Factory farming and ethics

When asked why they eat meat, most people would probably say it’s delicious or simply habitual. So many of us fail to think twice about where food comes from, but the time to start is now. The truth is that behind every piece of meat there was a sentient animal, raised and killed for a cheap meal.

In the US alone, millions of cows, calves, pigs, lambs, turkeys and chickens are slaughtered each year for food. Today, upward of 99 percent of chickens and 78 percent of cattle are raised in factory farms which are industrial organizations that prioritize profit over compassion. They aim to maximize output by constantly breeding and confining their animals.

Undercover investigations of factory farms have found repeated and horrifying abuses toward animals. In 2009, the Humane Society went undercover at a company that slaughtered the rejects of the dairy industry: male calves. They accumulated footage of workers kicking, slapping, electrically prodding and even hacking up these young calves while alive.

Sadly, animal abuse is normal and common in factory farms. Most standard practices are so cruel and gruesome that many people can’t even watch a short video of them. These methods include cutting piglets’ tails off, confining pigs to crates where they cannot even move and chopping beaks of hens, all without anesthesia.

Animals in these facilities suffer profoundly. Pigs are some of the smartest and most social animals in the world but these amazing creatures are denied a humane lifestyle. Female pigs are confined to crates so small that they cannot even turn around. Their boredom and stress are so great that they gnaw on their cage continuously. Factory farms utilize animals like machines rather than respecting them as living creatures.

While we care so deeply for our dogs and cats, millions of animals with similar personalities and intelligences are being tortured and slaughtered for food. Our love and our brutality both go to animals, depending on which species. If the anti­cruelty laws that apply to our pets also applied to our farmed animals, most factory farms would be shut down. Every farmed animal has a unique personality just like any pet and they deserve the same respect. The most effective way to help would be to eat less meat.

Start connecting food to the origins, watch informative videos, educate friends and save animals from these cruel practices. There are many alternatives to any animal product. Most grocery stores stock items such as faux meats, vegan cheeses and plant-based ice creams. You don’t have to donate any money or volunteer hours, just switch out some meal items. The best part is that you have the choice to make small changes throughout a day, it’s that simple.

Julia Klein is a Collegian contributor and can be reached at juliaklein@umass.edu.

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