Animals Suffer Like We Do
We’re taught to think of animals raised for food — if we think of them at all — as an abstract category— “farm animals”— nameless, faceless herds and flocks whose generic characteristics are merely recycled through an endless stream of indistinct entities. But “farm animals” is a human-invented category. Just like cats and dogs, and like humans as well, animals used for food are individuals with unique personalities and emotions. They feel joy, affection, and pleasure, as well as fear, grief, and pain. Like us, they form deep friendships and emotional bonds and like us they seek to preserve their lives. The calf in the heart-warming video below was rescued from dairy industry slaughter. He responds to love and affection just as a happy dog would do.
Dairy & Eggs Are Also Slaughter Industries
It is a common misconception that animals are not harmed in the production of eggs and dairy. In fact, the egg and dairy industries cause enormous suffering and kill billions of hens and baby chicks, and millions of cows and calves, every year.
Even on small and humane label dairy farms, calves are permanently taken away from their mothers within the first few hours or days of birth. This is so humans can have the milk that mother cows feed their babies. Cows carry their babies for nine months, just like humans do. They endure this devastating loss over and over again as cows are generally reimpregnated once a year to keep them at maximum milk production. Male calves, because they cannot produce milk, are typically killed for veal at anywhere from a few days to a few months old. Globally, some 21,000,000 calves are slaughtered for veal or cheap beef. The veal industry would not exist without the dairy industry.
Eggs also involve the killing of babies on a large scale. At the hatcheries where new hens are hatched to be sent to egg farmers — including humane label farms, small farms, and backyard chicken keepers — 6 billion male chicks are destroyed every year by being suffocated or ground up alive. This is because they cannot produce eggs and are not the breed used for meat.
Hens used for eggs and cows used for milk are also slaughtered when their production declines, at only a fraction of their natural lifespans. Learn more about the hidden harms of eggs and dairy at Humane Facts.
The Humane Myth
The ever-increasing presence of labels like “free range,” “cage-free,” and “humane certified” attests to society’s growing concern for the welfare of animals raised for food. But whenever consumers of meat, eggs or dairy advocate for “humane” treatment of farmed animals, they confront an unavoidable paradox: the movement to treat farmed animals better is based on the idea that it is wrong to subject them to unnecessary harm; yet, killing animals we have no need to eat constitutes the ultimate act of unnecessary harm.
Unlike animals who kill other animals for food, we have a choice. Animals kill from necessity, whereas humans have no biological need for animal products. There is nothing humane about inflicting unnecessary violence on animals we have no need to harm at all. Too, many of the worst cruelties inflicted on animals in factory farms are also routine practice on even the best humane certified farms. These include: sexual violation and reproductive exploitation; the systematic destruction of motherhood; excruciating mutilations without anesthetic; and denial of instincts and preferences essential to animals’ basic well-being.
Learn more at HumaneFacts.org.
Farming animals is notoriously inefficient and wasteful when compared to growing plants to feed humans directly, with the end result that “livestock” animals take drastically more food from the global food supply than they provide.
This is because in order to eat farmed animals, we have to grow the crops necessary to feed them, which amounts to vastly more crops than it would take to feed humans directly. (We feed and slaughter 70 billion farmed animals every year; there are just over 7 billion humans on earth).
Then there’s the land. One acre of land can yield between twelve and twenty times more plant food than animal-based foods.* In fact, analysis of global agricultural yields finds that better use of existing croplands could feed four billion more people by shifting away from growing crops for animal feed and fuel, and instead growing crops for direct human consumption. Reallocating croplands in this way could increase available global food calories by as much as 70 percent, according to researchers.
For the first time in human history, largely preventable “lifestyle diseases”—diseases related to diet, environment and behavioral habits— are killing more people than contagious diseases. Of the 56 million global deaths in 2012, 38 million, or 68%, were due to noncommunicable diseases. The top four killers are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases and diabetes, with all but respiratory disease consistently linked with diets high in saturated fats, and consumption of meat and animal products. These leading killers all have a dramatically lower incidence among people consuming primarily plant-based diets.
In fact, government health experts worldwide are finally catching up with the large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that a plant-based diet is not only a viable option for people of any age, but that eating plant foods instead of animal-based foods can confer significant health benefits, including reduction in incidence of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart attack, stroke, and several types of cancer.
In 2009, the American Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, the U.S.’s oldest, largest and foremost authority on diet and nutrition, acknowledged that humans have no biological need for animal products: “It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.”
In 2013, leading U.S. health care provider Kaiser Permanente, with more than 9 million health insurance subscribers, urged its physicians to consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients. The article notes, “Healthy eating may be best achieved with a plant-based diet, which we define as a regimen that encourages whole, plant-based foods and discourages meats, dairy products, and eggs as well as all refined and processed foods … Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity.”
Learn more here.
Climate & Environment
Animal agriculture is one of the top human-caused sources of greenhouse gases, land use, and land degradation; the number one source of freshwater pollution, and the leading driver of rainforest destruction. It is also a major cause of air pollution, habitat loss and species extinction, and is a highly inefficient use of limited natural resources. In a report on the worst environmental impacts of global production and consumption sectors, the United Nations concluded, “A substantial reduction of impacts would only be possible with a substantial worldwide diet change, away from animal products.”
Learn more about why meat, dairy and eggs are so bad for the planet with this handy infographic. You can also stream for free the ground-breaking, award-winning documentary, Cowspiracy, which takes a careful look at exactly how animal agriculture is impacting our environment and ecosystems. Highly recommended.
In the last decade, in the U.S. alone, more than 30 million wildlife animals — many endangered — have been brutally killed by a secretive branch of the USDA that is primarily employed to destroy wild animals deemed a threat to animal agriculture.
The USDA’s Animal Damage Control program (now renamed Wildlife Services) was established in 1931 to police and destroy wildlife considered to be detrimental to the western livestock industry. Wildlife Services spends millions of tax-payer dollars each year to kill native carnivores and predators — coyotes, wolves, bears, mountain lions, and many others — on behalf of meat, dairy and egg farmers. These animals are destroyed by the most violent and gruesome methods imaginable: gunned down from helicopters; poisoned; gassed; torn apart by trained dogs; strangled to death in neck snares; and caught in torturous leg-hold traps in which they languish and slowly die.
It should be noted that a shift away from factory farming to more so-called humane, pasture-based farming will only increase the targeting and destruction of wild animals. As John Robbins has noted, “The price that western lands and wildlife are paying for grazing cattle is hard to exaggerate… widespread production of grass-fed beef [and other animal products] would only multiply this already devastating toll.”
Learn more here.