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Ethical Reasons for not Eating Animals

"We are the living graves of murdered beasts, slaughtered to satisfy our appetites. How can we hope in this world to attain the peace we say we are so anxious for?"
                                                   
– George Bernard Shaw

      Ninety-seven percent (97%) of animal abuse in this country is against farm animals.

     Eight billion animals are killed each year in this country for food.

     Nationally, more than 360 million birds, weighing a combined 470,000 tons, die prematurely each year.

     The Animal Welfare Act does not apply to food animals.  With virtually no laws to protect them, cruelty and abuse of farm animals are institutional.

     The Humane Slaughter Act requires that animals be rendered unconscious with one swift application of a stunning device before slaughter.  In today’s slaughterhouse this often does not happen.   For poultry birds (not legally recognized as animals) it is never followed.   In the case of large mammals, it is not enforced by the USDA so the law serves no other purpose than to make people think that food animals are protected from cruelty.   Conveyor lines are pushed to breakneck speeds, frequently causing cattle, pigs, horses and sheep to be shackled and throat-slit without first being stunned.  Animals often are skinned, boiled and butchered alive.

     Humane investigator Gail Eisnitz writes about widespread violations of the Humane Slaughter Act in her book Slaughterhouse.  A typical story:  "It was a plant where squealing hogs were left straddling the restrainer and dangling live by one leg when workers left the stick pit for their half-hour lunch breaks; where stunners were shocking hogs three and four times…where thousands of squealing hogs were immersed in the plant’s scalding tank alive."

     Animals in slaughterhouses can smell the stench, hear the sounds and often see the slaughter of those before them.   As the animals struggle from fright, the human workers who are pressured to keep the lines moving quickly often react with impatience towards the animals.  Numerous cases of deliberate cruelty have been reported including workers who took sadistic pleasure from shooting the eyes out of cattle, striking them in the head, and electrically shocking them in sensitive areas of their bodies.

     USDA inspector Steve Cockerham reported that he often saw plant workers cut the feet, ears and udders off cattle who were conscious on the production line after stun guns failed to work properly.  "They were still blinking and moving.  It’s a sickening thing to see."

     As for the chemistry of the central nervous and endocrine systems, there is no difference between humans and other animals.  The biochemistry of physiological and emotional states (of stress and anxiety, for example) differs little between mice and men.

     Many female pigs spend their whole adult lives in narrow, metal gestation and farrowing stalls where they cannot even turn around.

     Pigs have been found to be focused, creative and innovate, equal in intelligence to chimps.  The boredom and frustration of confinement causes fighting and tail-biting among pigs on factory farms.   The industry’s response is to cut off the piglets’ tails and castrate them without anesthesia, making them less aggressive.

     Factory farmed animals are subjected to weather extremes.  For example, over 2 million chickens died from heat stress in July of 1993 in Nevada.  In New Mexico, thousands of calves froze to death during a cold spell in 1997.

     Cattle are branded numerous times during their lives (causing third-degree burns) and are dehorned and castrated.   Castration involves cutting off the testicles with a knife or removing the blood supply until they fall off.  All this is done without anesthesia.

     More than 90% of America’s dairies confine cows to indoor stalls for most of their short lives.  They must give birth in order to give milk.  The male calves cannot be profitably raised for beef, so they are slaughtered within weeks, sometimes hours, of their birth.  Most dairy cows only survive 4-5 years.  It is unprofitable to keep cows alive once their milk production declines.  Most end up as ground beef in fast food restaurants.

     Veal calves are locked up in stalls and chained by the neck to prevent any movement so that muscles can’t develop that could affect the tenderness of the meat.  Calves are given a special diet without iron or roughage.  They are injected with antibiotics and hormones to keep them alive under terrible conditions and to make them grow.  They are kept in darkness except for feeding.

     More than 95% of the farmed birds in the U.S. are intensively confined.  Six-tenths of a square foot per bird is considered appropriate.  Chickens are crammed in so tightly that some have been found to be attached to the cage – the flesh of their toes growing completely around the wire.  Excessive manure causes ammonia burn to the chickens’ eyes and sometimes leads to blindness.

