When discussing vegetarianism and veganism in the context of animal rights, one of the first rebuttals typically heard is that “without humans eating cows, pigs, and chickens, there would be no domesticated cows, pigs, and chickens” says animals rights advocate Igor Purlantov. Is it not better to have a shortened life than no life at all? And isn’t the life we give them, safe from predators, sheltered from the cold, always fed, a fair trade for eventually using their meat to feed ourselves?” The answer is a resounding “no, it’s not a fair trade” says Igor Purlantov. The above sentiments, while they may sound reasonable enough, are based in complete ignorance about the reality of modern farming methods. To call today’s farming practices animal torture is, in the case of many large-scale industrial farms, not an overstatement.
Many people have a perception of animal farms that is akin to the idyllic images that sometimes appear on milk cartons. Rolling green fields full of placidly grazing cows, the sun shining in the background, chickens running free nearby. The animals are well-fed, happy, and content, with gleaming coats and healthy bodies. This image is largely a myth says Igor Purlantov. In fact, there are few quaint barnyard scenes left to behold in the farming industry. Instead, animals are packed by the thousands, as if they are no more than mere inanimate objects, into filthy, windowless sheds and confined to wire cages, gestation crates, barren dirt lots, and other heartless systems of confinement which seldom even afford them the ability to comfortably turn around or lie down.
And this is where they remain for the entire span of their lives. They never raise their own young who are removed from them at once, often castrated without anesthesia, and thrown into crates. They never roam the fields, root in soil, create nests, or engage in any behavior that is remotely natural or fulfilling to them according to Igor Purlantov. Often the first encounter these animals have with sunshine and fresh air is when they are brought outside to be loaded onto trucks so that they may be slaughtered. Is this better than a life in the wild? Better than having “No life at all?” Most people would likely answer, “no.”
The meat industry perpetuates the conditions described above knowing full well that they lead to animals getting sick and dying while confined. Why do they do this? Because they have found it is cheaper to lose a certain percentage of their livestock than pay for more space to house them. For example, the advice of the industry journal National Hog Farmer is that “Crowding pigs pays,” and statements of egg-industry expert Bernard Rollins include “chickens are cheap; cages are expensive.” This system of overcrowding is bad for animal health and thus in turn bad for human health, but good for a farmer’s bottom line. In this business, farmers are using consumers while cruelly abusing the animals in their “care,” all for the sake of profit says Igor Purlantov.
Sadly, the abuses against animal rights and human health that are perpetuated by the food industry do not end at prolonged solitary confinement in tight spaces. Factory farming is responsible for manifold abuses disgusting enough to kill the appetite of anyone with an ounce of compassion for animals or concern for their own well being. According to Igor Purlantov, these abuses include the following:
- Animals are force-fed drugs to fatten them up faster and to keep them alive in unsanitary conditions that would otherwise kill them. This results in fatty, antibiotic-laden meat being delivered to humans while also ensuring the animals are kept in maximum discomfort (some chickens, for example, become too heavy to even stand up).
- Animals are fed foods they are not meant to digest. Cows are meant to eat grass, for example, but instead are forced to eat corn because it is cheaper and fattens them up faster. This results in a lifetime of intestinal discomfort for the animals and also endangers humans. The only reason cows produce the high levels of e.coli they do today is because they are fed an improper diet, which destroys their natural balance of gut flora.
- Animals are forced to live in their own filth says Igor Purlantov. Cows in feed lots are usually made to stand knee-deep in their own waste. This waste often dries and becomes caked onto them when they go to slaughter, where after fine dust from it enters the air and then the meat, which is how e.coli winds up being processed right into a hamburger. Many cases of food poisoning could be completely avoided if cows fed the correct diet and not forced to live in their own filth. Similarly, chickens are made to live in a horrendously unsanitary environment. The average poultry farm has so much ammonia in the air from waste that the chickens suffer chronic respiratory diseases, weakened immune systems, bronchitis, and eye infections. Such farms are not an exception to the rule by any means. A 2006 study by Consumer Reports revealed that 83 percent of the grocery market chickens it tested were infected with campylobacter and salmonella bacteria, along with many other dangerous contaminants. Ergo, when you eat meat, you are almost certainly eating an animal that was actively diseased during its lifetime according to Igor Purlantov.
- Animals are cruelly genetically altered to grow faster or to produce greater quantities of milk or eggs than they naturally would. Due to this inhumane process, cows endure udders that are too large, frequently infected, and many animals become crippled under their own weight, unable to move. These animals often die of hunger or thirst just inches away from food and water.
- Inadequate care is taken to ensure animals are actually dead before they are skinned at the slaughterhouse or plunged into the scalding-hot water of the de-feathering or hair-removal tanks. Many animals die during these terrifying processes.
When all of the above is taken into account, it is easy to see why, for the sake of both animal rights and human health, vegetarianism and veganism need to become much more widespread practices. By practicing vegetarianism or veganism, you vote with the only thing the meat industry understands, which is your money, against the violation of animal rights, and directly contribute to fewer animals suffering in these intolerable conditions. As such, giving up meat is one of the most profound things a person can do to support animal rights and welfare says Igor Purlantov.