Animals raised & hunted for food

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Overlooked: The lives of animals raised for food. - HSUS - January 2008

Animals raised & hunted for food is a subsection of the main SourceWatch article War on Animals.

Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFO)s

Approximately 10 billion land animals are raised and killed for food every year in the U.S. (over a million an hour). Hundreds of millions are intensively confined in restrictive pens, cages and stalls; unable to engage in basic movement. No federal law protects them from cruelty. Most states exempt "customary agricultural practices", no matter how abusive, from animal cruelty statutes. [1]

Factory farmed chickens, turkeys and pigs spend their lives in dark, crowded warehouses. Often, they do not even have sufficient space to turn around and sit in their own wastes with the stench of ammonia filling the air. They are also bred and drugged to grow faster and larger than normal and become crippled under their own weight. Some factory farmed animals can barely move and die inches from their water supply. They never see the sun or get a breath of fresh air until the day they are prodded and crammed onto trucks bound for the slaughterhouse. [2] Animals being transported from farms to stock yards and slaughter houses may freeze to the walls or the floor or die of heat and suffocation in unventilated trucks. Animals being transported may be legally deprived of food and water for up to 36 hours. Animals too weak to walk on or off a live stock transport are fork lifted or dragged by chains to slaughter. [3] The Federal Humane Slaughter Act requires that all animals (excluding birds) be stunned properly prior to slaughter. However, it carries no penalties and is rarely enforced. 30 U.S. states specifically exempt "customary or normal" farming practices from the legal definition of animal cruelty. [4]


Slaughterhouse workers known as "knockers", stun cows by driving a steel bolt into it's head. Other workers hang the cow by its hoof from chains and slit its jugular vein. According to the law, the animal must have bled to death before it proceeds down a disassembly line to be skinned eviserated and dismembered. However, according to a slaughterhouse worker in a Wallula, Washington, the Iowa Beef Processors (now owned by Tyson Foods) plant, cattle are processed so quickly that they are still conscious. According to an affidavit, "10% to 30% of animals at the IBP plant proceed through the skinning and dismemberment process in a fully conscious state." Workers are kicked by frantic animals, suffer contusions, serious stab wounds and loss of fingers and teeth. Workers have videotaped struggling animals being skinned alive while hanging from chains. [5] See also Tyson Foods.


Baby cows born in hell. - HSUS - July 2006
Calves in veal crates

Between 1940 and 2007, the average amount of milk produced per cow rose from 2 to 10 tons per year. [6] In 2006, the U.S. dairy industry produced over 20 billion gallons of milk. [7] Although genetic selection and feeding are used to increase production efficiency, cows do not adapt well to high milk yields or high grain diets. Metabolic disorders are common and millions of cows suffer from mastitis (a painful udder infection), lameness and infertility. CAFOs confine cattle to barns or feed lots. Some cows are housed indoors year round and lactating cows are often restrained in tie stalls or stanchions. Organic farms are required to provide some access to pasture, but large dairies often purchase most of their feed as well.

Dairy cows are taken from their mother immediately after birth. Male calves are sold for veal or castrated and raised for beef. Calves raised for "special-fed veal" are kept in veal crates and slaughtered when they are between 16 and 18 weeks old. For "bob veal", they are killed at 3 weeks or younger. Female calves are commonly subjected to tail docking, dehorning and the removal of extra teats. They are fed colostrum until they are weaned at 8 weeks, then fed milk replacer or unsaleable waste milk. Every year, hundreds of thousands of female calves die before they are even weaned of scours, diarrhea and other digestive problems. Though they don't reach maturity until at least 4 years, dairy cows give birth at 2 years and are bred approximately 60 days after giving birth. Every year, about a quarter of the dairy cows who have survived the farms are sent to slaughter, usually due to reproductive problems or mastitis. Cows may live over 20 years but are generally killed at about 5 years. A "downer" is an animal who cannot stand or walk. It is estimated there are about 500,000 cattle on U.S. farms, feedlots or sent to slaughter facilities that are too sick, weak or injured to walk or stand; most are dairy cows. [8] See also Land O' Lakes.

