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We are truly unaware of the support we lend to cruel practices by our purchases and the selections we make for our food and clothing. If only we knew…
The fact of the matter is that we can choose to make compassionate selections when we shop, and often we will end up with products that are healthier, more economical, and more ecological when we shop cruelty free.
Let’s take the case of eggs. Most of us feel that there is no cruelty in eating them, and even vegetarians feel quite justified since there is, on the surface, no loss of life. We think that the hens roam free and we humans take a few eggs, leaving the rest for the propagation of the species.
Not true. This perhaps may have been the case several decades ago. Today’s egg factories would unnerve even the thick-skinned ones among us. There are typically eight hens to a cage, each having about 53 square inches of space, not even enough to spread their wings. They are on a slanted wire-mesh cage so the eggs will roll into a tray that captures them. The feed and water are in troughs, and these cages are stacked one atop of another. The chicken manure falls through the cage to both cages and hens below and to a steel pan that has a scraping mechanism to gather and collect it.
In such close proximity, hens tend to peck at each other, so a de-beaking procedure is instituted— where hot knives cut through the cartilage, bone, and muscle of the beak.
The egg layers are genetically bred to lay 10 times more eggs than the norm. Egg-laying comes in cycles and is disrupted and restarted if no food and water is given for up to 18 days. This is called forced molting. Many hens die during this process.
In the Illinois House, a bill was proposed by the Illinois Humane PAC to ban the practices of forced molting and de-beaking. This was in April 2001. Though having over 16 cosponsors, it was defeated by the agriculture committee. Is your legislator on the agriculture committee? Let your state legislator know you want laws that promote animal welfare.
All layer hens are slaughtered every year and a half or so. These hens, having lived their entire lives in a wire cage, are often featherless, unable to walk, and sick and have extremely brittle bones. Tired and ill, these birds are often trucked thousands of miles to Canada, without food or water, to be slaughtered. If they are not trucked, sometimes the birds are buried alive in a process the producers call "composting."
Replacements for laying hens are subject to the same cruelties. In addition, half of the chicks are males who are of no economic value. Often they are killed by being thrown alive in plastic bags one falling on top of another until all are dead from suffocation.
You may think this is perhaps a small number. Not so. About 300 million male chicks experience this inhumane killing every year.
In order to speed up the killing process, some facilities have set up decompression chambers, and the male chicks explode and are collected as fodder for the mink farms.
So the egg, creamy, oval, and polished, is in fact tainted with blood, the blood of the bleeding beaks and the millions of male chicks that perish so we humans can enjoy eggs Florentine and eggs Benedict and the flaky pastries and omelets.
Veal is the white meat of a newly born or young calf.
In order to maximize profits, the newborn is taken away from its wailing mother within hours and at most three days and put in a dark confining stall, where it cannot even turn around. It stays in a fixed position for several weeks and is fed gruel with no iron so that the meat retains its white color. The animal becomes very anemic and has diarrhea, yet its weight increases sufficiently for it to be profitable for the businessman to do this.
The first time the calf sees daylight is en route to the slaughterhouse. In other words, veal is the white tender meat of a sick anemic baby animal.
Even first-generation Americans feel very much at home in their new country of allegiance to thank the Lord for their blessings at Thanksgiving by participating heartily in this tradition of enjoying our largesse by eating turkey.
The sad part is that the turkey perhaps is giving thanks that its short painful existence has come to an end. Turkeys are bred to have huge breasts. This is what humans like on their plate, so much so that both males and females have these characteristics and are so lopsided that they cannot mate. The species is propagated by artificial insemination every few weeks. This process is harsh and cruel, and is aptly called "the rape rack" by the industry. Birds run in terror as they are kicked, hit, and otherwise subdued by those who forcibly inseminate them.
These animals are confined in pens and are transported without food or water to the slaughterhouses, and many perish en route, sometimes due to inclement weather.
The law requires that animals destined for slaughter be stunned and rendered unconscious, unless they are destined for ritual killing. This law does not apply to poultry and therefore does not apply to chickens. They are transported to the slaughterhouse and then strung upside down on rows of stirrups with their heads hanging down and on a conveyor belt. A rotating knife severs their neck to a bleeding tank, a de-feathering tank, etc. There are about 18 to 20 million chickens slaughtered in the United States every day in this fashion. About 165 million broilers are scalded alive every year in the United States.