     Chickens living under intensive confinement conditions peck each other.  To combat this, workers cut off up to two-thirds of their beaks without anesthesia.  Cutting these delicate tissues with a hot knife causes pain that persists for weeks or even months.  Some birds cannot eat after debeaking and starve to death.

     Turkeys have been bred to grow faster and heavier but their skeletons haven’t kept pace which causes "cowboy legs."  Commonly the turkeys have problems standing and fall and are trampled on.  Normal mating is impossible because of their abnormally large breasts and they must reproduce through artificial insemination.

     Ninety-eight percent of egg-laying hens are housed in battery cages.  Typically four or five egg-laying hens live in a cage with a wire floor area about the size of a folded newspaper.  Cages are usually stacked one on top of another, allowing excrement to drop onto birds below.  These conditions lead to lameness, bone brittleness, osteoporosis and muscle weakness.

     In 1933, the average hen laid 70 eggs a year; as of 1993, it was 275.  At the end of their laying cycle, U.S. hens are often force-molted."  This involved starving them for up to 18 days in order to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle.  The birds may lose more than 25% of their body weight and it is common for 5%-10% to die.

     Because she has been bred to lay larger eggs, the hen’s uterus sometimes "prolapses" – the entire uterus is expelled with the egg.  The hen cannot escape her severe pain, except by dying.

     Egg-laying hatcheries don’t have any use for male chicks.  Born with the genes of an egg-laying hen, they are not biologically worthy of becoming broilers, and with no law to protect them, they are killed in the least expensive way - by suffocation in plastic bags, decapitation, gassing or crushing.

     All free-range, factory-farmed, egg-laying, dairy-producing, or wool-bearing animals who don’t first die from disease, are trucked to the slaughterhouse.  To minimize costs, animals are crowded and must live in each other’s excrement.  They are exposed to extreme weather conditions in the open trucks.  Shipping fever, which can be fatal, is common in cattle transported long distances to the feedlots, the stockyards and then the slaughterhouse.

     Because chickens lose feathers in rough living conditions, transport in freezing weather results in frozen body parts, causing severe pain.  Sometimes animals even freeze to the sides or floor of the transport truck, such as pigs frozen in manure to the bottom of a truck.

     To produce foi gras, male ducks are force-fed six to seven pounds of grain three times a day with an air-driven feeder tube.  This torturous process goes on for 28 days until the ducks’ livers, from which the pate is made, bloat to six to 12 times their normal size.  About 10 percent of the ducks don’t make it to slaughter.  They die when their stomachs burst.

     The trauma inflicted by the factory farms and transport can result in "downers" – animals too sick or weak to walk, even when beaten or shocked with electric prods.  For example, approximately 350,000 dairy cows are downers each year.  At stockyards, downers and other animals can be dragged by chains, still alive, to the "deadpile" where they are abandoned.

     Due to a growing specialization in the several stages of cattle production and to producers seeking the best price at every step of the process, your hamburger may have come from a steer who suffered the brutality of transport between Mexico and the United States two or three times.  The USDA and the financial community hail this back-and-forth animal shuffling as a development that shows how the various cattle sectors can "complement" one another through "free trade."  It’s not likely that the steers who suffer these junkets share the zeal of the industry analysts.

     Fish, amphibians and reptiles have variable, unique and creative responses to pain which show that their responses are not simply reflexes.  The presence of a thalamus, bradykinin, endorphins and nociceptors indicate that fish feel pain when hooked and when they suffocate.  Fish also have benzodiazepine receptors which indicate that they feel anxiety as well as pain.

     Commercial fisheries use driftnets that are many miles long.  They catch everything in their path and drown dolphins, whales, birds and sea turtles.

     The U.S. Department of Wildlife Services and livestock producers kill wildlife to curb farm animal predation.  Each year, federal government hunters kill about 100,000 coyotes, bobcats, feral hogs and mountain lions.  They are shot from airplanes, caught in steel-jaw leghold traps or neck nooses, or poisoned with cyanide.

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