One of the top causes of world hunger is the focus on the production of animal-based foods. A breathtaking 925 million people all over the world, mostly in the underdeveloped and poor countries of Africa and Asia, are suffering from hunger. Out of those, 870 million are suffering from malnutrition. The 925 million hungry outnumber the current population of the European Union, United States, and Canada, combined.
The world contains so many people plagued by hunger to almost fill up two continents. On a yearly basis, more than 2.5 million children under five years old lose their lives due to starvation.
Nonetheless, it is a fact that the Earth can provide enough food to nourish every last person on the planet. But, if that is so, how is it that people around the globe keep starving? A big part of the answer has to do with the production of food that is based on animals, such as dairy, meat, and eggs. Although there exists enough plant-based food to nourish the entire human population, most of the crops are fed to livestock for rich nations – not excluding the crops grown in starving countries. Add the fact that it takes a lot more plant food to produce animal-based foods causes a compromise of the food supply chain, ultimately leading humans to starvation.
For example, consider the food (mostly comprising grains) that a cow consumes in its 18 to 24-month life (that’s when most cows are slaughtered for meat on average). If you could pile up all that food, you would end up with a mountain of food provided to the animal to live all those months. It gave him the required energy, it restored his cells, grew his muscles and bones, and allowed his heart to beat and his lungs to draw air. Now, imagine that cow is slaughtered and cut into pieces of meat. If you place the meat on a pile next to the first one, which one would be enough to feed more people? The pile of meat that comprised the cow’s body, or the mountain of grains that fed and nourished it? This equation is the basis of the unsustainability and irrationality of animal farming.
The production of soybeans and corn globally accounts for millions of tons. Approximately 40 to 50 percent of the corn and 80 percent of the soybeans are directed towards feeding animals that are to become human food.
In a study conducted by researchers from the Institute on the Environment and the University of Minnesota, scientists investigated agricultural resources and the problem of world hunger. It was found that if humans consumed the crops instead of feeding them to animals, the world supply would be enriched by approximately 70 percent more food, which would adequately support another 4 billion people. The surplus alone would be sufficient to feed more than half the Earth’s population, many times more than the 925 million hungry people of our time.
Livestock is doing a poor job converting the food they eat into muscle and energy, which is evident from the need to feed 13-20 pounds of grain in order to increase a cow’s muscle mass by 1 pound. The direct consequence is that 13 to 20 times more people could be nourished if those grains were simply consumed by them directly. In the same manner, approximately 7 pounds of grain are required for one pound of pork, and 4.5 pounds of grain are needed to grow one pound of chicken.
The animal agricultural system is even more flawed if you think that cows and other grazing animals, which provide dairy, meat, and leather, were never evolved to eat so much grain as the farming industry feeds them. They were meant to consume grass instead. But since current demands for animal products are so high, and farmers are compelled to increase their production quota and speed, they feed the animals immense amounts of grain like corn. That’s why industrial farming only needs 18 to 24 months to get a cow to the desired weight and then kill it. A constant grain diet (that could have fed many more humans instead), and growth hormones, make this possible.
Still, grass-fed livestock is far from a viable option. Grazing puts native and endangered species at risk through displacement and destruction of their habitat, while also causing erosion that can create deserts out of fertile farmland. According to reports by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, approximately 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut and burned so that cattle can have more grazing space. In the end, regardless of being used to grow feed crops or to feed grazing animals, when land and other natural resources are exploited to produce animal food products, horrible inefficiency takes place.
Economic and political experts are projecting that water, food, land and other precious natural resources that humans need to survive will be the reason for future wars. As the human population has grown past the 7 billion mark in an ascending trend, it is only natural that resources will become even scarcer. The time for a solution to world hunger, a global crisis, has come, and what should be done is self-evident. If we want to ensure that every individual can be fed, we must contemplate deeply and pick the most healthy, compassionate and sustainable path. Veganism.
The domestic sheep is the most common species of the sheep genus. They probably descend from the wild mouflon of south-central and south west Asia. Sheep breeders refer to female sheep as ewes, intact males as rams, castrated males as wethers, yearlings as hoggets, and younger sheep as lambs. In sheep husbandry, a group of sheep is called a flock or mob.
Sheep are ruminant animals. They have a four-chambered stomach, using the first chamber to store food (cud) which they then bring back into their mouths to chew again before fully digesting it. These grazing animals often prefer noxious weeds and plants, which makes them great environmentalists.
Sheep like to stick close to one another for comfort and security. Either black or white, these animals are incredibly gentle. Lambs form strong bonds with their mothers, but they have also been known to bond closely with humans. If a person hangs a piece of clothing outside, a goat who has bonded with that person will run to it for safety when frightened.
Some breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior. This was used as an example to Israelites in the Christian bible to instruct them to obey their shepherd, or master. Flocking behavior is advantageous to non predatory animals; the strongest animals fight their way to the center of the flock which offers them great protection from predators. It can be disadvantageous when food sources are limited and sheep are almost as prone to overgrazing a pasture as goats. In Iceland, where sheep have no natural predators, and grasses grow slowly, none of the various breeds of sheep exhibit a strong flocking behavior.
Sheep flocking behavior is so prevalent in some English breeds that special names apply to the different roles sheep play in a flock. One calls a sheep that roams furthest away from the others an outlier, a term originally used to refer to someone who lives far from where they work. This sheep ventures further away from the safety of the flock to graze, due to a larger flight zone or a weakness that prevents it from obtaining enough forage when with the herd. Another sheep, the bellwether, leads the others. Traditionally this was a castrated Ram (or wether) with a bell hung off a string around its neck. The tendency to act as an outlier, bellwether or to fight for the middle of the flock stays with sheep throughout their adulthood; that is unless they have a scary experience which causes them to increase their flight zone.
Despite their reputation, pigs have many positive attributes including cleanliness, intelligence and a social nature. Pigs are indeed clean animals. Yes, they do roll in mud, but only because they can't sweat like people do; the mud (or water) actually keeps them cool. If available, pigs, who are excellent swimmers, prefer water to mud. Pigs also carefully keep their sleeping area clean, and will designate a spot as far from this area as possible for waste. Even piglets only a few hours old will leave the nest to relieve themselves.
Those who know pigs can't help but be charmed by their intelligent, highly social and sensitive nature. Pigs are actually more intelligent than any breed of dog. Like dogs, piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called. They are also very discriminating eaters, and are particular about their living space. Pigs enjoy novelty and are extremely active and inquisitive.
When free to roam, pigs spend much of their day enthusiastically smelling, nibbling, manipulating objects with their snouts and rooting ("nosing") about in the soil for tidbits. Rooting is so essential to a pig that some animal scientists say that "a rooting pig is a happy pig." Their powerful but sensitive snout is a highly developed sense organ. A pig's sense of smell is so keen that the animal is trained in France to unearth truffles. Using their snouts as shovels, pigs toss clumps of soil and twigs high into the air, searching for the rare and delicious fungus that grows underground near the roots of oak trees. They are also used by police to help search for drugs.
Few species are more social than pigs; they form close bonds with each other and other species, including humans. They are quite gregarious and cooperate with, and defend, one another. Adults in the entire social group will protect a piglet, leaving their own litters if necessary to defend an endangered youngster. If one pig starts to dig out tree roots, others invariably join in.
Touch and bodily contact are especially important to pigs. They seek out and enjoy close contact, and will lie close together when resting. They also enjoy close contact with people familiar to them; they like being scratched behind the ears and shoulders, and, at the touch of your hand, will grunt contentedly and roll over for a belly rub.
Pigs are vocal and communicate constantly with one another. More than 20 of their vocalizations have been identified. Pigs most often say "gronk" (more commonly known as "oink"), and will say "baawrp" when happy. They have an elaborate courtship ritual, including a song between males and females. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother's voice, and the mother pig sings to her young while nursing. After nursing, a piglet will sometimes run to her mother's face to rub snouts and grunt. Pigs also enjoy music.
When she is ready to give birth, a sow selects a clean, dry area apart from the group, sometimes walking several miles to search for a good nest site and to gather preferred bedding materials. She hollows out a depression in the ground and lines it with grass, straw or other materials. For several days after her babies are born, she defends the nest against intruders. When her babies are five to ten days old, she encourages them to leave the nest to socialize with the other pigs.
Weaning occurs naturally at three months of age, but young pigs continue to live with their mothers in a close family group. Two or more sows and their piglets usually join together in an extended family, with particularly close friendships developing between sows. Young piglets play with great enthusiasm, play-fighting and moving or throwing objects into the air. Pigs appear to have a good sense of direction, too, as they have found their way home over great distances. Adults can run at speeds around 11 miles an hour, and can trot for relatively long distances.
Yet many pigs do not lead such noble lives; the hog industry confines many female pigs to farrowing crates, claiming these are necessary to protect piglets from being crushed by their careless mothers. Yet when given more room, sows are very gentle with their piglets. Before a mother pig lies down in a bed of straw, she roots around to make sure all the piglets are out, a safeguard against accidentally harming one of them.
The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years.
There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as “pets” in developed countries.
Domesticated donkeys are also used as guard animals for goats, sheep and cows against the threat of coyotes. Coyotes are the only natural threat to donkeys.
Wild donkeys, called burros, live in desert plains, where they survive on little food and water for long periods.
A male donkey or ass is called a jack; a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a foal. Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules.
Donkeys were first domesticated around 3000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world.
Donkeys vary considerably in size, depending on breed and management. The height at the withers ranges from 31 to 63 inches, and the weight from 180 to 1,060 lb. Working donkeys in the poorest countries have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years; in more prosperous countries, they may have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.
Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands. Unlike wild and feral horses, wild donkeys in dry areas are solitary and do not form harems. Each adult donkey establishes a home range; breeding over a large area may be dominated by one jack. The loud call or bray of the donkey, which typically lasts for twenty seconds and can be heard over long distances, may help them keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert. Donkeys have large ears, which pick up more distant sounds and may help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys can defend themselves by biting, striking with the front hooves or kicking with the hind legs.
A jennet is normally pregnant for about 12 months, though the gestation period varies from 11 to 14 months, and usually gives birth to a single foal. Births of twins are rare, though more common than in horses. Although jennets come into heat within 9 or 10 days of giving birth, their fertility remains low and it is usual to wait one or two further oestrous cycles before rebreeding.
Donkeys can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, and are commonly interbred with horses. The hybrid between a jack and a mare is a mule. The hybrid between a stallion and a jennet is a hinny, and is less common. Like other inter-species hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile. Donkeys can also breed with zebras in which the offspring is called a zonkey.
Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness. This has been attributed to a much stronger sense of self-preservation than exhibited by horses.
Although formal studies of their behavior and cognition are rather limited, donkeys are quite intelligent, cautious, playful, and eager to learn. Donkeys are affectionate animals and enjoy the companionship of people. Donkeys require companions or they become depressed. The donkey's favorite pastime is rolling.
THREATS TO DONKEYS
Over 40 million donkeys exist worldwide. China has the most, followed by Pakistan, Ethiopia and Mexico. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass and another relative, the onager, are endangered.
In many societies donkeys are regarded as low status animals and are commonly mistreated. They are forced to perform more work than their small bodies can handle. Since new donkeys are cheaper than veterinary care, ill and injured donkeys are often tied to posts without food or water and left to die.
In Spain and Greece, donkeys are used as "donkey taxis". Profit is placed above the care of the animals. They are exposed to temperature extremes with little or no food, shelter or water and are made to carry people too heavy for their bodies. At night their feet are tied together to prevent them from wondering off.
Donkeys are abused at live animal markets in China. Some restaurants offer fresh donkey meat where pieces of donkey are sliced off while the donkey is still alive.
Donkeys are sometimes kept as "pets", often poorly cared for. Many are left to fend for themselves. They develop deformed and crippled feet, become emaciated or obese and suffer from dental problems and parasite infestation.
Donkey basketball has been practiced in the United States since the 1930s. Donkey basketball involves human basketball players riding donkeys, usually as a fundraising event. The events typically take place in public schools where children are taught that animal abuse and humiliation is entertaining. The donkeys are often dragged, kicked and punched by participants who have no animal-handling experience. Unethical commercial firms provide donkeys and equipment, splitting the proceeds with the hiring party. Donkey basketball is inhumane and cruel to animals.
