ANIMALS KILLED FOR FOOD:
a growing number of consumers switching from red meat to poultry,
the chicken and turkey industries are booming. In addition to
selling a growing quantity of poultry meat to consumers in the U.S.,
poultry companies are also benefiting from expanding markets around
Record numbers of chickens and turkeys are being raised and killed
for meat in the U.S. every year. Nearly ten billion chickens, and
half a billion turkeys, are being hatched in the U.S. every year.
These birds are typically crowded by the thousand into huge
factory-like warehouses where they can barely move. Chickens are
given less than half a square foot of space per bird while turkeys
are each given less than three square feet. Both chickens and
turkeys have the end of their beaks cut off, and turkeys also have
their toes clipped. All of these mutilations are performed without
anesthesia, and they are done in order to reduce injuries which
result when stressed birds are driven to fighting.
Today's meat chickens have been genetically altered to grow twice as
fast, and twice as large as their ancestors. Pushed beyond their
biological limits, hundreds of millions of chickens die every year
before reaching slaughter weight at 6 weeks of age. An industry
journal explains broilers [chickens] now grow so rapidly that the
heart and lungs are not developed well enough to support the
remainder of the body, resulting in congestive heart failure and
tremendous death losses. Modern meat type chickens also experience
crippling leg disorders, as their legs are not capable of supporting
their abnormally heavy bodies. Confined in unhealthy factory farms,
the birds also succumb to heat prostration, infectious disease, and
Chickens and turkeys are taken to the slaughterhouse in crates
stacked on the back of trucks. The birds are either pulled from the
crates, or the crates are lifted off the truck, often with a crane
or forklift, and then the birds are dumped onto a conveyor belt. As
the birds are unloaded, some fall onto the ground instead of landing
on the assembly line conveyor belt. Slaughterhouse workers intent
upon 'processing' thousands of birds every hour, don't have the time
nor the inclination to pick up individuals who fall through the
cracks. Sometimes the birds die after being crushed by machinery or
vehicles operating near the unloading area, while in other cases,
they may die of starvation or exposure after days without receiving
their basic needs.
Once inside the slaughterhouse, fully conscious birds are hung by
their feet from metal shackles on a moving rail. The first station
on most poultry slaughterhouse assembly lines is the stunning tank,
where the birds' heads are submerged in an electrified bath of
water. Although poultry is specifically excluded from the Humane
Slaughter Act which requires stunning, the practice is common
because it immobilizes the birds and expedites assembly line
Stunning procedures are not monitored, and they are often
inadequate. Poultry slaughterhouses commonly set the electrical
current lower than what is required to render the birds unconscious
because of concerns that too much electricity would damage the
carcass and diminish its value. The result is that birds are
immobilized but are still capable of feeling pain, or they emerge
from the stunning tank still conscious.
After passing through the stunning tank, the birds' throats are
slashed, usually by a mechanical blade, and blood begins rushing out
of their bodies. Inevitably, the blade misses some birds who then
proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank.
Here they are submerged in boiling hot water. Birds missed by the
killing blade are boiled alive. This occurs so commonly, affecting
millions of birds every year, that the industry has a term for these
birds. They are called "redskins."
Approximately 300 million egg laying hens in the U.S. are confined
in battery cages -- small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up
in rows in huge warehouses. The USDA recommends giving each hen four
inches of 'feeder space,' which means the agency would advise
packing 4 hens in a cage just 16 inches wide. The birds cannot
stretch their wings or legs, and they cannot fulfill normal
behavioral patterns or social needs. Constantly rubbing against the
wire cages, they suffer from severe feather loss, and their bodies
are covered with bruises and abrasions.
Practically all laying hens have part of their beaks cut off in
order to reduce injuries resulting from excessive pecking, an
aberrant behavior which occurs when the confined hens are bored and
frustrated. De-beaking is a painful procedure which involves cutting
through bone, cartilage, and soft tissue.
Laying more than 250 eggs per year each, laying hens' bodies are
severely taxed. They suffer from "fatty liver syndrome" when their
liver cells, which work overtime to produce the fat and protein for
egg yolks, accumulate extra fat. They also suffer from what the
industry calls 'cage layer fatigue,' and many die of egg bound when
their bodies are too weak to pass another egg.
Osteoporosis is another common ailment afflicting egg laying hens as
the birds to lose more calcium to form egg shells than they can
assimilate from their diets. One industry journal (Feedstuffs)
explains, "...the laying hen at peak eggshell cannot absorb enough
calcium from her diet..." While another (Lancaster Farming) states,
"... a hen will use a quantity of calcium for yearly egg production
that is greater than her entire skeleton by 30-fold or more."
Inadequate calcium contributes to broken bones, paralysis, and
After one year in egg production, the birds, are classified as
'spent hens', and sent off to slaughter. They usually end up in
soups, pot pies, or similar low grade chicken meat products where
their bodies can be shredded to hide the bruises from consumers. The
hens' brittle, calcium-depleted bones often shatter during handling
and/or at the slaughterhouse.
With a growing supply of broiler chickens keeping slaughterhouses
busy, egg producers have had to find new ways to dispose of spent
hens. One entrepreneur has developed the Jet-Pro system to turn
spent hens into animal feed. It is described in Feedstuffs, "Company
trucks would enter layer operations, pick up the birds, and grind
them up, on site, in a portable grinder... it (the ground up hens)
would go to Jet-Pro's new extruder-texturizer, the "Pellet Pro."
In some cases, especially if the cost of replacement hens is high,
the hens may be force molted. This process involves starving the
hens for up to 18 days, keeping them in the dark, and denying them
water to shock their bodies into another egg laying cycle. The birds
may lose more than 25% of their body weight during the molt, and it
is common for between 5% and 10% to die.
For every egg laying hen confined in a battery cage, there is a male
chick who was killed at the hatchery. Because egg laying chicken
breeds have been selected exclusively for maximum egg production,
they don't grow fast enough or large enough to be raised profitably
for meat. Therefore, male chicks of egg laying breeds are of no
economic value. They are literally discarded on the day they hatch -
usually by the least expensive and most convenient means available.
They may be thrown in trash cans where they are suffocated or
crushed under the weight of others.
A common method used to dispose of unwanted male chicks is grinding
them up alive. This method can result in unspeakable horrors as a
research scientist described, "Even after twenty seconds, there were
only partly damaged animals with whole skulls." In other words,
fully conscious chicks were partially ground up. Eyewitness accounts
at commercial hatcheries indicate similar horrors with chicks being
slowly dismembered on augers carrying them towards a trash bin or
You Can Do
Begin learning about becoming a vegetarian or a vegan. A
vegetarian is someone who does
not eat the flesh of any living being including chickens,
turkeys, geese, ducks, crustaceans, or fish. A vegan
is someone who makes every effort to avoid eating,
wearing or using all animal products.
Try the many new and flavorful “meat” alternatives, or mock
meats, now available at health food stores and at many regular
supermarkets. Delicious soy and rice “milks” are now available
at all grocery stores. Keep trying new animal-free foods.
When you see veal on a menu, always speak to the manager or
owner of the restaurant to complain about the particularly
brutal treatment of calves for this dish. If told their veal
is “free range,” tell them there is no such thing. By
definition, veal must be kept in certain conditions to produce
this type of meat. If it is “free range,” it cannot be called