Bovine growth hormones (rBGH)

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of recombinant bovine growth hormone (rbGH) being injected into cows on February 4th, 1994, which is banned in every other industrialized country except for the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil. The need for such for an increase in milk production has been questioned, since the dairy industry has been overproducing for 60 years. Between 1986 and 1987, dairy farmers were paid over 1.3 billion dollars to slaughter their cows. 144 dairy producers received over one million apiece to refrain from dairy farming for five years (one California producer received 20 million dollars). [9] Increased production is very hard on the animals, who are repeatedly impregnated and often kept in unnaturally large herds in dirt and mud. When dairy cows can no longer produce the high amounts of milk required, they are slaughtered. [10] Cows injected with rBGH have a 25% increase in udder infections and a 50% increase in lameness. [11] See also meat & dairy industry.


HSUS undercover investigation of Smithfield Foods. - November 2010
Sows in gestation crates

Many consider pigs to be equal and/or superior in intelligence to dogs. Piglets learn their names within two to three weeks when living among humans. They have also demonstrated a strong sense of direction, with the ability to find their way home from long distances. [12] Pigs are highly sociable and active and in their natural setting travel 30 miles a day. In the evening, pigs will prepare a communal nest from branches and grass for the night. However, when pigs are packed together and don't have enough space, they may become violent, bite each others tails and even become cannibalistic. The industry's response is to cut off their tails and chip off their teeth. [13]

Visit to a pig CAFO

So great is a sow's need to build a nest for her piglets that some will rub their snouts on the concrete floor until they are raw. Confinement in warehouses produces neurotic, repetitive behaviors to deal with stress and boredom including bar biting and sham chewing (chewing nothing). According to a Mercy for Animals investigator:

"What will remain with me forever is the sound of desperate pigs banging their heads against immovable doors and their constant and repeated biting at the prison bars that held them captive. This, I now know, is a sign of mental collapse." [14]

80% of breeding sows in the U.S. are confined in gestation crates for the duration of their 112 to 115 day pregnancies (individual metal enclosures so restrictive that the pigs cannot turn around.) Crated sows suffer from urinary tract infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, lameness and neurotic, obsessive behaviors. [15] Due to dust, irritating fumes, toxic gases and bacteria build up in over crowded warehouses, most factory farmed pigs have respiratory distress (which also effects workers). Seventy to 80 % of U.S. pigs have pneumonia at the time of slaughter. Water routinely given to U.S. pigs is liquid wastes draining from manure pits. [16] See also Smithfield Foods.

Pig slaughter

Sick pigs or "unproductive units" are immediately clubbed to death. Other methods include slamming their heads against the wall, (thumping), drowning them with a hose or standing on their necks. [17], [18] A plant worker describes pigs being scalded alive:

"After they left me, the hogs would go up a hundred-foot ramp to a tank where they're dunked in 140° water... Water any hotter than that would take the meat right off their bones... There's no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they're still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time." [19]


PETA investigation of Tyson Foods. - 2007
Hens in battery cages

Chickens exist in stable social groups and recognize each other by facial features. They also have 24 distinct cries and are good at solving problems. According to psychology professor Chris Evans of the University of Sydney, Australia:

"As a trick at conferences I sometimes list these attributes, without mentioning chickens, and people think I'm talking about monkeys." [20]

Approximately 95% of the 10 billion land animals killed annually in the U.S. are birds; one million broiler chickens are killed per hour. Approximately 280 million laying hens are raised for eggs and 250 million turkeys are slaughtered for meat. On factory farms, birds raised for meat are confined to sheds with tens of thousands of birds in each. They are unable to engage in normal behaviors such as roosting and foraging. The poultry industry uses selective breeding and growth promoting antibiotics to produce birds "whose bodies are on the verge of structural collapse". [21] Chicken warehouses may contain 50,000 birds. Antibiotics also make them vulnerable to disease as strains of bacteria become resistant. [22] It has been estimated that in some chicken flocks, 90% are infected with chicken cancer (leukosis). [23]

A November of 2010 investigation of the largest producer and marketer of shell eggs in the U.S., documented the following:

  • Birds trapped in cage wires, unable to reach food or water. Cage wires trapped hens wings, necks, legs and feet causing other birds to trample the weakened birds and a slow and painful death.
  • Injuries included bloody feet and broken legs from cage wires. Multiple birds live in a single, crowded cage. Each hen has only 67 square inches or less cage space than a sheet of paper to live in for over one year.
  • Hens suffering from painful uterine prolapse with other hens stepping on them.
  • Hens in bottoms cages covered in feces from hens in higher cages.
  • Eggs covered in blood and feces.
  • Abandoned hens roaming outside their cages.
  • Hens falling and drowning in manure pits.
  • Dead and rotting hens left in cages, trapped under feeders, on egg conveyor belts and on floors.[24]

See also Cal-Maine Foods & Willmar Poultry Company.