Donkeys are not protected by the federal Animal Welfare Act.
Cattle, as individuals or as a herd, possess many unique traits, the most distinctive being their social disposition. They are extremely social animals and rely heavily on "safety in numbers"— herds can form with up to 300 animals. Each animal can recognize more than 100 individuals and will closely bond to some herd members, while carefully avoiding others. While the bond between mothers and daughters is particularly strong, calves also maintain lifelong friendship with other herd members.
It is thought that cattle were first domesticated in 6,500 B.C. from wild cattle in Europe and the Near East. Only in the past two centuries have cattle been differentiated into breeds raised for beef or milk. Some cattle still exist as "dual purpose" breeds.
People often refer to all cattle as "cows." Technically, cows are actually adult females who have, usually through having babies, developed adult physical characteristics. Heifers are young females who have not yet had babies or developed the mature characteristics of a cow. Male cattle can be divided into three groups: bullocks, steers and bulls. A bullock is a young, uncastrated male who has begun to display secondary sexual characteristics. A steer is a castrated male, whereas a bull is a mature, uncastrated male.
Cows are sturdy yet gentle animals. They are social animals and form strong bonds with their families and friends that can last their entire lives. The bond between a cow and her calf is especially powerful. If a mother cow is caught on the opposite side of a fence from her calf, she will become alarmed, agitated and call frantically. If they remain separated, she will stay by the fence through blizzards, hunger, and thirst, waiting to be reunited with her baby. This bond continues even after the calf is fully grown.
Cows "moo" to each other fairly frequently, allowing them to maintain contact even when they cannot see each other. But when they can see each other, they also communicate through a series of different body positions and facial expressions.
Cattle usually stand between 4 feet, 9 inches and 5 feet, 6 inches, and “beef cattle” range from 850 to 2,500 pounds depending on breed and gender. In non-commercial herds, cows have been observed nursing their male calves for up to three years.
Cattle have almost panoramic vision, which allows them to watch for predators or humans. They can see in color, except for red. They have an amazing sense of smell, and can detect scents more than six miles away.
Cattle are ruminant herbivores and will swallow vegetation whole, then later masticate their "cud" (chew their partially digested food).
The scientific name for the cattle group is "bos taurus," a subfamily of the bovidae family, which includes other hollow-horned animals.
Interestingly, bulls are much less likely to use their horns than cows. However, the level of aggression can be influenced by the degree of confinement.
Cattle will learn from each other's mistakes: If an individual is shocked by an electric fence, others in the herd will become alarmed and avoid it. If a herd is confined by an electric fence, only 30% will ever be shocked.
Cattle enjoy swimming and running in the moonlight, as they have been shown to remain active for a longer period between their two sleep sessions when the moon is full.
The lifespan of cattle averages 20 to 25 years. However, the lifespan of cattle raised for beef is significantly shortened. These animals are typically weaned at 6 to 10 months, live 3 to 5 months on range, spend 4 to 5 months being fattened in a feedlot, and are typically slaughtered at 15 to 20 months.
The average consumer may not be aware of the suffering of billions of birds raised for meat and egg production in the United States each year. Billions of "broiler" chickens and "egg" chickens, and millions turkeys, are killed for food each year. In addition, millions of birds die as a result of disease, injury and during transportation.
Egg-laying hens in the United States number more than 459 million. Of these millions of birds, 97% are confined to "battery" cages, tiny cages roughly 16 by 18 inches wide. Five or 6 birds are crammed into each cage, and the cages are stacked in tall tiers. As many as 50,000 to 125,000 battery hens, in sheds with minimal light, strain to produce 250 eggs per year, ten times the number of eggs they would produce in the wild.
Battery cage confinement does not allow birds to turn around or take part in any other natural behavior, such as preening, dust bathing, and foraging for food. Prolonged forced confinement causes unnatural behaviors such as cannibalism and increases the incidence of disease and injury. Laying hens are also forced to live in a polluted environment due to toxic feed ingredients, accumulated feces, and excretory ammonia fumes. A successful battery system relies heavily on antibiotics that are routinely administered to laying hens to decrease the incidence of disease among these immune-repressed birds.
Battery hens often die in their cages as the result of disease or injury. Those who survive but stop producing adequately are considered "spent" hens and are sent to slaughter to be used for human and animal food. Male chicks are of no value to egg producers. Each year more than 200 million male chicks are killed or left to die after hatching.
Egg-producing birds that are not confined to battery cages seldom fare much better. Eggs labeled "Cage Free" or "Free Range" simply mean that the birds are not confined to battery cages, not necessarily that the hens are allowed a more natural existence. Neither guarantees that they have adequate space to move around, or that they are allowed outdoors to roam about and forage or dust bathe.
Molting is the natural process of shedding old feathers and the growth of new feathers. Molting initiates a new egg-laying cycle. The natural molting process takes about four months to complete. However, on factory farms, poultry producers induce starvation to control egg production in laying hens (eggs for human consumption) and breeding hens (eggs that hatch into birds used for meat or egg production) to reduce the molting period to one to two months. Performed to increase farm profits, this "forced molting" is extremely stressful to hens. Forced molting methods include food and water deprivation, medications and simulated light and dark cycles. A Poultry Science report found that forced molting in combination with a Salmonella infection created an actual disease state in tested hens. Salmonella infection can be passed on to consumers through egg consumption.
Debeaking is a painful procedure whereby the bird's sensitive beak is sliced off with a hot blade. Poultry meat and egg producers that use battery cages and crowded floor systems remove one-half to two-thirds of the birds' beaks to discourage cannibalistic pecking, a behavior that occurs when birds are kept in close confinement with no regard for their natural behaviors. Behavioral studies indicate that debeaked birds are often unable to eat, drink, and preen properly. They also exhibit behaviors associated with chronic pain and depression.
Toe-clipping is the amputation of a bird's toes just behind the claw. This painful procedure is performed to reduce claw-related injuries on factory farms.
Genetic engineering of broiler chickens and turkeys often results in a bird too heavy to stand or walk. They suffer from pain in their legs and sores on their feet that are induced by their extreme, unnatural size. Kept in polluted dark sheds with as many as 25,000 birds per shed, these birds suffer many of the same ailments as battery hens, such as being debeaked and being forced to live in a toxic environment. Thousands of these birds never make it to slaughter -- they will die while still on the farm from injuries, disease or their inability to reach food and water.
Millions of birds die during the loading of trucks and while en route to slaughter. These sensitive birds, often in very poor physical condition, are grabbed by their legs and thrown into densely packed cages to be transported by truck to slaughterhouses that are sometimes hundreds of miles away. Many die from shock, injury, and suffocation in the process.
The U.S. Federal Humane Slaughter Act does not apply to poultry, meaning that there is no federal law that requires birds to be stunned prior to slaughter. This allows for diversity in commercial poultry slaughter approaches and stunning equipment. When slaughterhouses do use stunning equipment, lack of regulation often results in birds allowed to raise their heads prior to reaching the water bath stunner and therefore not adequately stunned. Problems also exist in neck-cutting equipment, which may result in prolonged and extreme pain caused by necks improperly cut during the killing process.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Decrease or eliminate foods containing poultry products from your diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses a vegetarian diet.
Vegetarian diets can easily meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12.
Protein has many important functions in the body and is essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians and vegans include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers).
Iron functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources for vegetarians and vegans include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins).
Calcium is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength. Sources of calcium for vegetarians and vegans include calcium-fortified soymilk, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, tofu made with calcium sulfate, and some dark-green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens). Calcium supplements are another potential source.
Zinc is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians and vegans include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds.
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, soymilk, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast. B12 supplements are another potential source.
Tips for Vegetarians
- Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don't overload meals with high-fat foods to replace the meat.
- Calcium-fortified soymilk provides calcium in amounts similar to milk. It is usually low in fat and does not contain cholesterol.
- Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Consider:
- pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
- vegan pizza
- vegetable lasagna
- tofu-vegetable stir fry
- vegetable lo mein
- vegetable kabobs
- bean burritos or tacos
A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.
- For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links.
- Rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers. A variety of kinds are available, made with soy beans, vegetables, and/or rice.
- Add vegetarian meat substitutes to soups and stews to boost protein without adding saturated fat or cholesterol. These include tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture), tofu, or wheat gluten (seitan).
- For barbecues, try veggie burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and veggie kabobs.
- Make bean burgers, lentil burgers, or pita halves with falafel (spicy ground chick pea patties).
- Some restaurants offer soy options (texturized vegetable protein) as a substitute for meat, and soy cheese as a substitute for regular cheese.
- Most restaurants can accommodate vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fries, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.
- Many Asian and Indian restaurants offer a varied selection of vegetarian dishes.
A bald eagle, as the nation's official bird, adorns the Great Seal of the United States of America. But if Benjamin Franklin had had his way, a turkey, not a bald eagle, might have famously gripped those 13 arrows and an olive branch as part of the seal. Franklin knew, like others who have spent time around this large bird, that it would have been an honor for the turkey to represent the U.S.
Originating from the Mexican wild turkey, the turkey was domesticated by Native Americans in prehistoric times and introduced to Europe by Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Early American settlers brought descendants of the Mexican wild turkey to the U.S. and crossed them with another subspecies of wild turkey indigenous to eastern North America to produce the forerunner of the modern domestic turkey.
Turkeys are usually characterized by large tail feathers that spread into a fan when they are courting or alarmed. Turkeys also have several oddly named appendages: the caruncle, snood, wattle and beard. A caruncle is a red fleshy growth on the head and upper neck of the turkey. A snood is the red fleshy growth from the base of the beak which hangs over the side of the beak. A wattle is the red, loose appendage at the turkey's neck. A beard is the black lock of hairy feathers found on a male turkey's chest.
Most turkeys raised for food have been genetically selected to have large breast meat, and they are unable to fly or reproduce without artificial insemination. They are fed a mix of corn and soybeans during their short life. Millions of turkeys are slaughtered for food each year, most at about 14–18 weeks of age. Commercial, domestic hens (or female turkeys) weigh 15–18 pounds by 14–16 weeks of age, and heavy toms (or male turkeys) weigh 25-32 pounds by 16–18 weeks.
Five subspecies of wild turkeys still inhabit much of the United States, with a population estimated at 6.5 million. The most prevalent bird is the Eastern wild turkey, whose forest territory ranges from Maine to parts of Kansas and Oklahoma. Wild turkeys are smaller in size than their domestic counterparts, with a longer neck and body. They have a rich, brown-shaded plumage with a metallic or iridescent sheen, and white and black bars on their primary wing feathers. Toms can stand up to 4 feet tall and weigh more than 20 pounds, while hens are about half that size and weight. Wild turkeys eat nuts, greens, insects, seeds, and fruit, and can live 3–4 years. Their predators include human hunters and animals who disturb their nests, such as crows, raccoons, skunks, snakes and opossums.
Hens begin nesting in late March or early April, laying one egg a day until the clutch reaches 10–12 eggs. They nest on the ground, in a hidden area in the forest or fields of tall grass. Incubation lasts for 28 days, and hatching occurs over a 24–36 hour period in late May or early June. Poults, or baby turkeys, stay near the nest until they are about 4 weeks old and can fly 25–50 feet. This allows them to escape predators by roosting in trees for the night, usually near their mother. By three months of age, turkey groups will begin to form a social hierarchy, and an established pecking order is set by five months of age, at which time groups show subdivision by gender. As full-grown adults, wild turkeys can fly at 55 mph and run at 25 mph.
Hens are protective of their young. They will hiss and ruffle their feathers to scare away trespassers, and will only abandon the nest as a last option. Hatching begins with pipping, where the baby rotates inside the egg, breaking the shell in a circular pattern with its egg tooth (a sharp spike on its beak). Hens cluck as they check the eggs, beginning the critical imprinting process. Social cohesion among the babies is evident the first day after hatching, as is attachment to the mom. Vocal and visual signals are used to maintain close contact. This facilitates the learning of certain important activities, particularly feeding. Turkeys are social animals who prefer to live and feed together in flocks.
Wild turkeys are not protected by legislation. Commercial turkeys are not even included in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, although poultry make up over 95% of the animals killed for food in America. They are raised in crowded factory farms where they are not able to nest or feed like their wild cousins.
