buffalo.
The water buffalo has been domesticated by humans for thousands of years and is inhumanely used to pull heavy machinery, carry heavy loads, plow and transport people. Water buffalo are commercially farmed around the globe for their milk, skin, butterfat and meat.
The average consumer may not be aware of the suffering of billions of birds raised for meat and egg production in the United States each year. Billions of "broiler" chickens and "egg" chickens, and millions turkeys, are killed for food each year. In addition, millions of birds die as a result of disease, injury and during transportation.
Egg-laying hens in the United States number more than 459 million. Of these millions of birds, 97% are confined to "battery" cages, tiny cages roughly 16 by 18 inches wide. Five or 6 birds are crammed into each cage, and the cages are stacked in tall tiers. As many as 50,000 to 125,000 battery hens, in sheds with minimal light, strain to produce 250 eggs per year, ten times the number of eggs they would produce in the wild.
Battery cage confinement does not allow birds to turn around or take part in any other natural behavior, such as preening, dust bathing, and foraging for food. Prolonged forced confinement causes unnatural behaviors such as cannibalism and increases the incidence of disease and injury. Laying hens are also forced to live in a polluted environment due to toxic feed ingredients, accumulated feces, and excretory ammonia fumes. A successful battery system relies heavily on antibiotics that are routinely administered to laying hens to decrease the incidence of disease among these immune-repressed birds.
Battery hens often die in their cages as the result of disease or injury. Those who survive but stop producing adequately are considered "spent" hens and are sent to slaughter to be used for human and animal food. Male chicks are of no value to egg producers. Each year more than 200 million male chicks are killed or left to die after hatching.
Egg-producing birds that are not confined to battery cages seldom fare much better. Eggs labeled "Cage Free" or "Free Range" simply mean that the birds are not confined to battery cages, not necessarily that the hens are allowed a more natural existence. Neither guarantees that they have adequate space to move around, or that they are allowed outdoors to roam about and forage or dust bathe.
Molting is the natural process of shedding old feathers and the growth of new feathers. Molting initiates a new egg-laying cycle. The natural molting process takes about four months to complete. However, on factory farms, poultry producers induce starvation to control egg production in laying hens (eggs for human consumption) and breeding hens (eggs that hatch into birds used for meat or egg production) to reduce the molting period to one to two months. Performed to increase farm profits, this "forced molting" is extremely stressful to hens. Forced molting methods include food and water deprivation, medications and simulated light and dark cycles. A Poultry Science report found that forced molting in combination with a Salmonella infection created an actual disease state in tested hens. Salmonella infection can be passed on to consumers through egg consumption.
Debeaking is a painful procedure whereby the bird's sensitive beak is sliced off with a hot blade. Poultry meat and egg producers that use battery cages and crowded floor systems remove one-half to two-thirds of the birds' beaks to discourage cannibalistic pecking, a behavior that occurs when birds are kept in close confinement with no regard for their natural behaviors. Behavioral studies indicate that debeaked birds are often unable to eat, drink, and preen properly. They also exhibit behaviors associated with chronic pain and depression.
Toe-clipping is the amputation of a bird's toes just behind the claw. This painful procedure is performed to reduce claw-related injuries on factory farms.
Genetic engineering of broiler chickens and turkeys often results in a bird too heavy to stand or walk. They suffer from pain in their legs and sores on their feet that are induced by their extreme, unnatural size. Kept in polluted dark sheds with as many as 25,000 birds per shed, these birds suffer many of the same ailments as battery hens, such as being debeaked and being forced to live in a toxic environment. Thousands of these birds never make it to slaughter -- they will die while still on the farm from injuries, disease or their inability to reach food and water.
Millions of birds die during the loading of trucks and while en route to slaughter. These sensitive birds, often in very poor physical condition, are grabbed by their legs and thrown into densely packed cages to be transported by truck to slaughterhouses that are sometimes hundreds of miles away. Many die from shock, injury, and suffocation in the process.
The U.S. Federal Humane Slaughter Act does not apply to poultry, meaning that there is no federal law that requires birds to be stunned prior to slaughter. This allows for diversity in commercial poultry slaughter approaches and stunning equipment. When slaughterhouses do use stunning equipment, lack of regulation often results in birds allowed to raise their heads prior to reaching the water bath stunner and therefore not adequately stunned. Problems also exist in neck-cutting equipment, which may result in prolonged and extreme pain caused by necks improperly cut during the killing process.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Decrease or eliminate foods containing poultry products from your diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses a vegetarian diet.
Goats seem to have been first domesticated roughly 10,000 years ago in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. Domestic goats were generally kept in herds that wandered on hills or other grazing areas, often tended by goatherds who were frequently children or adolescents, similar to the more widely known shepherd. These methods of herding are still utilized today.
Goats, like cows, are ruminant animals. They have a four chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Goats are shy at first, but will show adoration and devotion once you have gained their trust. They're frolicsome and have a gentle disposition, but when angered, they can retaliate quickly with a strong head butt. Goats are also clever animals who have been known to use their horns to open gates and feed bins, create and enlarge holes in fences, and batter down boards in confined areas. They also use their horns as back scratchers. Goats are most comfortable in groups, which are known as "tribes."
Goats are reputed to be willing to eat almost anything. Contrary to this reputation, they are quite fastidious in their habits, preferring to browse on the tips of woody shrubs and trees, as well as the occasional broad leaved plant.