Inhumane slaughter

Male chicks are of no economic value to the egg industry and are therefore typically gassed or ground up alive (macerated). Maceration is an increasingly common method for disposing of male chicks. [25] Fowl, chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese are not protected under any laws regarding farm animals, including humane slaughter. [26] Fully conscious chickens and turkeys are shackled by their ankles upside-down to a moving conveyor belt. The birds are then given intensely painful electric shocks, which are intended to immobilize and make it easier to slit their throats. (Often the shocks fail to render them unconscious). After being shocked, their throats are slashed by a mechanical blade. Inevitably, the blade misses some birds, who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), millions of birds per year are submerged in scalding water (about 143° F) while fully conscious.[27], [28] According to Virgil Butler, a former Tyson Foods slaughterhouse worker:

"When this happens, the chickens flop, scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads. Then, they often come out the other end with broken bones and disfigured and missing body parts because they've struggled so much in the tank." [29] See also Tyson Foods.

Foie gras

Delicacy of Despair: Inside Hudson Valley Foie Gras & Sonama Foie Gras. - November 2006
Ducks in foie gras cages

Foie gras is the swollen, diseased liver from force fed ducks and geese. 75% of the world's foie gras production is in France, where approximately 24 million ducks and half a million geese are killed annually for their enlarged livers. Nearly all foie gras birds are raised in intensive confinement and endure brutal force feeding two to three times a day. Approximately 500,000 ducks are killed annually for foie gras in the U.S. and Canada, respectively. On foie gras factory farms, geese and ducks are confined in small pens or tiny cages that virtually lock the birds in place. Restrained birds cannot escape the "feeder" who grabs each bird and plunges a metal pipe attached to a mechanized air pump down their esophagus. In a few seconds, a corn and oil mush is pumped down their esophagus (the equivalent of 1/4 to 1/3 the bird's weight) per day. Within a few weeks, their livers may swell to ten times their normal size, leaving them barely able to move or even breathe. Enlarged livers push against other organs, causing respiratory distress and forcing legs outward at an unnatural angle. Foie gras ducks have been observed panting, struggling to stand and using their wings to push forward as their crippled legs will not support them. These struggles also cause pressure sores. In their debilitated state, birds cannot engage in normal preening and other natural behaviors. They are also denied sufficient access to water for them to do so. Like all factory-farmed ducks, they are debilled (ostensibly to prevent them from pecking each other.) Duckling's bills are cut off shortly after birth, slicing through tissue rich in nerve endings. Debilled poultry suffer from chronic pain all their lives, often having trouble or unable to eat or preen. Their livers are in the medical state referred to hepatic lipidosis or steatosis. According to avian veterinarian, Dr. Laurie Siperstein Cook:

"If the liver can't work properly, you've got all these toxins flowing through the blood, making them feel bad in various ways, so it can harm various organs as well as the brain."

According to The European Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) report:

"Because normal liver function is seriously impaired in birds with the hypertrophied liver which occurs at the end of force feeding this level of steatosis should be considered pathological."
Foie gras duck being force fed

The mortality rate on foie gras farms is up to 20 times as high as death rates on conventional duck farms. Ducks can die from neck punctures, liver failure, suffocation and pneumonia. Necropsies on foie gras birds have also shown massive internal bacterial and fungal growth as well as bumblefoot (bacterial inflamation of the feet.) [30] The Animal Protection & Rescue League (APRL) has investigated all three U.S. foie gras farms and several in France, revealing shocking, industry wide abuse. [31] At both Hudson Valley Foie Gras in New York and Sonama Foie Gras in California, ducks lived in feces ridden sheds. Some ducks were isolated in wire cages so small they could barely move. Long metal pipes are shoved down the birds' throats two to three times a day to air pump nutritionally deficient corn mush (1/10 of their body weight per feeding). The feed lacks choline, an amino acid essential for liver function, so fat builds up in the liver. Foie gras farms have death rates 20% higher than ordinary factory farms. Barrels of birds who had died from choking, ruptured organs or had exploded from force feeding, were found on every farm. Some birds had died of throat wounds and rips. Birds were suffering from anal hemorrhaging, with many so painfully debilitated they were unable to move. Investigators rescued several ducks, including two crippled birds being eaten alive by rats. [32], [33] According to Dr. Ward Stone, senior wildlife pathologist for NY Dept. of Environmental Conservation:

"Having seen the pathology that occurs from Foie Gras Production, I strongly recommend that this process be outlawed." [34]

Only male ducks are used for foie gras, females are "discarded". [35] According to undercover footage from Elevages Perigord, Canada’s largest foie gras facility, abuses included tearing off the heads of live ducks, kicking, throwing, punching and bashing ducks against walls and floors and suffocating ducklings. [36]

Aquatic animals

Many fish have long life spans, complicated nervous systems and are capable of learning complicated tasks. [37] According to Guyton & Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology (1996):

"The lower regions of the brain (which all vertebrates have) appear to be important in the appreciation of the suffering types of pain." [38]

Fish farming

Factory fish farming (aquaculture) is the fastest growing agricultural industry in the world. Over a third (by weight) of all aquatic animals eaten in the U.S. are now raised on farms (800 million pounds). [39] Similar to chicken industry abuses, aquaculture causes great suffering in farmed fish. Fish farms typically put 50,000 to 90,000 fish in a pen 100 feet by 100 feet. A single farm can grow hundreds of thousands or even a million or more fish. [40] Factory farmed fish are hatched in temperature controlled tanks. Small fish or "fry", are then transferred to rearing areas until they reach maturity. Fish may be raised either in tanks or raceways (rectangular enclosures made of concrete of up to 20 acres or constructed inland or inside of artificial enclosures in coastal estuaries.) Crowded conditions cause suffocation and disease. According to an article in the Cornell Countryman:

"growing 2,500 pounds of fish in 2,500 gallons of water doesn't give the fish much room to breathe..."

Crowded, excrement laden water also requires the use of agrochemicals. The chemicals and waste pollute vast areas of increasingly rare coastal estuaries every year. When fish reach market weight, they are loaded into oxygenated tanker trucks for the kill plant. According to Feedstuffs, "Conventional pond harvest methods, such as pond draw-down or seining (the use of nets), often severely stress or damage fish." The tanker trucks pours water and fish into large metal mesh cages where surviving fish die of suffocation. [41]

Commercial fishing

Wild fish populations have been destroyed over the last 50 years, due to overfishing. Wild catches have increased by approximately 500% or nearly 100 million tons per year. "By-catches" trapped in vast nets from factory trawling vessels include non-target fish, sea turtles, sea lions and dolphins; which are thrown back into the water, dead or dying. The U.S. government estimates that over one hundred thousand marine mammals are killed annually by the U.S. fishing industry alone. Worldwide, it is estimated that 8% (or 7 million metric tons) of wild-caught fish are considered to be unintentional or "by-catch". [42] Annual estimates for aquatic animals killed for food in the U.S. are over 10 billion. The industry sets miles of line and baited hooks to catch large animals such as sharks and ensnare schools of fish in large nets towed by underwater trawlers. When deep sea fish are brought to the surface, their organs may burst from decompression before they die of suffocation on the deck. Entanglement in fishing gear is a major threat to whales, dolphins and porpoises world wide, killing over 300,000 animals every year. [43] The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that one in four animals caught by industrial fishing vessels are by-catch. [44]


Lobsters smell chemicals in the water with their antennae and they "taste" with sensory hairs on their legs. They have a long and awkward adolescence, carry their young for 9 months and can live to be over 100. Like many animals, they have a language composed of signals and social relationships. Lobsters may travel over 100 miles a year, if they can avoid the millions of lobster traps along the coasts. Over 20 million lobsters are consumed annually in the U.S. According to invertebrate zoologist Jaren G. Horsley, Ph.D.:

"I can tell you the lobster has a rather sophisticated nervous system that, among other things, allows it to sense actions that will cause it harm. Lobsters can, I am sure, sense pain. ...The lobster does not have an autonomic nervous system that puts it into a state of shock when it is harmed. It probably feels itself being cut. (It) feels all the pain until its nervous system is destroyed during cooking." [45]

Dogs & cats in South Korea

Dog meat trade

In South Korea, two million dogs a year are raised, tortured and killed for human consumption. Dogs and cats are forced to live in tiny cages and killed by electrocution, strangulation or bludgeoning. Some Koreans believe that the adrenaline rushing through the animals' system by a prolonged death, improves the taste of the meat and virility in the consumer. Witnesses have reported dogs being torn apart while still alive.

The practice of eating dogs in Korea gained popularity after the Korean War and widespread starvation. The practice grew when dealers and restaurants began to make false health and virility claims.[46]


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