There are so many delicious vegan dishes to choose from that you’ll never be short of ideas. How about Indian curries, spaghetti, pizza, enchiladas, Chinese stir fry, sausage and mash, falafel, vegetable casserole and dumplings, sandwiches, wraps, samosas, quiche, soups, pasta and pesto, spring rolls, lasagne, spicy bean burgers, risotto, hot and sour soup, Thai green curry, Moroccan tagine…and don’t forget dessert! Vegans can enjoy sponge cake, ice cream, cheesecake, chocolate chip cookies and more that taste as good, as or even better, than their non-vegan equivalents. Rest assured that vegan food is just as tasty and varied as any other type of food.
You don’t have to be a genius in the kitchen or have loads of time to cook – quick and easy vegan meals include stir fries, pasta and sauce, chili, potatoes and burritos. If you do enjoy cooking, you can have lots of fun trying out new recipes and discovering new favorite ingredients and dishes.
WHAT ABOUT EATING IN RESTAURANTS?
Many restaurants offer vegan options and the choice is improving all the time. Some chain restaurants offer vegan options. Indian restaurants usually have a good selection for vegans, and Middle Eastern, Chinese and Thai restaurants often have vegan dishes as many of their vegetarian dishes do not contain milk or eggs. Just check with the staff to make sure there are no hidden animal ingredients, such as fish sauce in Thai food. Most restaurants can accommodate vegans even if vegan options aren’t on the menu. All you have to do is ask. You’ll often find that the cook or chef enjoys the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you!
IS VEGAN FOOD EXPENSIVE?
No more than any other type of food. In fact, meals based on vegan staples such as pasta, rice, beans and vegetables often work out cheaper than using animal products. Vegan meals in restaurants are often cheaper than the meat dishes. Products such as non-dairy milk, veggie burgers and vegan pesto are usually a similar price to their non-vegan counterparts and are available in most supermarkets. As with any type of food you can splash out on luxuries if you like, but that’s entirely up to you.
HOW CAN I MAKE SURE I REMAIN HEALTHY?
A balanced vegan diet meets many current healthy eating recommendations, such as eating more fruit and vegetables, whole grains and fiber and consuming less saturated fat and cholesterol. It can also decrease your chances of suffering from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers. Well-planned vegan diets meet nutritional requirements for all age groups and stages of life.
WILL I NEED TO TAKE SUPPLEMENTS?
Vegans need to obtain vitamin B12 either from supplements or from foods fortified with it. Our bodies produce vitamin D by the action of sunlight on skin, so depending on where they live, it may be advisable for vegans to consume vitamin D2 during winter through supplements or fortified foods (particularly in northern countries). Other than Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D, all nutrients necessary for good health can be obtained from plant foods in adequate amounts.
WILL I MISS CHOCOLATE/PIZZA/ICE CREAM/CHEESE/CAKE?
No you won’t! There are vegan versions of or alternatives to many familiar foods, including all of the above. You will not have to give up that favorite food after all.
WHAT IF I EAT AT A FRIEND OR RELATIVE'S HOUSE? - I DON'T WANT TO BE 'DIFFICULT'.
Friends and relatives may not know how to cater for you at first but will soon get used to your new diet. To help them out:
Explain to them in advance what you do and don’t eat
Offer to take a dish to share with everyone
Offer to give them some recipes they could cook for you or suggest a few ideas
You may find that friends and relatives get into the ‘challenge’ of cooking vegan food for you and will look forward to having you to show off their latest efforts!
What could be more romantic than a leisurely carriage ride on a warm summer evening?
In the late 1980s, Whitey, a nine-year-old gelding, collapsed while pulling a carriage during a summer heat wave in New York City. A passing nurse gave Whitey an IV saline solution, and sympathetic police officers sprayed him with cool water for two hours. Eventually Whitey managed to get back on his feet. Another carriage horse, Misty, died from apparent heat exhaustion during the same heat wave. Despite the national attention that was focused on the carriage horse industry after Whitey's collapse--and the outrage of romantics everywhere--little has changed for the horses.
Many horses who end up pulling carriages through city streets are "breakdowns" from harness racing tracks. Standardbreds are often trained to race by being tethered to the back of a truck that drives increasingly faster, so carriage horse operators consider these horses "street savvy." But standardbreds are much smaller and lighter than traditional "draft horses" and are not accustomed to pulling heavy loads. Many other carriage horses are breakdowns from Amish farming communities. Regardless of their source, most horses, as veterinarian Holly Cheever points out, "enter the carriage horse trade with a legacy of previous injuries and debility." When horses can no longer pull heavy carriages, they are sold to rendering plants or dog food companies.
HARD & HARSH CONDITIONS
Even for healthy horses, a carriage ride is not an easy trip. Most cities have only minimal regulations governing working conditions for carriage horses, and these regulations are rarely enforced. Carriage horse operators know all the loopholes in their city's laws. An officer with the Canadian SPCA has said, "[I]f regulations state that a horse can work for nine consecutive hours, but [fail] to say within a 24-hour period, [drivers will] work the horse for nine hours, give the horse an hour or two of rest, then come back on the road." As a result, many horses work 12 or more hours a day, often in extreme weather conditions.
As in the case of Misty, weather conditions sometimes prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to bitter cold and scorching heat. Carriage Operators of North America, a trade organization to which only a small percentage of carriage horse operators belong, says horses may work if the temperature is nine degrees Fahrenheit, well below freezing. In summer months, horses suffering from dehydration or heat stress can die in just a few hours. Some cities outlaw carriage rides when the temperature reaches a certain degree, but often the official weather bureau reading does not accurately reflect the temperature on the streets. A study published by Cornell University, for example, found that the air temperature recorded by the weather bureau can be nearly 50 degrees cooler than the actual asphalt temperature. And the New York City Department of Transportation found that asphalt surfaces can reach 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
INJURIES & ACCIDENTS
Horses and heavy city traffic can also be a deadly mix. Despite carriage horse operators' claims, most horses are not comfortable working among cars and trucks, and many accidents, injuries, and even deaths--to horses and humans--have been caused by horses becoming "spooked" in traffic. According to Cheever, it is normal for horses to "react to threatening situations with panic and flight." A survey of national carriage horse accidents revealed that 85 percent of all accidents were the result of an animal spooking. Seventy percent of the time there was a human injury, and 22 percent of the time there was a human death. The survey also found that in New York City, which has the highest carriage horse accident rate in the country, 98 percent of the horses who "spooked" became injured.
Injuries and fatalities resulting from collisions between cars and carriage horses have occurred in almost every city that allows carriage rides, including Cincinnati, Ohio; Salt Lake City, Utah; Charleston, South Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Baltimore, Maryland; and Houston, Texas.
SMOKE & EXHAUST
The smoke and exhaust fumes from urban traffic are also dangerous for horses. In a study by veterinarian Jeffie Roszel, "tracheal washes and samples from respiratory secretions of these horses showed enormous lung damage, the same kind of damage you would expect from a heavy smoker." Horses' nostrils are usually only 3 to 3 1/2 feet above street level, so these animals are "truly ... living a nose-to-tailpipe existence."
ABUSE & NEGLECT
Carriage horses also routinely suffer at the hands of poorly trained drivers. Because they are constantly walking and standing on hard streets, "lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable" in carriage horses, says Cheever. "The problems are worsened by the inexperience of the gross majority of the owners and drivers, who are either incapable of recognizing lameness or are unwilling to suffer financial loss by removing a horse from service for a few days." Many drivers don't know how to fasten harnesses correctly, and either leave straps so loose they rub and chafe the horse's skin, or buckle the straps so tightly they pinch. And few horses are fitted with new horseshoes as often as is needed. Conditions for carriage horses aren't much better when the horses are off the streets.
Raids on carriage horse stables have exposed stalls with no hay or other bedding, stall floors covered with urine and manure, poor ventilation in the stables, and horses who had no free access to water. Many stables have stacked floors--like parking garages--with steep ramps leading from one floor to the next. The floors in one stable were so rotten, they often gave way under the weight of the horses, repeatedly causing animals to break their legs. In 1991, two horses owned by a carriage horse operator in New York died after being fed bad hay.
Not surprisingly, carriage horse operators view attempts to regulate their industry--through stipulations on where and how long horses can work, temperature restrictions, and mandatory veterinary care--as economic threats. One carriage horse operator in Charleston, S.C., even said,"[L]egislation is ridiculous."
In her classic novel, Black Beauty, Anna Sewell wrote, "My doctrine is this, that if we see cruelty or wrong that we have the power to stop, and do nothing, we make ourselves sharers in the guilt." People around the world agree and are increasingly recognizing that it's the carriage horse industry--not just the horses--who are taking them for a ride.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Don't patronize the carriage horse industry.
Educate others about carriage horses.
Pressure from concerned residents has resulted in bans on carriage horses in a growing number of cities. Educate your local officials on the issue.
Rodeos are promoted as rough and tough exercises of human skill and courage in conquering the fierce, untamed beasts of the Wild West. In reality, rodeos are nothing more than manipulative displays of human domination over animals, thinly disguised as entertainment. What began in the late 1800s as a skill contest among cowboys has become a show motivated by greed and profit.
Standard rodeo events include calf roping, steer wrestling, bareback horse and bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer roping and wild cow milking.
The animals used in rodeos are captive performers. Most are relatively tame but understandably distrustful of human beings because of the harsh treatment that they have received. Many of these animals are not aggressive by nature; they are physically provoked into displaying "wild" behavior to make the cowboys look brave.
Electric prods, sharp sticks, caustic ointments, and other torturous devices are used to irritate and enrage animals used in rodeos. The flank or "bucking" strap used to make horses and bulls buck is tightly cinched around their abdomens, where there is no rib cage protection. Tightened near the large and small intestines and other vital organs, the belt pinches the groin and genitals. The pain causes the animals to buck, which is what the rodeo promoters want the animal to do in order to put on a good show for the crowds.
In a study conducted by the Humane Society of the United States, two horses known for their gentle temperament were subjected to the use of a flank strap. Both bucked until the strap was removed. Then several rodeo-circuit horses were released from a pen without the usual flank straps and did not buck, illustrating that the "wild," frenzied behavior in the animals is artificially induced by the rodeo cowboys and promoters of rodeo events.
Dr. C.G. Haber, a veterinarian who spent 30 years as a federal meat inspector, worked in slaughterhouses and saw many animals discarded from rodeos and sold for slaughter. He described the animals as being "so extensively bruised that the only areas in which the skin was attached (to the flesh) were the head, neck, leg, and belly. I have seen animals with six to eight ribs broken from the spine and at times, puncturing the lungs. I have seen as much as two to three gallons of free blood accumulated under the detached skin." These injuries are a result of animals' being thrown in calf-roping events or being jumped on from atop horses during steer wrestling.
Rodeo promoters argue that they must treat their animals well in order to keep them healthy and usable. But this assertion is belied by a statement that Dr. T.K. Hardy, a Texas veterinarian and sometime steer roper, made to Newsweek: "I keep 30 head of cattle around for practice, at $200 a head. You can cripple three or four in an afternoon . . . it gets to be a pretty expensive hobby."
Unfortunately, there is a steady supply of newly discarded animals available to rodeo producers when other animals have been worn out or irreparably injured. As Dr. Haber documented, the rodeo circuit is just a detour on the road to the slaughterhouse.
Although rodeo cowboys voluntarily risk injury by participating in events, the animals they use have no such choice. Because speed is a factor in many rodeo events, the risk of accidents is high.
A terrified, squealing young horse burst from the chutes at the Can-Am Rodeo and within five seconds slammed into a fence and broke her neck. Bystanders knew that she was dead when they heard her neck crack, yet the announcer told the crowd that everything would "be all right" because a vet would see her. Sadly, incidents such as this are not uncommon at rodeos. For example, in 1999, three men and seven horses died at the Calgary Stampede in Alberta, Canada.
In San Antonio, yet another frightened horse snapped his spine. Witnesses report that the horse dragged himself, paralyzed, across the stadium by his front legs before collapsing. During the National Western Stock Show, a horse crashed into a wall and broke his neck, while still another horse broke his back after being forced to buck. Bucking horses often develop back problems from the repeated poundings they endure. Because horses do not normally jump up and down, there is also the risk of leg injury when a tendon tears or snaps.
