Across the world, 55 billion animals are killed ever year for meat production; nearly one billion of these are slaughtered in the UK. Most of the animals raised for meat production in the UK are factory farmed. The word 'factory' has developed as the principles of industrialised production are much the same as in a factory - mechanisation, as many animals as possible in the smallest possible space and a quick turnover by killing animals as young as possible. The longer they live, the more they eatand the more they cost. Although claims are made that welfare standrads are high in these places, most independent observers argue that high welfare standards are impossible in factory farms.
Chicken production has become standardies and up to 30,000 birds are kept in a single windowless shed with often many sheds on one site . Selective breeding, almost constant lighting to encourage eating and high protein foods mean that day-old chicks grow so fast that they are ready for slaughter in just six weeks. Chicken in the UK's most popular meat and about 26 chickens are slaughtered every second.
Egg laying Chickens
Most egg laying hens are currently kept in battery cages. The battery cage will be banned in the EU in January 2012; however it is being replaced by the ‘enrichment’ cage which does not answer the criticism that free-ranging birds should not be kept in cages at all. Under the new system, each bird will be allowed slightly more room (around the size of a postcard extra), they will still spend almost their entire lives in cages with other birds and insufficient space for even one of them to fully extend their wigs. Because the male chicks from egg-laying hens cannot lay and do not put on weight easily, they are considered valueless and are killed at a day old.
Over 90 per cent of turkeys bred for meat consumption are factory farmed and are also killed at only a few weeks old. Up to 25,000 turkeys may be kept in one shed under similar conditions to broiler chickens. 15 million turkeys are killed in the UK every year -10 million of them just before Christmas. Male turkeys are bred to be so big that they can no longer mate naturally and suffer from painful joint problems. Reproduction is through artificial insemination.
Animals that have evolved to eat, swim, dive, clean and play in water are provided with none, except for drinking in typical factory-farm conditions. Without water, ducks can’t preen, their feathers deteriorate and they can lose body heat. They may also develop eye problems and even blindness. Able to live for 10 years, they are killed after seven weeks. Around 19 million ducks are slaughtered every year in the UK. Diseases are rife in all factory farms and are are kept under control with a battery of drugs, pesticides, fungicides and antibiotics, often given on a daily basis.
Numerous scientific reports have examined the question of whether fish feel pain and all recent investigations have supported the conclusion that they do. Fish have brains like small land mammals and have emotions – and long memories! Despite this, there are no welfare regulations for their capture and slaughter, unlike land animals.
Commercial fishing uses a variety of methods, the most common in Europe being trawling, which causes devastation to the sea bed. Drift nets hang like curtains from the surface of the sea, are made from almost indestructbale monofilament nylon and can stretch for an incredible 30 miles. Dolphins, small wahles, sharks and rays, turtles and seabirds all become entangld in these nets and die, mostly from drowning. In storms the nets can become detached from the boat and lost to go on cvathcing and killing animals for decades. Long lines distribute baited hooks over many miles and these also cause devastation to wildlife. Purse seine nets encircle whole shoals of fish and allow none to escape. Some 82 per cent of fish species are on the road to extinction.
Almost all pigs raised for meat in Britain are factory farmed indoors in crowded, ill-lit, industrial conditions that cause extreme discomfort and stress to these intelligent animals. Most are slaughtered at just five to six months old and become bacon, ham and pork.
Every time they give birth, about 70 per cent of breeding pigs (sows) spend a month or more in metal farrowing crates just inches wider and longer than their own bodies. For this period of time she can do nothing but stand up, lie down, and suckle her piglets. It is not uncommon for them to engage in stereotypic behaviour - repearting the same action over and over again almost indefinitely. It is an indication of mental collapse.
As with other farmed animals, most sheep are slaughtered while still very young. The practice of trying to produce the earliest possible 'spring' lamb has led to female sheep (ewes) being mated so they give birth as early as December. They would naturally give bith in Spring. The result is high mortality from cold and diseaswe with some four million lambs dying every year.
Many lambs are subjected to tail docking – this means their tails are cut off. The most commonly used method is to place a rubber band around the tail to cut off the blood supply until eventually it falls off. Male lambs endure a similar method of castration. Both of these procedures are carried out with no anaesthetic and research shows it causes pain and distress.
Like humans, cows produce milk to feed their offspring. And the process is similar to that of humans - mating, pregnancy, birth and suckling. However, in the case of dairy cows, their young are removed a day or two after birth. Most male calves are shot as they are seen as valueless while most female calves are kept to replensih the herd, but they are not returned to their mothers. The cow is made pregnant again two moths after giving birth, ensuring that she produces milk for most of the year. For seven months she carries the double bruden of milking and nurturing a growing foetus. The outcome is bodily breakdown and disease, with most cvows being slaughtered after just five or six years.
All food animals are killed by having their throats cut but they are supposed to be stunned before this happens. It frequently fails. Viva! estimates that up to two million pigs every year are fully conscious while they bleed to death. The horror for the animal is unimaginable.
It’s much the same with birds. Hung from a conveyor by their legs, their heads are supposed to dragged through electrified water to stun them. Many miss it by raising their heads. Viva! estimates that over eight million are still conscious when they are dipped into a tank of scalding water to loosen their feathers.
Questions about animals
Q: How many chickens are slaughtered every second in the UK?
Q: The battery cage ban will come into effect in 2012. What will be replacing it?
A: The enrichment cage which is barely better.
Q: How many turkeys are slaughtered for the Christmas market in the UK each year?
A: 10 million
Q: Intensively farmed ducks are denied water except for what?
Q: Fishing nets can also harm which other animals?
A: Dolphins, rays, sharks, sea birds and small whales amongst others
Q: What animal is imprisoned in a farrowing crate each time she gives birth?
A: The pig (sow)
Q: What is the most commonly used method for castrating lambs?
A: The rubber band method
Q: Why do cows produce milk?
A: To feed their young
Q: Each year, how many pigs are estimated to be fully conscious when their throats are cut?
A: Up to 2 million
Q: How many animals are slaughtered in the UK each year?
A: Nearly one billion
Q: How many animals are slaughtered worldwide each year?
A: 55 billion