Most people are under the impression that veganism only describes a plant-based diet in which no animal products are consumed; however, veganism goes beyond food to exclude all forms of animal cruelty. The Vegan Society defines veganism as “a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” While animal cruelty exists in many industries such as clothing, entertainment, and cosmetic, I will be primarily focusing on the mistreatment of animals in the food industry because it is the reason that most people decide to transition into a vegan lifestyle (VomadLife).In the branding of almost every animal product, there is the implication that the animals involved lived great lives on a little farm with a huge field to freely roam before they happily ended up in the supermarket freezer. However, the packaging decorated with cartoon cows offering up a glass of its own milk covers up an industry built on a massive scale of animal abuse. According to A Well-Fed World, “around 9 billion land animals are killed each year in the U.
S. alone to produce meat, dairy, and eggs which is about one million every hour.” When considering the death toll globally and including aquatic animals, it exceeds the trillions.
However, the animal’s pain doesn’t just begin on their death day. In order to minimize costs and maximize profits, many production companies neglect the living conditions and ignore the quality of life of the animals. Because resources and land are limited and expensive, almost all livestock in mass production spend their lives in crowded spaces and unsanitary conditions, which leads to extreme physical and mental damage. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, chickens raised for meat are crammed into indoor sheds, chronically sleep-deprived in order to keep them constantly eating and growing, and suffer from the toxicity of living in their own waste. Pigs spend their lives in narrow pens in windowless sheds that do not allow them sufficient movement. Severe frustration with their circumstances also causes some pigs to bite their tails in which farms respond by “cutting off their teeth and the ends of their tails without pain relief” (ASPCA). Most beef cattle usually spend most of their lives outdoors and only endure overpopulated feeding lots a few months before their deaths, and while this might seem like a great improvement from living inside, they are forced to stand in “mud, ice, and their own waste without pasture and shelter” (ASPCA). In addition to “castration, branding, and the removal of their horns without painkillers,” the cattle are also fed “an unnatural grain diet that brings pain, sickness, and sometimes even death to increase their weight” (ASPCA).
These are only a few details of the extremely inadequate conditions that the livestock are forced to suffer through. While it is obvious that an animal must have suffered at least through its death in order to produce a meal with meat, many people are under the impression that because products such as milk and eggs do not require the death of an animal, they are produced without much cruelty involved. However, dairy cows and egg-laying birds suffer just as much, if not more than their meat producing counterparts. Egg-laying hens are crammed into battery cages “providing less floor space per bird than a regular 8.5-by-11 sheet of paper,” which often leads to frustrated pecking to which factory farms respond by “burning or slicing off a portion of each hen’s beak without painkillers” (ASPCA).
The male half of the newborn chicks are “killed by grinding, gassing, crushing or suffocation” (ASPCA) shortly after hatching because they will not lay eggs as adults and because they have been bred for egg production rather than meat. Like humans, cows also only produce milk when they bear children. So in order to constantly produce milk, dairy cows spend almost the entirety of their lives pregnant through the process of artificial insemination in which the cows are forcibly entered through the anus to be impregnated with a sample of bull sperm, sometimes with a worker’s entire arm, while being restrained in stalls that have been nicknamed “rape racks.” The simple name of the “rape rack” highlights the fact that the cows are not consenting to and suffering from the horrifying experiences. While simultaneously enduring a painful, swelling infection in their udders brought on by intense milk production, dairy cows also often have up to “two-thirds of their tails removed without painkillers because some producers falsely believe the udders stay cleaner this way” (ASPCA). And after their calves are born, the females are raised to join their mothers on the rape rack while bulls are separated from their mothers, which causes intense distress to the calves and the mothers, and are transferred into the beef or veal industry because they are of no further use to the dairy farms.
These animals endure this brutal treatment as well as the inhumane living conditions that their meat producing counterparts face while many people are completely unaware of the shocking and disturbing practices of the egg and dairy industry. In addition to the horrific external conditions, their bodies also trap them in constant discomfort, illness, and pain in order to serve our purposes rather than their wellbeing. Through a combination of selective breeding, overfeeding, and preventing any sufficient exercise, the genetics of farm animals have been tampered with to favor certain characteristics and produce a very specific line of offspring that increases production value. Farm animals “grow unnaturally quickly and disproportionately and as a result, suffer from heart failure, difficulties with breathing, leg weakness and chronic pain” (ASPCA). Some animals even become crippled because they can no longer hold up their own weight. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals points out that “if humans grew at a similar rate, a 6.6-pound newborn baby would weigh 660 pounds after two months and how today’s dairy cows produce ten times more than cows living a few decades ago due to bovine growth hormones.” The animals have been bred past the point of domestication because we have objectified them into inventory rather than sentient beings that can feel pain.
Genetic manipulation is another unnatural and constant form of torture that the animal are forced to endure even before they are born into their factory lives.