Calves roped while running up to 27 miles per hour routinely have their necks snapped back by the lasso, often resulting in neck and back injuries, bruises, broken bones and internal hemorrhages. Calves have become paralyzed from severe spinal cord injury, and their tracheas may be totally or partially severed. Even San Antonio Livestock Exposition Executive Director Keith Martin agrees that calf roping is inhumane. Says Martin, "Do I think it hurts the calf? Sure I do. I'm not stupid." At the Connecticut Make-A-Wish Rodeo, one steer's neck was forcefully twisted until it broke. Calves are only used in one rodeo before they are returned to the ranch or destroyed because of injuries. Frequently, animals break loose from their pens and escape. They are often shot by police unfamiliar with and untrained in capturing livestock.
Rodeo association rules are not effective in preventing injuries and are not strictly enforced, nor are penalties severe enough to deter abusive treatment. For example, if a calf is injured during the contest, the only penalty is that the roper will not be allowed to rope another calf in that event on that day. If the roper drags the calf, he or she might be disqualified. There are no rules protecting animals during practice, and there are no objective observers or examinations required to determine if an animal is injured in an event.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If a rodeo comes to your town, protest to local authorities, write letters to sponsors, leaflet at the gate or hold a demonstration. Check state and local laws to find out what types of activities involving animals are and are not legal in your area. For example, a Pittsburgh law prohibiting cruelty to rodeo animals in effect banned rodeos altogether, since most rodeos currently touring the country use the electric prods and flank straps prohibited by the law. Another successful means of banning rodeos is to institute a state or local ban on calf roping, the event in which cruelty is most easily documented. Since many rodeo circuits require calf roping, its elimination can result in the overall elimination of rodeo shows.
Despite the rich diversity of foods found all over the world, one third of its population does not have enough to eat. Around 6 billion people share the planet, one quarter in the rich north and three quarters in the poor south. While people in rich countries diet because they eat too much, many in the developing world do not have enough food simply to ensure their bodies work properly and stay alive.
826 million people around the world are seriously undernourished - 792 million people in developing countries and another 34 million in industrialized countries. Two billion people - one third of the global population - lack food security. Today, some 12 million children die annually of nutrition-related diseases.
THE ROOTS OF HUNGER
The developing world hasn't always been hungry. Early explorers of the 16th and 17th centuries often returned amazed at the huge amounts of food they saw there. In parts of Africa, for example, people always had three harvests in storage and no one went hungry. The idea of buying and selling food was unheard of.
The Industrial Revolution changed all that. European countries needed cheap raw materials such as coal and iron ore that developing countries had plenty of. Through the process of invasion and colonization, Western countries could not only take the raw materials but claim the land as their own and make the indigenous people pay taxes or rent. Poor peasants (many of whom had never dealt in money before) were forced to grow crops such as cotton to sell to their new masters. Wealthy countries owned the land, all the food that was produced, and decided the price. After paying taxes, peasants had little money left to buy this expensive food and often ended up borrowing money simply to live. This whole process of colonization continued right up to the beginning of the last century.
Drought and other 'natural' disasters are often wrongly blamed for causing famines. Local people have always planned for freak acts of nature and although they may be the trigger that starts a famine, the underlying cause is the system of modern day neo-colonialism.
The land in poor countries is still largely not owned by the people who work on it and rents are high. Huge areas are owned by large companies based in the West. It is common for people to be thrown off the land, often going to the towns where there is little other work. About 160,000 people move from rural areas to cities every day. Many migrants are forced to settle in shanty towns and squatter settlements.
Much of this land is used to grow “cash crops” for export - like coffee, tobacco and animal feed - rather than to grow food for indigenous people. Countries agree to grow cash crops in order to pay off their crippling debts.
Why are countries in debt? During the 1970s, developing countries were lent money by developed countries for a range of projects, including infrastructure development (e.g. dams and roads), industrialization and technology. The World Development Movement (WDM) states, “Often the projects turned out to be unproductive.” The loans were either multilateral (i.e. the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund lending to one government) or bilateral (i.e. one government lending to another).
Then in the 1980s, interest rates rocketed because of the oil crisis, while at the same time, industrialized countries put high prices on many agricultural imports so that developing world farmers were not able to sell their produce. Consequently, developing countries were unable to pay off their loans and they have become increasingly indebted. These countries are paying back billions of dollars to the West in interest payments each year.
Often, the loans had conditions attached. When Costa Rica borrowed money from the World Bank, one of the conditions set was that they had to cut down rainforest and clear land for cattle grazing to supply rich countries with cheap beef. The destruction of rainforests is a disaster not just for its people and wildlife but for the world's climate.
Between 1975 and 1985, thousands of acres of forest were cleared in Thailand to grow tapioca to sell to the EU as feed for pigs and cattle. When beef and pork mountains meant that not as much meat was being produced, Europe no longer needed tapioca and stopped buying. This put Thai peasants into huge debt because they had borrowed money to spend on improving their farms to grow enough to meet demand. As a consequence, many people sold their children into child labor and prostitution.
IN THE HANDS OF THE RICH
After extensive lobbying, the IMF and the World Bank set up the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) in 1996 with the apparent aim of alleviating debt burdens. Some bilateral lenders have agreed to write off 100 percent of the debts owed to them when the countries in question complete the Initiative. When countries get half way through (called the Decision Point), they receive partial relief on their annual debt service payments.
In order to receive debt relief through the HIPC initiative, developing countries have to get a Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) agreed by the IMF and the World Bank.
PRSPs replace “Structural Adjustment Programmes” (SAPs), which were imposed on developing countries as part of their loan packages. These forced governments to reduce public spending and promote their export industries, in theory releasing more money for debt repayment. Unsurprisingly, a number of studies showed that SAPs made people poorer. The UNICEF-sponsored Adjustment with a Human Face documented increases in stunting, underweight and low birth weight in the wake of structural adjustment policies in 9 of 11 Latin American, African and Asian nations surveyed in the 1980s.
PRSPs set out governments’ strategies to reduce poverty and must include plans for how the money freed up by debt relief will be spent - e.g. on education and health care. The indebted countries also have to agree to implement economic reforms. The WDM states, “As the IMF and the World Bank hold the veto, PRSPs are unsurprisingly turning out to be very similar to the Structural Adjustment Programmes they replaced”.
AID & REVOLUTIONS
Much of the aid given to developing world countries has been 'tied aid' - this means that the countries who receive it have to buy goods and services from the countries who give it. In this way, most of the money is simply returned to those who gave it.
During the 1970s, the US only gave aid to Nicaragua in exchange for the production of beef, causing the loss of 1,000 km2 of rainforest per year. By 1979, Nicaragua was Latin America's biggest supplier of beef to the US.
Lobbying efforts by NGOs like Action Aid to “untie” aid mean that tied aid is now declining. In an unprecedented move, the UK government has now agreed to untie all its aid. However, an increased proportion of aid is now granted as “technical cooperation”, which is excluded from the definition of tied aid. According to a World Bank report, “some 100,000 foreign technical experts are currently employed in Africa, tending to displace local experts... it has probably weakened capacity in Africa.” Action Aid says that technical cooperation, “ensures a steady supply of lucrative contracts for consultants in donor countries”. “Aid” to developing countries is often more concerned with providing financial support for the West.
Food aid is also excluded from the definition of tied aid. Action Aid says that, “the exclusion of food aid may encourage the provision of donor foodstuffs when locally available produce could be purchased”. While food aid can be helpful in times of famine it does nothing to change the basic causes of hunger. As rich countries eat more meat, more land in poor countries will be turned over to produce animal feed.
The “Green Revolution” of the late 1960s and early 1970s was billed as the solution to world hunger. Productivity was increased through farm machinery, pesticides and fertilizers, irrigation and the replacement of traditional crops with high-yielding varieties. It failed to benefit those who needed it. This “revolution” focused on boosting the yields of a narrow base of cereals - corn, wheat and rice. The gains in cereal production often came at the expense of cultivation of more nutritious legumes, root crops and other grains. This resulted in reduced dietary diversity and contributed to widespread nutritional deficiencies as well as depletion of the soil and wildlife loss. The “revolution” also favored wealthier farmers because they were the ones who could afford to invest in the new technologies.
Many countries in Asia and Africa have traditionally based their diets around rice, beans, pulses and vegetables, either following a wholly vegetarian diet or only including low amounts of meat and fish. This is exactly the type of nutritious diet that is now being promoted by health officials in the West in an attempt to combat diseases like obesity, heart disease and cancer - low in animal fats and high in fiber, vegetable protein and essential vitamins. Yet developing countries, keen to copy Western lifestyles, increasingly perceive meat-eating as a sign of wealth and progress. This shift towards meat consumption is being described as “The Livestock Revolution”.
The International Food Policy Research Institute projects that meat demand in the developing world will double between 1995 and 2020. Per capita demand for meat is projected to increase 40 percent. Growth in livestock farming is primarily taking place in the intensive pig and poultry sectors.
Intensively farmed meat is billed as being a cheap source of protein while the global picture - the “grain drain” created by increased meat consumption - is ignored. Demand for cereals to feed to farmed animals is predicted to double in developing countries over the next generation. Demand for corn will increase the most, growing by 2.35 percent over the next 20 years. Nearly two thirds will go towards feeding animals.
Meat consumption tends to rise as people migrate from rural areas to cities. The meat industry is naturally only too pleased by these new commercial opportunities.
THE INSANITY OF FACTORY FARMING
Breeding animals is an incredibly inefficient way to try to feed the world's growing population. Yet after food rationing during the second world war, intensive animal farming was actively encouraged as a way of ensuring our future “food security”.
Most meat in the West is now produced in factory farms which, as the name implies, are production lines for animals. To meet the large demand for meat, billions of animals are kept in cramped, filthy conditions, often unable to move properly and not allowed fresh air or even natural light. Unable to feed outdoors naturally, they are fed grain, oil seeds, soy, fish meal and sometimes the remains of other animals. High quality land is used to grow grains and soy beans - land that could be used to grow crops for humans.
The grain fed to animals does not convert directly into meat to feed people. The vast majority is either excreted or used as “fuel” to keep the animal alive and functioning. For every 10 kilograms of soy protein fed to America’s cattle only 1 kilogram is converted to meat. Almost the entire population of India and China, nearly two billion people, could be fed on the protein consumed and largely wasted by the United States’ beef herd.
Because of the demand for animal feed, a Western meat-based diet uses four and a half times more land than is necessary for a vegan diet and two and a quarter times more than for a vegetarian diet.
This increase in factory farming is creating huge problems. In Bangladesh, for example, which is one of the world's poorest countries, battery hen systems have become widespread. The country has massive shortages of food, many unemployed people and very little money to spare. Factory farming needs money for equipment, creates hardly any jobs and uses up much valuable plant food that could be fed to people.
Factory farming does not meet the needs of these people but it does benefit people in Western countries where much of the equipment needed, such as tractors and building materials, is made. When developing countries buy them they then become dependent on the suppliers for spare parts and repairs.
Poultry World magazine highlighted “the great scope for expansion” in Africa. It emphasized how African countries are largely dependent on Western countries for breeding stock, feed and pharmaceuticals. Poultry farming has grown so fast in India that they are producing more meat than their own people can afford to buy. Despite widespread hunger, they are exporting chicken to wealthy countries such as the Gulf States.
China has seen an enormous rise in pork production over the past decade and hence an enormous increase in its need for animal feed. The country has transformed from being an exporter of 8 million tons of grain in 1993 to becoming a net importer of 16 million tons by 1995.
If developing countries look to consuming the same quantity of meat per head as the average American, food shortages will become desperate. Yet rather than switch to vegetarianism, livestock scientists advocate boosting the “feed efficiency” of animals. A modern intensively raised chicken will put on 3 kilograms from the same amount of feed that in 1957 only yielded 2 kilograms. US scientists have discovered that pigs can be made to grow 40 percent faster on 25 percent less feed if they are injected with DNA encoding a modified, long lasting releasing factor for growth hormones. In livestock science, animals are perceived as unfeeling, unthinking, protein-making machines that can be tweaked and manipulated for our own benefit.
Exporting factory farming means exporting the overuse of antibiotics and the increased risks of food poisoning and diseases such as cancer and heart disease which are associated with increased meat-eating. It also means exporting the environmental damage caused by intensive farming systems, including the overuse of water and land degradation to provide the massive amount of crops these poor creatures are fed. Is this really what the developing world needs in order to “develop”?