Despite the fact that federal law requires all cattle not ritually slaughtered to be stunned before being killed, a large "error rate" is tolerated by the industry so that hundreds of thousands of cattle end up by having their throats slit while fully conscious each year. Many are still conscious as their hooves and legs are cut off, and some even after their hides are ripped off. See Gail Eisnitz’s exposé in the Washington Post earlier this year, "They Die Bit by Bit."
Those that go through ritual slaughter are strung up on one leg while fully conscious and their throats slit half way. They thrash about upside down, screaming in agony for up to several minutes till the blanket of death envelops them.
Many of the cattle become lame from being on concrete floors. These are called "downers." They get moved by being dragged by winches, a most painful process. See the "Meet Your Meat" VHS tape put out by PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), which shows a cow being dragged in this gory fashion.
A very significant percentage of the world’s wool comes from Australia. The shearing operation is usually started a few weeks before the weather has warmed up, primarily for business reasons. Up to a million sheep perish because of this. Those who have witnessed the shearing operation say it is one of the cruelest treatment meted out to any animal. The speed with which this is done with sharp shears takes apart noses, ears, and other parts of the animal, and practically all are injured in one way or another. In order to produce finer wool, some sheep have the skin removed from their legs.
These sheep are transported live to the Middle East by ship. It may take several weeks. They are herded without any room to move about. Many pregnant ewes give birth, and the newborns are trampled on disembarking.
Usually these sheep are part of a ritual. The process of dying may take several hours from start to finish.
Factory farming is in vogue. The animals are confined in small pens, kept in low-level lighting to minimize movement, and fed antibiotics to stave off disease. The breeding sow is confined so that she cannot even stand. She lies on the side so that the piglets have easy access to the teats.
At the time of slaughter, the pigs’ skin is to be softened by boiling water. The animal is supposed to be stunned, but like the cattle, many are missed and are literally boiled alive.
Dogs and Cats: Puppy Mills
When you walk into a pet store and look at the limpid eyes of a little dog or cat, you are tempted to take it home. If you did, you would be supporting an industry thriving on cruelty, inadequate care, and complete callousness towards the animals they breed and sell.
Many of these puppy mills have animals suffering from all kinds of serious diseases, and they rarely if ever get veterinary care. They are in close confinement.
The companion animals that we see with doting owners is the case for the fortunate few. Those that are in these puppy mills languish under extreme cruelty. It is a business to make money and maximize it
In Korea there are many facilities where dogs are raised for meat. They are tenderized by putting them in a sack and beating them to death. Cats are boiled alive for pharmaceutical reasons.
This is truly a travesty. Man-made fibers today outdo fur in every way, and fur as adornment is not necessary at all.
Baby seals bludgeoned to death in front of their crying, wailing mothers. Leg traps and body traps for wolves and foxes and other unfortunate creatures— animals have gnawed off a foot to get free.
Even on the farms, minks are raised in abominable conditions and put to death through electrocution between the genitals and the ear; others through injections, not painless but through the use of chemicals that are cheap but cause many, many minutes of suffering in agony.
Is this what you would give your lover? to nestle her nose and chin into?
The governments would never do this, but imagine instead of the labels that most foods carry, telling you of sodium and cholesterol and potassium, saturated and unsaturated, set up your own moral and ethical chart that spells out:
Pain content: How much was the suffering involved in making this product? Were animals subjected to extreme pain or not? Again PETA put out an exposé. It is called "Biosearch— Animal Experimentation." Just plain awful! Boycott all the products that use animal testing. The list is available through PETA. Unfortunately the testing done is not always reasonable. It is sometimes for protection against litigation. In other cases, the results are not transferable to humans from animal testing.
Perhaps it may give us joy, and we puff up with pride when we give a few dollars to charity. Be picky. Many charities endorse and fund cruelty and animal testing.
Don’t Be Passive
Dr, Steve Gross, who is co-chair of the Illinois PAC for the Humane
Treatment of Animals is doing selfless work and has been doing so for
decades. He is the author’s mentor. If you would like to play an active
role in living cruelty free and turning the tide by providing your time or
other resources, please contact Dr. Gross. His email is
If you believe in not contributing to cruelty, then check out the companies that get your $’s and make sure that they practice compassionate treatment of all beings.
If you would like to know more about this, look up the PETA fact sheets
The "Meet Your Meat" VHS tape put out by PETA is available as a CD-rom. If you have a CD burner and are willing to make at least four copies to give to your meat-eating friends, then get your free copy by sending your mailing address to Chalissa1@aol.com
Learn to live cruelty free. The sentient beings of the world thank you.
© CHAKRA 5 April 2002
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