The Humane Myth
If applied to companion dogs and cats, the methods in which we raise, care for, and kill farmed animals would be considered unlawful and cruel. The end of an animal’s life on a “humane” farm is no different than on an industrial farm. Many of the same practices on industrial farms are performed – without pain relief – on small and “humane” farms.
Animal Place opposes any endeavor that results in the slaughter of animals for their flesh, regardless of the type of farm on which they are raised. Animal Place does not support the use of farmed animals for their milk, eggs, or fiber, regardless of how animals are cared for on the farm. Animal Place promotes a vegan lifestyle because this is the only sure way to provide a humane diet.
Since 1989, Animal Place has advocated for farmed animals. And in recent years, more of the rescued animals at our 600-acre sanctuary and 60-acre adoption facility arrive from farms touting themselves as purveyors of “humane” meat, milk, and eggs. Some farms have received stamps of approval from third-party agencies or market retailers.
The Myth of “Humane” Animal Exploitation
Being humane means acting with compassion to those in need, both humans and nonhumans.
If applied to companion dogs and cats, the methods in which we raise, care for, and kill farmed animals would be considered unlawful and cruel. The end of an animal’s life on a “humane” farm is no different than on an industrial farm. Many of the same practices on factory farms are performed – without pain relief – on small and “humane” farms.
The following are standard practices that occur on small, medium, and large farms, with few exceptions.
- Male chicks are killed the day they are hatched by being ground up alive, gassed, or suffocated.
- The beaks of day-old hen chicks are cut off without pain relief on caged, “cage-free,” and large free-range farms. Even the third-party labeling organization – Certified Humane – permits its producers to beak trim despite evidence that nerves and blood vessels run to the tip of the beak and any partial removal reduces overall individual welfare.
- The commonly used breeds of hens used produce 3-5 times more eggs than normal. High egg output increases reproductive disorders, results in extreme metabolic stress and shortens the hen’s natural lifespan.
- Hens are slaughtered at 1-2 years of age on factory farms and small farms, while they could naturally live another 4-6. Smaller farms may keep hens 3 years. No federal or state law protects “spent” hens from cruelty.
- Sickly or small piglets are killed with the same industry-approved method on certified “humane” small, and large farms – by slamming the piglet against concrete until they die.
- Male piglets are castrated without pain relief. The piglet is physically restrained and a knife is used to cut open the scrotal sac. The handler then rips out the piglet’s testicles.
- Pigs are only 6-8 months old when they are killed. A pig can live 10-15 years.
“Broiler” Chicken Farms
- Chickens are killed when they are still babies. Farms specializing in killing “heritage” breeds of chickens kill their birds at 8-weeks-old. Larger farms slaughter birds at 6-weeks-old.
- Baby birds are slaughtered while fully conscious. Some farms slaughter onsite by cramming them into individual cones and slitting their throats.
- Other farms ship birds to the same slaughterhouses accepting birds from large farms. There, the birds are shackled upside down, run through an electric water bath that renders them immobile but fully conscious, and have their throats cut with a mechanical blade.
- Birds grow too fast. Both “heritage” (slower-growing) and “standard” chicken breeds used in the broiler industry have been artificially selected for abnormally fast growth which increases their risk of heart-attack and bone breaks.
- Calves removed quickly after birth. Even on small, locally owned dairy farms, ranchers remove calves within 48 hours (often less than 24) of birth.
- Male calves are deemed worthless and killed early. Male calves on small and large farms are sent to become veal, sold cheaply at auction for backyard slaughter, or raised for “cheap dairy beef.”
- Cows are sent to slaughter at a fraction of their lifespan. Smaller farms may keep cows longer, but they still send them to an untimely and brutal death.
- Small and large farms deal with the same health problems, because cows have been bred for high-milk production, not good health. Udder infections, reproductive disorders, and lameness are as common on the small “organic” farm as they are on larger farms. The exception is that true pasture-based dairies have a lower risk of lameness.
- Cows are artificially selected to produce 8 times more milk than nature intended, regardless of size of farm.
- Juvenile cows are artificially inseminated at a young age, far sooner than their bodies can handle. Breeding for high-milk output has also increased the birth weights of calves forcing dangerous pregnancies on new mothers.
- Chicks are born at hatcheries and shipped through the postal service. Some very small farms may hatch and raise chicks onsite, but this is unusual.
- Turkeys are still de-beaked and de-toed on many small and large farms. Even the Global Animal Partnership – standards used by Whole Foods – permits “toenail conditioning” in which microwave radiation is used to damage the toes so that nails cannot grow.
- Turkeys are slaughtered fully conscious. Some farms slaughter birds by hanging them upside down and slitting their throats. Other farms ship birds to the same slaughterhouses accepting birds from large farms. There, the birds are shackled upside down, run through an electric water bath that renders them immobile but fully conscious, and have their throats cut with a mechanical blade.
- Birds are only a few months old when killed. “Heritage” breeds of turkeys may be slaughtered at 8-mos-old, while their large-breasted counterparts are killed at 4-mos-old. Both are still babies and could live several more years.
On Welfare Change
Improving the lives of farmed animals is important, but it will not end farmed animal suffering. Giving more space or stopping mutilations does not make the slaughter of an animal more palatable.
Although Animal Place supports animal welfare improvements because the degree of cruelty on most farms is egregious and the problem enormous, it does not believe that this is the answer to the problems.
Improving conditions under which nonhumans are raised is not reason enough to justify their slaughter or exploitation. It cannot be justified with labels meant to create a false sense of kindness.
What are the Solutions?
Animal Place believes that most people care about animals. We feel animal advocates should focus on:
- Educating consumers about how animals are raised and slaughtered on industrial and small farms,
- Showing that there are ample scientific, rational, and emotional reasons to shift our food choices towards more plants, less animal products,
- Offering tools in a nonjudgmental fashion to help consumers transition away from animal products in ways that maximize success,
- Introducing people to the intricate and emotional world of farmed animals and show how they are no different than companion dogs or cats.
Farm Animals as Companions
With appropriate space and care, rescued farm animals are wonderful companions. Animal Place supports the adoption of farm animals into lifelong homes.
Animal Place encourages adopters of farm animals to avoid using them as sources of food (eggs) or fiber (wool, hair).
However, we understand it is possible to consume eggs of backyard companion chickens and knit with wool of companion sheep without compromising the welfare of the animals – as long as the reason for the adoption is to rescue the animal and not exploit them. And, just like with any other companion animal, there has to be a commitment to provide lifelong appropriate veterinary care and a suitable home, even after the animal stops laying eggs or no longer produces “usable” wool/hair.