The predicted shift towards increased meat consumption is still in its infancy. Even in China, which is at the forefront of the “Livestock Revolution” and where per capita meat consumption doubled between 1983 and 1993, people eat on average just a quarter as much meat as the average American. If we act now, we could still stop this cycle of insanity and move towards agricultural systems which would genuinely feed the world.
MALNUTRITION & OBESITY
For the first time in history, we have reached a situation where the number of overweight people rivals the number who are underweight, both estimated at 1.1 billion.
As countries grow wealthier, meat consumption tends to rise. Hunger problems are reduced but hospitals begin to see more cases involving illnesses such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer - all of which are linked to diets high in animal produce. China is at the forefront of the “livestock revolution”. The share of adults who are overweight jumped from 9 percent to 15 percent between 1989 and 1992.
The number of diabetics worldwide whose condition results from overeating is projected to double between 1998 and 2025, with more than three quarters of this growth occurring in the developing world. Some countries will be battling hunger and obesity at the same time.
In a nutshell: countries whose people are starving are using their land to grow grain for export to feed the West’s farmed animals. Nutritionally valuable food is being fed to animals to produce meat, which Western countries are literally gorging themselves to death on. Now, we are exporting factory farming to the developing world. Meat consumption is rising and so are the associated health problems.
SEND A COW
Charities have been set up with the specific aim of promoting livestock farming in the developing world - claiming they are working to alleviate poverty. While encouraging animal farming may temporarily alleviate the poverty of individual families, it can only contribute towards poverty in the long run. Promoting meat production can never be a solution to world hunger because it means promoting a diet which drains valuable grain stocks and devastates the environment.
The amount of land used to grow animal feed in Western countries is not enough to meet their own needs and more is imported from developing countries. Land in some developing countries, like India, is also used to grow grain for animals who are reared and killed for export.
Currently farmed animals eat one-third of the world’s cereal production. In the industrialized world, two-thirds of the agricultural land produces cereals for animal feed.
In the United States, farmed animals, mostly cattle, consume almost twice as much grain as is eaten by the entire US population. 70 percent of all the wheat, corn and other grain produced goes to feeding animals. Over 100 million acres of US agricultural land is used to grow grain for animals and still more is imported.
In Central and South America, ever-increasing amounts of land are being used to grow soy beans and grain for export - to be used as animal feed. In Brazil, 23 percent of the cultivated land is currently being used to produce soy beans, of which nearly half are for export. 25 years ago, livestock consumed less than 6 percent of Mexico’s grain. Today, at least one third of the grain produced in the country is being fed to animals. At the same time, millions of people living in the country are chronically undernourished.
Instead of promoting the growing of plant foods for human consumption, governments offer subsidy payments and financial incentives to livestock farmers, thereby actively encouraging meat production.
Fish farming, or aquaculture, is the fastest growing sector of the world economy and has been growing at 11 percent a year over the past decade. In 1990, 13 million tons of fish were produced but by 2002, this had risen to 39.8 million tons. 85 percent of fish farming is in developing countries. China accounted for 27.7 million tons of the 39.8 million tons of world aquacultural output in 2002, and India 2 million tons. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Thailand are also major players in the industry.
Breeding fish in captivity is billed as the way to protect ever-diminishing wild fish stocks. But paradoxically, carnivorous farmed fish are actually fed wild fish - further depleting the oceans. It takes 5 tons of fish caught from the sea to produce one ton of factory farmed salmon. Wild-caught fish are also fed to halibut, cod and trout.
Fishmeal is made from fish or fish parts for which there is said to be little or no human demand. But the huge need for wild-caught fish on fish farms still places much additional stress on our fragile, overfished oceans.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation, 69 percent of the world’s commercial marine fish stocks are “fully exploited, overfished, depleted, or slowly recovering”.
Non-carnivorous farmed fish like carp and catfish are fed grain rather than wild-caught fish. Fish are said to convert grain more “efficiently” than cattle - they add a kilogram of weight with less than two kilograms of grain. But the global fixation with obtaining protein from animals means that the most efficient option of all - consuming the grain directly - is ignored.
GLOBAL WATER SHORTAGE
The massive quantities of grain required to sustain a meat-based diet are not the only problem. The meat production process uses up vast quantities of water in a world where water is in short supply. It takes 1,000 liters to produce 1kg of wheat and 100,000 liters to produce 1kg of beef. About three quarters of the water we use goes to growing food but vegetarians need less than a third as much water to sustain their diet as meat-eaters.
Living in the West, it’s easy to imagine that our water supplies are unlimited, but globally our fresh water supplies are being used up so fast that almost half a billion people already depend on nonrenewable sources. 7 percent of the world’s population has not enough water and by 2050, this will be 70 percent. The situation is so dire that battles over water supplies are predicted to become a major source of conflict.
Worldwatch Institute chairman Lester Brown states, “In consumption terms, 480 million of the world’s 6 billion people are being fed with food produced with the unsustainable use of water. We are already using up the water which belongs to our children”. The International Water Management Institute predicts that by 2025 about 2.7 billion people - a third of the world’s population - will live in regions faced by regular and severe water scarcity. Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will be hit the hardest.
It’s hard to imagine a scenario more sickening than a rich elite gorging itself on meat while the poorest third of the world’s population literally dehydrate. A shift away from meat consumption must become a global priority if we are to have a hope of meeting the basic needs of the world’s 6 billion inhabitants.
GENETICALLY MODIFIED CROPS
Multinational companies promise us that there is a new solution to global poverty: genetically modified crops. Thanks to their life-saving research, we will soon be able to grow enough food to feed the world, they promise us. So what’s the real reason for their sudden altruism?
Don’t forget that there is already enough food to feed the world - on a vegetarian diet. What there is not enough of is animal feed - cereals to drive the predicted increase in meat consumption. The amount of productive land is diminishing through desertification and soil degradation, due largely - ironically - to intensive livestock agriculture. But the potential market for animal feed is huge.
The pharmaceutical giants who are pushing GMOs bank some $161 billion dollars between them every year. They walk hand in hand with agribusinesses and the livestock industry - often they are one and the same company. Intensive livestock farming accounts for over 40 percent of their income and these companies are responsible for producing the vast quantities of fodder consumed by farmed animals world-wide - as well as the cocktail of drugs, growth enhancers and pesticides which prop up intensive farming systems.
The driving need, therefore, is to make maximum use of existing land by destroying all weeds and wild plants which compete for nutrients, and to increase crop yields - hence genetic modification. Companies promoting GMOs are more interested in boosting the production of animal feed, and hence meat, than in feeding the world.
THE SOLUTION IS IN OUR HANDS
The fast growth of the world's population is a serious problem because it means there are more mouths to feed, resulting in more pressure on water, land, wildlife and so on. By 2050, the 49 least-developed countries will nearly triple in size, from 668 million to 1.86 billion people. By 2050, today’s developing countries will account for over 85 percent of the world population.
However, although this makes the hunger problem worse, it does not actually cause it. It is the growth of incomes and demand for 'luxury' items in rich countries that have triggered the hunger crisis. The world is a much wealthier place today than it was 40 years ago and as wages have risen they have encouraged large-scale meat eating in richer countries, heightening the competition for cereals between animals and humans.
A huge “consumption gap” exists between industrialized and developing countries. The world’s richest countries, with 20 percent of global population, account for 86 percent of total private consumption, whereas the poorest 20 percent of the world’s people account for just 1.3 percent.
A child born today in an industrialized country will add more to consumption and pollution over his or her lifetime than 30 to 50 children born in developing countries.
The decline in world fish stocks, the erosion of agricultural land and the limits of technology to boost grain yields mean we are fast approaching the limit of resources and the earth's carrying capacity. We need to rethink the way limited supplies of plant food are distributed and start feeding the world.
Eating meat is not the only reason for world hunger but it is a major cause. We must drastically change our eating habits if we are to feed the world adequately. People are going hungry while ever increasing numbers of animals are fed huge amounts of food in a hopelessly inefficient system.
By not using animals as meat producing machines, this food could be freed to help those that need it most. Veganism, by using up far less of the world’s resources of food, land water and energy, is a positive step that we can all easily take to help feed people in poorer countries.
HELP WITHOUT HURTING
Food For Life Global
Food For Life Global brings food to the needy of the world through the distribution of pure plant-based meals. Food For Life is active in over 50 countries worldwide, with over 1,500,000 meals served daily by volunteers at schools for the poor, orphanages, on the streets of major cities, and to disaster areas. Services include: food relief, schooling, nutrition, education, animal sanctuaries, orphanages, medical care, organic farming, housing and disaster response. Meals served by Food For Life projects cost on average 15 – 20 cents each.
All of Food for Life’s food programs are completely plant-based, providing a sustainable alternative to the environmental devastation and inhumane activities of the factory farming industry. Food For Life is a non-sectarian organization.
Food For Life volunteers, universally recognized for their selfless dedication, compassion, and bravery, can be found wherever people are suffering, bringing hope and relief to the needy. It's mission flows from its core values of charity and respect for all living things. Therefore its services are provided without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, community, or nationality.
Food for Life Global is funded by private donations, foundations, and corporate and government grants. With the support of its members and corporate sponsors, Food for Life Global seeks to maintain and expand its current programs to feed the world’s hungry and fight poverty by promoting health, education and sustainability.
Help make a difference...donate now or volunteer with Food For Life Global.
The Fruit Tree Planting Foundation (FTPF) is an award-winning international nonprofit charity dedicated to planting fruit trees to alleviate world hunger, combat global warming, strengthen communities, and improve the surrounding air, soil, and water. Programs strategically donate orchards where the harvest will best serve individuals for generations to follow, at places such as public schools, city parks, low-income neighborhoods, Native American reservations, international hunger relief sites, and animal sanctuaries.
VEGFAM helps people overseas by providing funds for self-supporting, sustainable food projects and the provision of safe drinking water. VEGFAM funds ethically sound plant-food projects, which do not exploit animals or the environment: seeds and tools for vegetable growing, fruit and nut tree planting, irrigation and water wells. VEGFAM also provides emergency feeding in times of crisis.
Help International Plant Protein Organisation provides emergency relief for the hungry in the less developed world, but just as importantly it encourages people to grow their own food - not meat or dairy but plant protein. Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) - made from soy - can feed 60 people from the same amount of land that would feed two people on meat - and is much more healthy and humane
Being vegan does not stop at what you put in your body. What you put on your body needs a bit of thought too, as animal products seem to find their way into the most unlikely places. Vegans also attempt to refrain from purchasing household products made or tested on animals, and from exploiting animals by boycotting animal entertainment. With so many humane alternatives, why not choose vegan options?
MAKE-UP & TOILETRIES
Many cosmetics and toiletries have been needlessly tested on animals and often contain ingredients like beeswax, lanolin (from wool), silk, animal fat or slaughterhouse by-products. Most health food stores sell vegan toiletries.
Every year, millions of animals are subjected to the most horrifically painful experiments just so people can have a new brand of shampoo or a differently scented perfume. Eye irritancy tests - commonly called the Draize test, involve a substance applied to the eye of a rabbit to see if irritation or damage ensues. During the test, the animals are given no pain relief, they are held in stocks to prevent them from touching their eyes and the test may last for several days causing great pain and suffering. Rabbits are used because they have very poor tear ducts in their eyes so they cannot wash away the substance.
Skin irritancy test involves shaving the fur off an animal and applying the test substance to their skin. The skin is then observed for signs of irritation e.g. swelling, reddening, bleeding, cracking or ulceration.
Toxicity tests - such as the LD-50 (Lethal Dose 50%) involves substances fed to the animal and they are observed for signs of poisoning e.g. tremors, bleeding, vomiting or loss of balance. The test may last for several days causing great suffering. Those animals that do not die during the experiment are killed at the end for autopsy.
Animal testing of cosmetics is entirely unnecessary. Over 8,000 ingredients have already been established as safe and there is no reason why manufacturers need to use any new substances. Where new ingredients are used, the law requires them to be safety tested - this need not involve animal testing. Cruelty-free alternatives such as testing on reconstructed human skin, using computer modelling and enlisting human volunteers are often more reliable than using a different species, with a different biology to test products for human use.
CLOTHES & SHOES
Many shoes, jackets, belts and bags are made from leather, suede or silk. Happily for us - as well as for the animals - there are cruelty-free options.
