Most of these stories begin inside dim, crowded facilities called 'factory farms'. The vision of Old Macdonald's farm vanished long ago when a trend developed to allow producers to make more animal products, for less money, by severely confining animals and controlling every aspect of their lives inside grossly unnatural indoor environments. In factory farms, sensitive, intelligent animals are treated like mere production units, rather than thinking, feeling beings. In order to produce eggs and meat, factory-farmed animals endure physical pain, stress, fear, loneliness and chronic boredom. This would normally be a textbook cruelty offence, but factory farm operators have been given exemptions from animal cruelty laws in order to conduct their business lawfully. This is legalised animal cruelty.
Scientists consider the humble pig to be one of the most intelligent species on the planet — believed to have the intelligence of a 3-year-old child. Yet, this is not reflected in the abysmal way in which pigs are kept in factory farms.
Despite advances overseas, in Australia, a pregnant pig can still be confined in a ‘sow crate’—a barren metal cage little bigger than her own body. She can barely move and is unable to turn around. Trapped in a cycle of suffering, she is forced to give birth on a hard concrete or metal floor; denied the ability to properly nurture her young; and will be continually impregnated until her body can no longer physically cope.
The fate of her piglets — destined to be slaughtered for pork, ham or bacon — is no better. Severe confinement and crowding in factory farms causes stress and behavioural problems among pigs which can lead to aggression and injury. But rather than give pigs more space to more and express normal behaviour, factory farm operators subject piglets to painful surgical procedures instead. Their teeth are cut; their tails are sliced off — through the bone; and males can be castrated. Many pigs also endure the agony of having slices cut from their ears for identification. All these routine procedures are done without any pain relief.
Chickens are remarkably social and complex animals. They can recognise the individual faces of up to 100 other birds in their flock, develop intricate social hierarchies (or 'pecking orders'), and are even known to be good problem solvers.
Yet the 12 million hens who are forced to lay Australia's 'cage eggs' will never feel the sun on their feathers, beat their wings, or experience the life that nature intended. Instead, each hen is imprisoned in a wire cage with up to four other birds. Her allocated 'living' space is smaller than one A4 sheet of paper — not even enough space to stretch her wings. The combination of lack of exercise and continual egg-laying, which depletes hens of calcium, leads to weakened bones. It is estimated that 1 in 6 battery hens live in their cages with untreated broken bones.
As chicks, egg-laying hens are commonly 'debeaked'. This involves slicing off part of the bird's sensitive beak with infra-red rays or a hot iron. The pain has been likened to having the tips of your fingers cut off — without pain relief.
'Spent hens', whose egg-laying has declined, are usually killed at about 18 months of age. In order to replace the millions of egg-laying hens who are slaughtered every year, millions more are hatched to replace them. However only half these newborn chicks have any economic value to the egg industry because males can't lay eggs. As a result, every year over 12 million day-old male chicks are 'disposed' of by the egg industry either being gassed to death or ground up a live in a 'macerator'.
More chickens are raised in factory farms for their meat than any other animal — 435 million in Australia every year. These birds spend their lives inside a dimly lit shed with tens of thousands of other birds. Bred to grow at three times their natural rate, these animals are still babies — just five weeks old — when they are slaughtered. They may be the size of an adult bird, but they still have baby feathers, baby blue eyes and cheep like chicks the day of their death. Unnaturally rapid growth also causes a range of debilitating physical problems ranging from heart disease to lameness.
Chicken factory farms are not cleaned for the duration of the chickens' lives. This causes a build up of faeces which can cause 'breast blisters' to birds who are struggling to carry their massive weight around on frail, underdeveloped legs.
The chicken meat industry expects roughly 20 million birds to die in this horrific environment every year — a figure factored into the 'cost-benefit' of raising birds in such unnatural conditions.
Most Australians would be shocked to learn that their every-day shopping habits underpin the largest cause of animal abuse in the country. But with knowledge comes power, and as an informed, caring consumer, you have the power to end this abuse.
If you want to see animals free from suffering, please read our guide to becoming a compassionate shopper and support our campaign to inform other Australians about the hidden cruelty of factory farming.
Our every-day choices can save sensitive, intelligent animals from unimaginable cruelty. What you choose to buy, or choose not to buy, will determine their fate.
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