It can fairly be said that goats will eat almost anything in the botanical world. Their plant diet is extremely varied and includes some species which are toxic or detrimental to cattle and sheep. This makes them valuable for controlling noxious weeds and clearing brush and undergrowth. They will seldom eat soiled food or water unless facing starvation.
Goats do not actually consume garbage, tin cans, or clothing, although they will occasionally eat items made primarily of plant material, which can include wood. Their reputation for doing so is most likely due to their intensely inquisitive and intelligent nature: they will explore anything new or unfamiliar in their surroundings. They do so primarily with their prehensile upper lip and tongue.
In some climates goats, like humans, are able to breed at any time of the year. In northern climates and among the Swiss breeds, the breeding season commences as the day length shortens, and ends in early spring. Does of any breed come into heat every 21 days for 2 to 48 hours. A doe in heat typically flags her tail often, stays near the buck if one is present, becomes more vocal, and may also show a decrease in appetite and milk production for the duration of the heat.
Bucks (intact males) of Swiss and northern breeds come into rut in the fall as with the doe's heat cycles. Rut is characterized by a decrease in appetite, obsessive interest in the does, fighting between bucks, display behavior, and, most notably, a strong, musky odor. This odor is singular to bucks in rut; the does do not have it unless the buck has rubbed his scent onto them or the doe is in actuality a hermaphrodite. It is instrumental in bringing the does into a strong heat.
Gestation length is approximately 150 days. Twins are the usual result, with single and triplet births also common. Less frequent are litters of quadruplet, quintuplet, and even sextuplet kids. Birthing, known as kidding, generally occurs uneventfully with few complications. The mother often eats the placenta, which gives her much needed nutrients, helps staunch her bleeding, and reduces the lure of the birth scent to predators. After kidding, the kids conceal themselves in small places and lay immobile for hours at a time while their mother feeds. Upon her return, she calls for them and they come out to nurse and play.
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.
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.
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.
A bald eagle, as the nation's official bird, adorns the Great Seal of the United States of America. But if Benjamin Franklin had had his way, a turkey, not a bald eagle, might have famously gripped those 13 arrows and an olive branch as part of the seal. Franklin knew, like others who have spent time around this large bird, that it would have been an honor for the turkey to represent the U.S.
Originating from the Mexican wild turkey, the turkey was domesticated by Native Americans in prehistoric times and introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Early American settlers brought descendants of the Mexican wild turkey to the U.S. and crossed them with another subspecies of wild turkey indigenous to eastern North America to produce the forerunner of the modern domestic turkey.
Turkeys are usually characterized by large tail feathers that spread into a fan when they are courting or alarmed. Turkeys also have several oddly named appendages: the caruncle, snood, wattle and beard. A caruncle is a red fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of the turkey. A snood is the red fleshy growth from the base of the beak which hangs over the side of the beak. A wattle is the red, loose appendage at the turkey's neck. A beard is the black lock of hairy feathers found on a male turkey's chest.
Most turkeys raised for food have been genetically selected to have large breast meat, and they are unable to fly or reproduce without artificial insemination. They are fed a mix of corn and soybeans during their short life. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered for food each year, most at about 14–18 weeks of age. Commercial, domestic hens (or female turkeys) weigh 15–18 pounds by 14–16 weeks of age, and heavy toms (or male turkeys) weigh 25-32 pounds by 16–18 weeks.
Five subspecies of wild turkeys still inhabit much of the United States, with a population estimated at 6.5 million. The most prevalent bird is the Eastern wild turkey, whose forest territory ranges from Maine to parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Wild turkeys are smaller in size than their domestic counterparts, with a longer neck and body. They have a rich, brown-shaded plumage with a metallic or iridescent sheen, and white and black bars on their primary wing feathers. Toms can stand up to 4 feet tall and weigh more than 20 pounds, while hens are about half that size and weight. Wild turkeys eat nuts, greens, insects, seeds, and fruit, and can live 3–4 years. Their predators include human hunters and animals who disturb their nests, such as crows, raccoons, skunks, snakes and opossums.
Hens begin nesting in late March or early April, laying one egg a day until the clutch reaches 10–12 eggs. They nest on the ground, in a hidden area in the forest or fields of tall grass. Incubation lasts for 28 days, and hatching occurs over a 24–36 hour period in late May or early June. Poults, or baby turkeys, stay near the nest until they are about 4 weeks old and can fly 25–50 feet. This allows them to escape predators by roosting in trees for the night, usually near their mother. By three months of age, turkey groups will begin to form a social hierarchy, and an established pecking order is set by five months of age, at which time groups show subdivision by gender. As full-grown adults, wild turkeys can fly at 55 mph and run at 25 mph.
Hens are protective of their young. They will hiss and ruffle their feathers to scare away trespassers, and will only abandon the nest as a last option. Hatching begins with pipping, where the baby rotates inside the egg, breaking the shell in a circular pattern with its egg tooth (a sharp spike on its beak). Hens cluck as they check the eggs, beginning the critical imprinting process. Social cohesion among the babies is evident the first day after hatching, as is attachment to the mom. Vocal and visual signals are used to maintain close contact. This facilitates the learning of certain important activities, particularly feeding. Turkeys are social animals who prefer to live and feed together in flocks.
Wild turkeys are not protected by legislation. Commercial turkeys are not even included in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, although poultry make up over 95% of the animals killed for food in America. They are raised in crowded factory farms where they are not able to nest or feed like their wild cousins.