Each year more than 40 million animals are senselessly tortured and killed to satisfy the dictates of fashion. Wild-caught fur is obtained by setting traps or snares to capture fur-bearing animals. Once an animal is caught it may remain in the trap or snare for several days starving or slowly strangling. Farm-raised fur comes from animals kept in tiny, filthy cages, deprived of adequate protection from the elements. As a result, animals develop stereotypical behavior, including pacing, head bobbing, and self-mutilation. The techniques used to kill animals on fur farms vary. Small animals such as mink are killed by neck snapping or "popping." Larger animals such as foxes are electrocuted by placing a metal clamp on the snout and forcing a rod into the anus, and then connecting the metal to a power source. Some animals are forced into bags or boxes and gassed with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide.
Sheep raised for wool are subjected to a lifetime of cruel treatment. Lambs' tails are chopped off and males are castrated without anesthetic. In Australia, where 80% of all wool comes from, ranchers perform an operation called "mulesing" where huge strips of skin are carved off the backs of lambs' legs. This procedure is performed to produce scarred skin that won't harbor fly larvae, so that the rancher can spend less time caring for the sheep. The shearing of sheep at most wool ranches can be a brutal procedure, as workers are encouraged to shear as quickly as possible. As a result, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year from exposure. Sheep that are no longer useful for their wool are sent to crowded feedlots and then transported to the slaughterhouse.
By-products of the beef industry are defined by the parts of the cow that are not consumed by humans. These include hooves, some organs, bones, and skin. Skin (leather) accounts for about half of the by-product value of the beef industry. Like meat, leather is a product made from animals that experienced the horrors of factory farming, transport, and slaughter. The leather industry uses some of the most dangerous substances to prepare leather, including formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, various oils, and some cyanide-based dyes.
Animals used in the circus spend the majority of the year imprisoned in small cages or on chains, traveling from show to show. The training endured by circus animals is almost always based on intimidation; trainers must break the spirit of the animals in order to control them. It is not uncommon for an elephant to be tied down and beaten for several days while being trained to perform, and tigers are chained to their pedestals with ropes around their necks to choke them down.
Horses and cows used in rodeos are abused with electrical prods, sharp spurs, and "bucking straps" that pinch their sensitive flank area. During bucking events, horses and bulls may suffer broken legs or run into the sides of the arena causing serious injury and even death. During calf-roping events, a calf may reach a running speed of 27 miles per hour before being jerked by the neck to an abrupt stop by a lasso. This event has resulted in animals' punctured lungs, internal hemorrhaging, paralysis, and broken necks.
Once greyhounds begin their racing careers, they are kept in cages for about 22-1/2 hours a day. The cages are made of wire and are barely big enough for the dogs to turn around. Dogs that are considered too slow to race are sold to research facilities or killed (20,000-25,000 each year) -- very few are adopted. More racehorses are bred than can prove profitable on the racetrack. As a result, hundreds of racehorses are sent to slaughter every year.
While zoos and aquariums may appear to be educational and conservation-oriented, most are designed with the needs and desires of the visitors in mind, not the needs of the animals. Many animals in zoos and aquariums exhibit abnormal behavior as a result of being deprived of their natural environments and social structures. Some zoos and aquariums do rescue some animals and work to save endangered species, but most animals in zoos were either captured from the wild or bred in captivity for the purpose of public display, not species protection. The vast majority of captive-bred animals will never be returned to the wild. When the facility breeds too many animals they become "surplus" and often are sold to laboratories, traveling shows, shooting ranches, or to private individuals who may be unqualified to care for them.
Goose is the name for a considerable number of birds, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than geese, and ducks, which are smaller.
True geese are medium to large birds, always (with the exception of the Néné) associated to a greater or lesser extent with water. Most species in Europe, Asia and North America are strongly migratory as wild birds, breeding in the far north and wintering much further south. However, escapes and introductions have led to resident feral populations of several species.
A pair of geese will get together to raise a family and, for the most part, will stay together the rest of their lives (up to 25 years), raising new families each year.
One of the most distinguishing characteristics of geese is that they form a giant "V" across the sky. This amazing trick actually helps each bird fly further than if flying alone. When a goose falls out of formation, she will feel the drag and move quickly back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front of her. When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back into formation leaving another goose in the front position. They even honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
Geese have very strong affections for others in their group (known as a gaggle). If one in the gaggle gets sick, wounded, or shot, a couple of others may drop out of formation and follow the ailing goose down to help and protect him.
They try to stay with the disabled goose until he dies or is able to fly again, then they catch up with the group or launch out with another formation.
Much of a goose's time is spent foraging for food, most of which is obtained by grazing. All geese eat an exclusively vegetarian diet.
They honk loudly and can stretch their long necks out to great length when scared or threatened.
Ducks and geese are wild animals, but they have domesticated counterparts who are raised for their eggs and meat, down and feathers. They're less commonly known as farm animals, yet they can certainly fall within this category.
Geese have been domesticated for centuries. In the West, farmyard geese are descended from the Greylag, but in Asia the swan goose has been farmed for at least as long.
Geese tend to lay a smaller number of eggs than ducks. However, both parents protect the nest and young, which usually results in a higher survival rate for the young geese, known as goslings.
A group on the ground is called a gaggle. When flying, a group of geese is known as a wedge or a skein.
Every year, approximately 35,000 bulls are tormented and killed in bullfights in Spain alone. Although many bullfight attendees are American tourists, 90 percent of these tourists never return to another fight after witnessing the relentless cruelty that takes place in the ring. Spanish bulls and their many counterparts in Mexico and other countries are victims of a savage display disguised as "art" or "entertainment".
Spanish and Mexican bullfight advertisers lure American tourists with mystique. They claim the fight is festive, artistic, and a fair competition between skill and force. What they do not reveal is that the bull never has a chance to defend himself, much less survive.
Many prominent former bullfighters report that the bull is intentionally debilitated with tranquilizers and laxatives, beatings to the kidneys, petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to blur vision, heavy weights hung around their neck for weeks before the fight, and confinement in darkness for hours before being released into the bright arena.
A well-known bullfight veterinarian, Dr. Manuel Sanz, reports that in 1987 more than 90 percent of bulls killed in fights had their horns "shaved" before the fight. Horn shaving involves sawing off several inches of the horns so the bull misses his thrusts at the altered angle.
The matador, two picadors on horses, and three men on foot stab the bull repeatedly when he enters the ring. After the bull has been completely weakened by fear, blood loss, and exhaustion, the matador attempts to make a clean kill with a sword to the heart. Unfortunately for the suffering bull, the matador rarely succeeds and must make several thrusts, often missing the bull's heart and piercing his lungs instead. Often a dagger must be used to cut the spinal cord and spare the audience the sight of a defenseless animal in the throes of death. The bull may still be fully conscious but paralyzed when his ears and tail are cut off as the final show of "victory."
Mexican bullfighting has an added feature: novillada, or baby bullfights. There is no ritual in this slaughter of calves. Baby bulls, some no more than a few weeks old, are brought into a small arena where they are stabbed to death by spectators, many of whom are children. These bloodbaths end with spectators hacking off the ears and tail of the often fully conscious calf lying in his own blood.
The so-called "bloodless bullfights" that are legal in many U.S. states are only slightly less barbaric than their bloody counterparts. Although the bulls in these "fights" are not killed in the ring, they are often slaughtered immediately afterward. During the fights they are tormented, teased, and terrified.
The bulls aren't the only victims of the intense cruelty of the arena. According to Lyn Sherwood, publisher of an English-language bullfight magazine, horses used in bullfights are "shot behind the ear with dope. The horses are drugged and blindfolded and they're knocked down a lot." These horses, who are often gored, usually have wet newspaper stuffed in their ears to impair their hearing, and their vocal cords are usually cut so their cries do not distract the crowd. Fight promoters claim the horses are "saved" from glue factories; this means these animals are often old, tired plow horses who end up being knocked down by bulls weighing up to a half a ton.
Bulls today are specially bred for bullfighting. They are raised on hundreds of registered bull ranches located in various parts of Mexico. Selective breeding has enabled ranchers to create a bull who will die in a manner most satisfying to the public. Because the sight of a wounded bull desperately trying to retreat from the ring would ruin the image of the "sport," bulls are bred to return to the torture repeatedly and appear to be a wild and vicious challenge to the matador.
While its exact origins are not known, bullfighting is believed to have emerged in connection with ancient fertility rites. In 1567, Pope Pius V decreed that "exhibitions of tortured beasts or bulls is contrary to Christian duty and piety." He called for "an end to such bloody amusements, abject and more appropriate for devils than for men." The penalty for violating this decree, which has never been repealed, is excommunication. In 1725, bullfighting began to assume its present state when Francisco Romero invented a stick with a red cloth suspended from the end, which he used to tease and torment the bulls. Today's bullfighting maneuvers became defined in the 1700s and have changed little since. Recent polls of Spanish citizens show they are not particularly interested in attending bullfights. But tourists' money keeps bullfight profiteers in business.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If you are planning to visit a country that permits or encourages bullfighting, please tell your travel agent you are opposed to animal cruelty in any form. Many tourist resorts are building bullfight arenas as part of their "recreation" facilities; refuse to stay at such a resort, and write a letter to the owner explaining why you will not stay there. Instead, visit the resort town of Tossa de Mar, which was the first town in Spain to ban bullfights and related advertising. Tell others the facts about bullfighting and urge them to protest as well. When tourists stop attending bullfights, profiteers will stop the cruelty. Bloody or bloodless, bullfighting is a senseless, degrading spectacle that has no place in a civilized society.
Understanding how animals are killed for food is clearly not a pleasant subject. However, all consumers have a right to be aware of how animals farmed for food production are killed, and to understand the extent of the killing involved, in order to make an informed choice as to whether or not they wish to be a part of it.
The following explains what happens before meat, eggs, dairy and other animal products end up on the supermarket shelves. Each person who rejects animal products and goes vegan makes a huge difference.
You can give this story a happy ending; go vegan and experience for yourself a lifestyle that is kinder to animals, people and the environment.
Cattle are gregarious animals who, in a more natural environment, would live in complex social groups. They would choose a leader and form close friendships, grooming and licking one other to show their affection. Cattle-farming upsets this hierarchy in many ways, because new members and divisions of the herd occur frequently and this can be very disruptive.
Cattle bred for beef may be kept in a variety of systems. Frequently they are kept in windowless fattening sheds until ready for slaughter. They have little room to move and no access to the outside, to feel fresh air and sunlight.
How They Are Killed
Cattle are stunned by a shot into their brain from a captive-bolt pistol. Frequently they struggle or move around because they are terrified by the situation, so sometimes the bolt misses the mark and the cattle are not stunned. Thus they are conscious while being killed by having their throat slit and bleeding to death.
Purchasing leather ensures the continuity of a massive industry based on animal suffering. The leather industry makes a huge profit each year, mainly from cattle and calf skins.
Most cows are now artificially inseminated. The cow is tied up and one hand of the inseminator manipulates the cervix through the rectum wall while the other discharges semen into the vagina and cervix using an inseminating gun. This is uncomfortable and stressful for the cow.
Both the mother and calf suffer greatly at the hands of the milk industry.
Dairy cows have been selectively bred to produce ten times more milk than they would naturally need to feed their calves. This can lead to mastitis, a painful udder infection, and lameness when they are forced to stand all day in the cow shed. In order to produce milk the mother must be kept continually pregnant. So three months after she has given birth, and while she is still producing milk, she will be made pregnant. This puts a huge strain on her. Moreover, the calf is taken away soon after birth so that any milk produced by the cow can be sold for humans to drink. The mother and calf form a strong bond very quickly and the cow continuously calls after her calf has been taken away from her. The separation also causes a lot of confusion and distress for the calf. The cow is put through this heart-breaking and exhausting procedure not once, but an average of five times, until she is deemed to be no ‘use’ to the farmer and killed.
The calf is usually disbudded, whereby a heated iron is applied to the horn buds to stop the horns from growing. This is painful and stressful. Male cattle are also castrated by methods that cause the animal acute pain. Female calves are often kept to produce milk. Male calves are usually sent abroad for veal or deemed ‘useless’ and killed.
