PAWS Magazine


Issue 47, Fall 2000


As you visit the grocery store, consider your animal friends

This editorial was submitted to the Seattle Times for World Farm Animals Day, Monday October 2.

By Jennifer Hillman,
PAWS Farm Animal Campaign Coordinator

Each time we head to the grocery store to fill our carts with food for our families and ourselves, we are presented with the opportunity to make choices, choices that affect the lives of gentle, sentient, intelligent creatures. As a memorial to the 9 billion animals abused and slaughtered for food each year, today is the 18th annual observance of World Farm Animals Day. As you walk up and down the aisles of the grocery store, consider the lives of the animals whose bodies and products are on display.

As you reach for a carton of milk or some cheese today, consider the dairy cow. In the factory farm, she has been turned into a machine, forced to produce an average of 15,557 pounds of milk per year, almost 20 times more milk than she would produce if she were feeding one or two calves during her lifetime. Her body is full of growth hormones and antibiotics, necessary staples of an intensely overcrowded confinement system. After she has exceeded her capacity to produce more milk, she is often too weak to walk so she is pushed, pulled and dragged by chains to the slaughterhouse.

Consider the connection between dairy products and the "gourmet" veal you may be thinking of for dinner tonight. Calves are separated from their mothers at birth and placed in crates built purposely so that they cannot turn around or even groom themselves. Calves are often chained at the neck to further restrict their movement, keeping their muscles soft. Their diet is designed to cause anemia and therefore create the "white" or "prime" meat that earns its gourmet reputation. At about 16 weeks old, they too are forced to slaughter.

As you choose the ground beef that you might grill today, remember that cows right here in Washington State are being butchered alive. In May, videotaped evidence and the sworn affidavits of 17 workers at the IBP owned Wallula slaughterhouse testified that cows, still fully conscious, were being shackled and hoisted onto a production line moving too fast by a company whose bottom line forbids it to stop. Workers described cows being tortured with electric prods as they struggled to stand. They talked about their eyes blinking and the noise that they made as they were skinned alive. An investigation into violations of the Humane Slaughter Act is still ongoing.

If bacon is on the menu for breakfast today, reflect for a minute on the life of the breeding sow. The female pig in the factory farm, producing babies for slaughter, is confined for years to a narrow, metal, cement floored stall that is just barely the length of her body. She is unable to walk or turn around. Sometimes she is chained to the floor by her neck. Pigs will spend all day desperately biting on the metal bars of their stalls and rubbing their snouts back and forth continuously. These types of behaviors have been compared to human psychosis.

Finally, if your preference today is chicken or eggs, you should know that the "broiler" and the hen represent the largest number of animals suffering and being slaughtered on the factory farm. Chickens have never been afforded the right to be slaughtered humanely. They are stuffed into crates and driven for hours to the slaughterhouse where they are shackled and hung upside down on metal hooks. An electric current doesn’t render them unconscious, but only paralyzes so it’s easy to cut their throats and pack them alive into a "bleeding hole". The laying hen will spend her life confined in a wire cage with up to 6 other birds. Because the cage is so small, she is unable to fly, stretch her wings, peck at the earth or build a nest to lay her eggs in. Her beak is sliced off and "forced molting" through starvation increases her egg production. When she is sent to slaughter, her badly damaged body cannot be packaged whole, but can only be ground up for soup or pot pies.

McDonalds Corporation recently issued a demand that its egg suppliers give their hens more cage space and that they stop "forced molting". McDonalds says it will also consider the conditions in which breeding sows are kept. A new "free farmed" label from the American Humane Association is now available to farmers who can meet important standards that improve the lives of farm animals. In September, Farm Sanctuary initiated a national survey, which found that 75.4% of Americans find standard practices of the egg industry unacceptable. There are numerous federal and state bills pending that address many of the cruel and inhumane practices of the factory farm.

Recognize World Farm Animals Day and consider it your responsibility to educate yourself about the ways in which farm animals are treated before they reach your plate. Even if you feel unable to make the choice to voluntarily eliminate animals from your diet today, make a choice to demand that your legislators make new laws that will protect farm animals and change the way in which we raise, handle, transport and slaughter these animals today. Use your power as a consumer and as a voter to make choices that respect the lives of innocent animals.

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