On organic farms the dairy cow still has to deal with continual pregnancies, and the mother and calf are still separated very soon after birth. Castration and disbudding of calves may still be carried out, and, as on nonorganic farms, slaughter is inevitable.
Sheep are social herd animals who tend to be gentle and passive. They have been found to feel desolate when those close to them die or are sent for slaughter. When farmed for their flesh and wool, sheep are exposed to a series of stresses and abuses throughout their lives.
Lambs are castrated with a rubber ring around their testes or by having them cut off with a knife, usually without anesthetic.
During this mutilation the lamb’s tail is usually removed by means of a tight rubber ring, though a knife or hot iron may be used. Again anesthetic is rarely used. Sheep are also put through a barrage of other stressful procedures including artificial insemination, force-feeding, dipping and spraying.
Killing For Meat
Sheep are usually slaughtered by electrical stunning followed by having their throat slit. However, stunning is not always effective and sheep may regain consciousness when their throats are slit or while blood is being drained from their body, a terrifying experience.
The wool industry is a massive profit-making industry in itself. As well as all the cruelties involved in rearing for meat, the additional practices of mulesing and shearing cause even greater suffering to sheep used in wool production.
This is a practice carried out across Australia, where most wool comes from, and it was introduced to reduce the risk of fly-strike. Fully-conscious lambs have chunks of flesh sliced from their back end. The lamb may be in excruciating pain and left with a wound that takes weeks to heal.
This is also extremely stressful with the sheep being forcibly restrained as workers rush to shear them, and bloody injuries often occur. One worker reported, “I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off”. In Australia alone, an estimated one million sheep die every year from exposure after shearing.
Live Export and Transport
Current methods of transporting sheep are extremely crude and present a number of welfare concerns. During loading and unloading, frightened or tired sheep are not treated with sympathy. Instead they are pushed and hit by stockmen. This certainly causes unnecessary fear in the animals and may also cause them to slip or fall, resulting in cuts, bruises and even broken bones. While being transported, sheep are crammed in with not even enough space to turn around. On journeys that may last days or even weeks, conditions are often appalling. Sheep may suffer from starvation, dehydration, injury and disease and any that fall to the floor are usually crushed to death. Many die before reaching their destination.
POULTRY AND EGGS
Chickens can be very sociable. They enjoy sunbathing and, like turkeys, love to dust-bathe in order to keep clean. As with other birds, mother hens’ desire to build a nest for their young is very strong. They have a strong bond with their chicks which begins even before they are hatched, with the chick and hen calling to each other. In the wild ducks and geese spend much of their time swimming and flying and may travel for hundreds of miles during migration. Geese choose one partner who they stay with for life through thick and thin while ducks live and sleep in groups.
The Life of a Broiler Chicken and Other Birds ‘Grown’ for Meat
On factory farms these birds are taken from their mothers before birth, thus being denied most of their natural types of behavior. No water is provided for ducks and geese to swim in and there is no chance for hens and turkeys to dust-bathe. They are crammed into sheds where the stench of ammonia from their droppings is intense and often leads to respiratory problems. Selective breeding means that these young birds grow very fast. Their bones have no time to become strong enough to hold their weight, so many birds have broken bones and most have lost the ability to fly. An investigation by Compassion in World Farming found crippled birds in chicken farms unable to reach food and drink, carcasses trampled by live chickens and piles of decomposing bodies left to rot.
Birds are commonly hung upside down in shackles by their feet and passed through a bath of electrified water, which should stun them before their throats are slit. The birds are killed at the rate of 8-10,000 per hour and left to bleed to death.
Most laying hens are kept in battery cages with several birds to one cage. The amount of room in which each bird spends her life is roughly the same size as a sheet of paper or a microwave oven. In these conditions hens often fight. To prevent this they are de-beaked by having the tip of their beak sliced off. This is an agonizing procedure which leaves the hen in pain for days. It has been found that hens who have been de-beaked avoid using their beaks except for feeding. Privacy is very important to an egg-laying hen but is utterly denied to her. Her desire to make a nest is also very strong, but again this is simply not possible.
Other alternatives are free-range and barn systems but each creates its own welfare concerns. For example, in free-range and barn systems there is more aggression leading to greater feather-pecking and cannibalism. Just like hens in battery cages, free-range and barn hens are often de-beaked. As in the battery system, half of all chicks are gassed at a day old because they are males and hence no good for egg-laying.
Fish and Pain
Not only do fish feel pain, they are very sensitive to stimuli. Some of their senses are far more developed than ours. Fish are highly responsive to touch and have an incredible sense of smell. They have sensory hairs along their backs that allow them to detect gentle currents and vibrations and sense the motion of other animals. Like other animals, fish use the sensation of pain to help them survive. It tells them when they have entered a dangerous situation from which they should withdraw immediately. It is pain that motivates a fish to fight vigorously when hooked, in a desperate attempt to get away.
Net Losses of Life
Various types of nets are used in sea-fishing, including drift nets and bottom trawls. Drift nets may be over two miles long. Fish that swim into the net become trapped by their gills when they try to back out. Marine mammals, such as seals and porpoises, also become trapped and drown when unable to reach the surface to breathe. Bottom trawls are dragged over the seabed and, as well as fish, catch every other species living on the seabed.
The Way They Die
As the fish are dragged from the ocean, they experience decompression which often causes the eyes to pop and the swim bladder to rupture. Many are crushed to death under the weight of other dying fish and those that survive are left to suffocate when removed from the water or may be gutted alive.
Fishing Has Devastated the Oceans
The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that all seventeen of the world's major fishing areas have either reached or exceeded their natural limits, and nine are in serious decline. Overfishing has an impact on whole ecosystems since other fish, birds, marine mammals and smaller organisms that depend on fish to survive are affected.
The rearing of farmed fish can be compared to other types of factory farming. With very limited space the fish can barely exercise and injuries to the snout and fins are common. These are generally caused by rubbing against the net or by collision or aggression between fish. Wild salmon migrate over hundreds of miles and this is completely frustrated by keeping them in the small, static cages that fish-farming involves. The stocking density of salmon is equivalent to keeping a two foot salmon in a bath, while trout have even less space to move.
Before slaughter, fish are starved for up to three weeks. They may then be killed by electrocution, by a blow to the head with a club or by being frozen to death on ice. Alternatively, the fish’s gill arches are cut or torn and life is literally drained as they are left to bleed to death in the tank. Fish-farms may be rife with disease so large quantities of chemicals are used in an attempt to control it. Ironically, fish-farming also affects wild fish who are fed to farmed fish such as salmon, trout and cod. It takes up to three tons of wild fish to produce one ton of farmed salmon, and up to five tons to produce a ton of farmed cod or haddock.
The True Cost
Few consumers realize that the true cost of cheap salmon includes the deaths of millions of other animals who are seen as predators. Birds, seals, mink, otters and many other animals are killed by the fish-farmers.
Pigs are sociable, tactile and inquisitive animals. They like to roll in mud to keep cool and protect their sensitive skin from the sun. They are very clean and, given the chance, they will always keep their ‘latrine’ separate from their living quarters. In a more natural environment the sow would build a nest up to three feet high for her babies. In the factory farm the sow is given a concrete floor with no straw and the nesting instinct is totally frustrated. The pregnant sow will nose at straw that isn’t there to make a nest she’ll never have for another litter she’ll never raise. The sow can barely move and often ends up crushing some of her piglets. In the wild the sow constructs the nest so that crushing cannot happen, but in the factory farm the death of many piglets in this way is almost inevitable.
The sow’s piglets are taken away after three weeks, causing great distress to mother and babies. The piglets are still reliant upon their mother at this time, and in a natural environment would still be suckling. Most piglets have their teeth clipped and tails cut off to stop them from fighting and tail chewing. They are put into small pens or metal cages, and after about six weeks go to fattening pens where they have little room to move and never see fresh air. Their intelligent, enquiring minds are dulled down by boredom and total lack of stimulation.
Pigs to be killed are stunned with electric tongs or gas, hoisted up by one leg and have their throats slit. They are then put into a tank of boiling water to remove their bristles. Many pigs regain consciousness before they die from loss of blood. There are reports of pigs being boiled alive because they had not been stunned properly.
HONEY, SILK AND SHELLAC
Honey, silk and shellac are produced using bees, moths and lac insects respectively. Being such tiny creatures, their needs are often overlooked. This is very unfortunate because thousands are required to yield a small amount of honey, silk or shellac.
Bees are social insects who live in a well organized colony. They work together to keep the colony running smoothly, protecting and feeding one other and undertaking many other tasks together. In commercial honey production, bees undergo treatments similar to those used in factory farming. Whole colonies of bees may be killed to save feeding them during the winter, and the queen bee has her wings clipped and is artificially inseminated with sperm from decapitated male bees. Beekeepers take the bees’ honey, and to replace it often feed them artificial pollen substitutes and white sugar syrup. The honeybee flies about 500 miles in her working life and produces half a teaspoon of honey. Much of this is taken away.
This is produced by silkworms. A silk cocoon is spun by the silkworm caterpillar by manipulating a thin silk thread in a figure of eight movement some 300,000 times. Once the caterpillar is ready to turn into a moth, she must break down the cocoon in order to emerge. This process would destroy much of the silk, therefore the majority of the moths are killed by being immersed in boiling water or dried in an oven. It takes literally hundreds of silkworms to make just one small silk scarf or tie.
This is a secretion produced by Lac insects as a protective coating. The secretion is scraped off the trees on which they live and turned into shellac. Some of the insects are scraped off at the same time and die.
A worldwide switch to diets that rely more on fruits and vegetables, and less on meat, dairy and eggs, could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by two thirds, save up to 8 million lives, and save $1.5 trillion.
Extensive research by the University of Oxford, combing through reams of data from the UN Food and Agriculture Association, the World Health Organization, and countless studies, has resulted in crucial findings suggesting our eating habits must change...and must change radically.
Agriculture is responsible for over one-quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions; 80 percent from animal agriculture. Animal based diets are also the cause of numerous health problems, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. Plant-based diets not only improve health, they have huge environmental benefits.
If every human on the planet switched to a plant-based diet – refraining from eating meat, dairy, honey, and other animal-sourced foods – greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture in 2050 would fall by more than half compared to 2005/2007 levels. If humans don't change their dietary habits, greenhouse gas emissions associated with animal agriculture will be 51 percent higher in 2050. Population growth and increased wealth is causing mass expansion of animal agriculture.
Just by following international healthy dietary guidelines, 2050 emissions from agriculture would be only 7 percent higher than current levels. These healthy dietary guidelines stress less red meat, which is greenhouse-gas-intensive, and more low-greenhouse-gas vegetables and fruits. If everyone switched to a vegetarian diet, which includes eating dairy and eggs but not meat, emissions would be reduced by 44 percent. A world vegan diet offers the best environmental benefits, decreasing emissions by a whopping 55 percent.
Health benefits of a vegetarian world would be staggering. Lower rates of cancer, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and stroke result from ecologically friendly, plant-based diets. The healthy diet scenario would result in 5.1 million fewer deaths per year worldwide; the vegetarian diet would save 7.3 million lives a year; and veganism would save 8.1 million lives annually.
In addition to health and environmental benefits, vegan and vegetarian diets save money too. Lots of money. The savings in health costs alone is $735 billion US per year if everyone switched to a healthy diet; $973 billion if everyone became vegetarian; and an incredible $1 trillion or more if everyone went vegan. Emissions savings would add up to $234 billion US annually in the healthy diet scenario; $511 billion annually for the vegetarian diet; and $570 billion every year for the vegan diet.
While all three diet scenarios would improve the environment, health, and the economy, only worldwide veganism can save the planet from global climate disaster.
Scientists believe the tipping point for climate disaster is a warming of 2 degrees Celsius. Reducing global greenhouse gas emissions enough to stop this from happening can only be accomplished through worldwide veganism. While a world vegan diet on its own would not hold the Earth below the 2-degree threshold, combined with other conservation efforts enough emissions could be reduced to avoid climate disaster.
Averting environmental disaster requires more than just technological changes. Animal based diets are responsible for the world's greatest health burdens and more than a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions. Animal agriculture contributes to air pollution, pollutes water, takes up too much land, destroys ecosystems, and is destroying our soil. Adopting healthier and more environmentally sustainable diets is critical in averting climate disaster. Projected benefits should encourage individuals, industries, and global leaders to act decisively to make sure that what we eat preserves our environment and our health.
Duck is the common name for a number of species in the Anatidae family of birds. Ducks are divided between several subfamilies. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than their relatives the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water. Swimming gracefully across a pond or waddling comically across the land, ducks are a common feature of the landscape of most of America.
Ducks are very social animals. Males (drakes) and females sometimes live in pairs or together with their ducklings. They communicate both vocally and with body language. At other times ducks spend much of their time—during both day and night—in larger groups. The domestic duck has a normal life span of ten years.
Most ducks have a wide flat beak adapted for dredging. They exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, grains and aquatic plants, fish, and insects. Some (the diving ducks) forage deep underwater; the others (the dabbling ducks) feed from the surface of water or on land. To be able to submerge easier, the diving ducks are heavier for size than dabbling ducks, and therefore have more difficulty taking off to fly. A few specialized species (the goosander and the mergansers) are adapted to catch large fish. In a wildlife pond, the bottom over most of the area should be too deep for dabbling wild ducks to reach the bottom, to protect bottom living life from being constantly disturbed and eaten by ducks dredging.
The sound made by some female ducks is called a "quack"; a common (and false) urban legend is that quacks do not produce an echo. The males of northern species often have showy plumage, but this is molted in summer to give a more female like appearance, the "eclipse" plumage. Many species of ducks are temporarily flightless while molting; they seek out protected habitat with good food supplies during this period. This molt typically precedes migration. Some duck species, mainly those breeding in the temperate and arctic Northern Hemisphere, are migratory, but others are not. Some, particularly in Australia where rainfall is patchy and erratic, are nomadic, seeking out the temporary lakes and pools that form after localized heavy rain.
In many areas, wild ducks of various species (including ducks farmed and released into the wild) are hunted for food or sport, by shooting, or formerly by decoys. Ducks and geese are wild animals, but they have domesticated counterparts who are raised for their eggs and meat, down and feathers. They're less commonly known as farm animals, yet they can certainly fall within this category.
How has milk production changed since the 1950s? Intensive dairy practices and modified feeds have enabled U.S. dairy cows to produce 2.5 times as much milk today as they did in the 1950s. These intensive practices place dairy cattle under enormous stress to produce an abnormally large amount of milk, 10-20 times the amount of milk they need to suckle their calves. As a result, dairy cattle "burn out" at a much younger age than their normal life span or even the life span of a milk-producing dairy cow in the 1950s and consequently are culled and slaughtered at an early age.
Up to 33% of dairy cows develop mastitis, a very painful udder infection that can become systemic, and is a common reason for early slaughtering. Abnormally large udders produce problems walking, so a cow's legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Her back problems are aggravated when she must walk on hard ground and concrete.
The dairy farms of today are quite different than the picturesque sunshine-filled meadows of contented cows we imagined as children. Today, most dairy cattle are confined to a barren fenced lot with a packed dirt floor, where they must endure all types of weather, including rain and extreme temperatures 24 hours a day. Factory farming systems (sometimes known as dry-lot) seldom provide shade, shelter or clean comfortable resting areas. Dairy cattle are often covered with their own filth because they cannot escape the dirty dry lot conditions. In colder climates dairy cattle may be provided shelter in winter, but most dairy practices remain the same.
To boost their milk production, the cattle are fed high intensity feeds and grains that often cause digestive upset. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase, by up to 25%, the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH.
The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infection. The large numbers of cattle that are crammed into small spaces where the soil is hard and compact increases the incidence of injury and lameness as well. Some dairies have up to one thousand cows, which means the factory dairy farmer may often fail to recognize that veterinary care is needed until the illness or injury has progressed beyond successful treatment ... and the cows are sent to slaughter.
Fully 25% of dairy cattle are slaughtered before they are 3 years old. Only 25% of dairy cattle live more than 7 years, although the natural life span for cattle is 20-25 years. (The oldest cow on record lived to be 49 years old.) Injury, illness, milk production lower than optimum, poor conception rates, and other factory-farming-induced health problems are common reasons dairy cattle are sold for slaughter long before they have lived out their natural life span.
Every year 17 million shots of antibiotics are given to cattle for infections related to milk production and other diseases. Most commercial ground beef is made from the meat of culled dairy cattle. Because dairy cattle have not been raised specifically for human consumption, dairy cattle have often been treated with antibiotics shortly before being butchered in an attempt to cure the disease that later resulted in their being killed. Therapeutic antibiotics are also routinely given to dairy calves and cattle. This means that antibiotics are entering the human food chain through the consumption of the milk and meat of dairy cattle. Many experts feel that the excessive consumption of antibiotic-tainted animal products has created a number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (superbugs) that may be a threat to human health.
A heifer (female) calf will probably remain on the farm to replace her mother or some other worn-out milk producer. A bull (male) calf is usually thrown in a truck and sent to an auction while he is still wet with amniotic fluid, still unable to stand by himself. Many bull calves die at the auction yard and those who don't are often sold to a veal operation, where they live out their short lives confined to a tiny crate that prevents almost all movement and fed an iron-poor diet to make their flesh pale. For calves reared as replacement heifers, life is not much better -- farmers make feeding and maintenance easier by housing the heifers for the first few months of their lives in crates barely larger than veal crates.
The days of a calf being born in a field and being nurtured by her dam are long gone. Calves are separated from their mothers within 24 hours of birth, and weaned from milk within 8 weeks (calves will gladly suckle for as long as eight months if allowed to do so). A calf separated from her mother at an early age does not receive any immunities through her mother's milk, and is therefore vulnerable to disease -- a 10% mortality rate is common.
The nearly half a million factory farms in the U.S. produce 130 times more waste than the human population. Cattle produce nearly one billion tons of organic waste each year. The waste from livestock, chemicals, fertilizers, and pesticides are a primary source of water pollution in this country. Wastes from dairies, feedlots and chicken and hog farms enter waterways, damaging aquatic ecosystems and making the water unfit for consumption. Cattle also emit methane, carbon dioxide, and nitrous oxide, three of the four gases responsible for trapping solar heat.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
You can take an active role by decreasing or eliminating meat and dairy products from your diet. You and the cattle will both benefit from your efforts. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services endorses vegetarian diets. Seven common diet-related conditions -- heart disease, hypertension, cancer, diabetes, gallstones, obesity, and food-borne illness -- are attributable to meat consumption. (For a copy of the report, write: Secretary of Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC 20250.) Report any suspected farm animal abuse or neglect to your local authorities.
Many people believe that shearing sheep helps animals who might otherwise be burdened with too much wool. But without human interference, sheep grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. The fleece provides effective insulation against both cold and heat. Until shears were invented in 1000 B.C., the only way to obtain wool was to "pluck" sheep during molting seasons. Breeding for continuous growth began after the advent of shears.
With an estimated 148 million sheep, Australia produces eighty percent of all wool used worldwide. Flocks usually consist of thousands of sheep, and individual attention to their needs is virtually impossible.
Just weeks after birth, lambs' ears are punched, their tails are chopped off, and males are castrated without anesthetic. According to Australian Law Reform Chairman, M.D. Kirby, Australian sheep suffer over 50 million operations a year that would constitute cruelty if performed on dogs or cats. Extremely high rates of mortality are considered "normal": 20-40 percent of lambs die at birth or before the age of eight weeks from cold or starvation; eight million mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect. One million of these die within 30 days of shearing.
In Australia, the most commonly raised sheep are Merinos, specifically bred to have wrinkly skin (which means more wool per animal). This unnatural overload of wool causes animals to die of heat exhaustion during hot months, and the wrinkles also collect urine and moisture. Attracted to the moisture, flies lay eggs in the folds of skin, and the hatched maggots can literally eat sheep alive. To prevent "flystrike," Australian ranchers perform a barbarous operation--"mulesing"--or carving huge strips of skin off the backs of unanesthetized lambs' legs. This is done to cause smooth, scarred skin that won't harbor fly eggs. Yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they heal; and despite the feeling by many that mulesing may kill more sheep than it saves, the mutilation continues.
Aging sheep are subjected to "tooth-grinding," an unanesthetized procedure that sheep farmers claim reduces tooth loss and extends the sheep's productive life. A battery-operated grinder is used to wear down the teeth. Another method involves using the edge of a disc cutter to cut right through the teeth near the level of the gums. This terrifying and painful procedure exposes the sensitive pulp cavities inside and causes the teeth to bleed profusely.
Faced with such vast amounts of death and disease, the rational step would be to reduce the numbers of sheep so as to maintain the existing ones decently. Instead, sheep are forced to bear more lambs by the administration of drugs. Malnourished ewes are taken into laboratories and placed in climate-controlled chambers to determine how much exposure they can withstand before they die.
Like other "commodities," animals can fall victim to fluctuations in the economy. In 1990, 10 million Australian sheep were shot and buried in mass graves when they became practically valueless due to a lingering drought and low wool prices.
Sheep are sheared each spring, after lambing, just before they would naturally shed their winter coats. Timing is critical: shearing too late means loss of wool. In the rush, an estimated one million Australian sheep die every year of exposure after premature shearing. A closely shorn sheep is, in fact, more sensitive to cold than a naked man since a sheep's normal body temperature is about 102 degrees F, much higher than a human's.
When shearing, speed is everything. Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by hour, which encourages working quickly and carelessly. Says one eyewitness: "the shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals. I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or fists until the sheep's noses bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off."
When the sheep age and are no longer effective wool producers, they are transported long distances to slaughterhouses in trucks and trains without food or water. Those who fall are trampled by other frightened animals. On arrival, the dead and dying are piled into heaps. Those with foot rot attempt to drag themselves on their knees.
The ultimate cruelty is the live export of seven million sheep every year from Australia to the Middle East, which the Wool Council of Australia supports as "an important component of the wool and sheep industry." These sheep travel vast distances until they reach the feedlots where they are held before being loaded onto ships. Many sheep, ill or wounded from the journey, faced with intensive crowding, disease, and strange food, die in the holding pens. Eighteen percent of sheep die during the 3-6 week transport process; in just one Australian feedlot, 15,000 sheep died from cold in 1983.
The surviving sheep--7 million a year--are herded onto huge 14-tier-high ships resembling the old slave-trade ships. Up to 125,000 sheep are packed tightly into each ship, each allocated an area hardly bigger than themselves, so that not all can lie down at once, or reach the feed troughs. Mired in their own waste for three weeks or more, the sheep suffer from sea-sickness, temperature extremes, disease, and injuries. Younger animals or babies born en route are often trampled to death. Shipboard mortality ranges up to 10 percent, and for every sheep who dies, many others become ill and are injured.
When the three-week trip to the Middle East is over, the surviving sheep are killed in ritual slaughter (Halal). Since Moslem religious law does not require that the knife be sharpened between kills, sheep often have their throats sawed open with dull knives. According to one witness in the Sitra abbatoir in Bahrain, men would begin slaughtering as soon as a pen was full. The sheep would "wave their heads in obvious confusion, trying to stand up and call out as the blood gushed from their throats." Other sheep are loaded into the trunk of a car for later slaughtering at the buyer's home.
Sheep aren't the only animals who suffer as a result of the wool industry. The Australian government permits the slaughter of approximately 5 million kangaroos a year because it views them as "pests" who eat grass ranchers want for their sheep and cows. Ninety percent of kangaroo killers are "weekend" hunters, killing by the most expedient methods available: running kangaroos down in trucks, poisoning their water, beating them to death, even impaling them on stakes and meat hooks and skinning them alive. The standard kangaroo hunting technique, as recounted by Paul and Anne Erlich in their book Extinction: The Causes and Consequences of the Disappearance of Species, is to "spotlight" them from cars at night. "The kangaroos would freeze in the light and were shot with rifles. Some were killed immediately, but some hunters purposely just wounded them--sometimes leaving them to suffer for hours or days so that their meat would remain fresh until they could be collected." According to Dr. Susan Lieberman of the Humane Society of the U.S., joeys, or young kangaroos "are not considered to be worth the cost of a bullet...and are often killed by being thrown against a tree or car bumper or kicked in the head."
In the U.S., coyotes, vilified for allegedly preying on sheep and other livestock, are poisoned, shot and burned alive by the hundreds of thousands every year by ranchers and the U.S. government.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Refrain from purchasing products made from wool or other animal products.