We now kill 750 million land animals each year in Canada to satisfy our demand for huge quantities of cheap meat, dairy and eggs. The vast majority of these animals were raised in unnatural, filthy, barren environments; subjected to confinement and cruelty that would be illegal if done to a cat or dog; and ultimately slaughtered at a fraction of their natural lifespan. Even so-called humane animal products probably are not what most consumers believe them to be.
Pigs are sensitive, intelligent animals who love to snuggle, dream, and play, and can communicate with each other—they can even recognize their own names, and come when called.
Each year, more than 20 million pigs are killed in Canadian slaughterhouses. Mother pigs—sows—are typically artificially inseminated and confined in gestation crates, which prevent them from so much as turning around, let alone socializing with others, going outside to breathe fresh air, or doing anything that comes naturally to them. When they are ready to deliver their babies, they are moved to farrowing crates, where they are prevented from ever interacting normally with their young. Once the piglets are weaned, the cycle starts over again for the sow, who is killed after a few years once her body gives out from the constant pregnancies.
Piglets have their tails cut off, and the males their testicles cut out, by unqualified farm personnel and without the benefit of any painkillers. They are then fattened up in crowded, dirty pens before being killed for meat while still babies at about six months of age.
In addition to institutionalized cruelty, an undercover investigation in 2012 at Puratone—one of the country’s largest pork producers—revealed sick animals being kicked, slapped, and pulled by their ears to force them to walk, as well as ineffective euthanasia methods leaving many animals to slowly suffer and die.
CHICKENS AND TURKEYS
Chickens and turkeys are gentle, inquisitive creatures. Renowned animal science professor Dr. Bernard Rollin has stated, “Chickens are . . . complex behaviorally, do quite well in learning, show a rich social organization, and have a diverse repertoire of calls. Anyone who has kept barnyard chickens also recognizes their significant differences in personality.”
In 2014, more than 640 million chickens and more than 20 million turkeys were killed for meat in Canada. To put these numbers in perspective, there are only about 15 million pets in Canada. Birds used for meat suffer more than any other animals, both because of the sheer quantity of their numbers and because of the unfathomable cruelty inherent in poultry meat production.
Both chickens and turkeys are bred to grow so large, so fast, that they become crippled under their own weight. In fact, by the time they are slaughtered, chickens in Canada today are four times larger than they were in the 1950s.
This rapid, unnatural growth compromises musculoskeletal and immune health. Many chickens and turkeys die from heart attacks because their cardiovascular systems cannot keep up with the pace of their bodies’ growth.
Living in their own waste, chickens and turkeys raised for food suffer from painful skin conditions as well as respiratory problems from the poor air quality.
At about five weeks old, when they are ready to be sent to slaughter, chickens are rounded up by unskilled workers who are forced to work quickly and gather up to four birds, upside down, per hand. The confused, terrified birds experience extreme stress, and are frequently physically harmed with bruises, broken bones, dislocated joints, and other injuries.
A 2013 undercover investigation at Hybrid Turkeys, Canada’s largest turkey breeder, revealed turkeys with festering infections left to suffer without veterinary care, and workers repeatedly bashing turkeys in the heads, choking them, and crushing their spines to kill them. The company was convicted of animal cruelty in 2015.
In 2014, more than 36 million egg-laying hens were killed in Canadian slaughterhouses, the majority of whom spent their lives confined in battery cages. These wire cages prevent hens from so much as stretching their wings, let alone engaging in virtually any natural behaviours. The birds’ bones become brittle and can break easily, thanks to a lack of exercise and the calcium depletion that results from being bred to constantly lay eggs.
On Canadian factory farms, tens of thousands of birds are confined in stacked wire cages in windowless sheds. With approximately five to seven hens per cage, the agricultural industry recommends each hen be allowed a mere 67 to 75 square inches—about the size of an iPad.
In 2013, an undercover investigation at a Burnbrae facility—a major Canadian egg company—revealed live chicks being suffocated to death in plastic garbage bags, chickens trapped in cage wire and mangled by factory machinery left to suffer without any care, and dead hens left to decompose in cages with live hens still laying eggs for human consumption.
Foie gras, which translates literally to “fatty liver,” involves force-feeding ducks and geese with so much food that their livers become diseased and fatty. These water-loving animals are kept confined tightly in filthy cages where they have metal tubes shoved down their throats several times a day.
In 2013, footage from inside a foie gras facility in Quebec showed the heartbreaking cruelty and deprivation experienced by these gentle animals.
Foie gras is so inherently cruel that it has been banned by many countries, including India, Australia, Argentina, and most of the European Union. In 2003, the Supreme Court of Israel ruled that force feeding geese (and therefore foie gras) was prohibited under existing laws that prohibited cruelty to animals.
Cows are capable of forming deep friendships and social hierarchies, and have emotionally rich, complex lives. In the factory farming industry, they are deprived of the opportunity to express these natural behaviours. In 2014, more than three million cattle and calves were killed in Canadian slaughterhouses.
Cattle used for beef are commonly fattened up in feedlots, which force animals to live in filthy, overcrowded conditions, and consume inappropriate feed that causes health problems. They are subjected to painful mutilations without painkillers, including “branding,” which scorches third-degree burns into the animals’ flesh; castration; and dehorning, which is the removal of sensitive, nerve-filled horns.
In Canada, the law allows cattle to be transported for up to 52 hours without food, water or rest. By contrast, in the European Union, this limit is eight hours. For the many cattle who are exported out of Canada, the clock resets to zero when they enter new countries, which have their own laws and regulations governing transport times.
Once upon a time, mother cows would give birth and—like all mammals—start to lactate. Calves would nurse, and farmers would take some milk for human consumption. With the onset of factory farming and the race to the bottom it encourages, those days are long gone.
Now, dairy cows spend the majority of their lives pregnant, only to have each baby taken away at birth. Like humans, cows and calves excrete oxytocin during labour and delivery, creating a strong bond between mother and baby. Their separation causes immense distress. Dairy cows spend their lives largely, if not exclusively, confined indoors, trudging back and forth from the milking parlour, deprived of the opportunity to express any natural behaviours. After three to four years of constant pregnancies, their bodies are worn out and they are sent to slaughter to become low-grade meat.
In 2013, there were approximately 950 thousand dairy cows on Canadian farms producing 78 million hectolitres of milk. Incredibly, in 1931—the first year Canada started recording these data—there were almost 3.4 million dairy cows in Canada. Yet, those millions of cows only produced just under 63 million hectolitres of milk. Because of genetic manipulation and other unnatural, welfare-compromising interventions, cows today produce six to seven times the amount of milk as they did a century ago.
Cows on factory farms suffer from a variety of health problems. Painful inflammation of the mammary glands (mastitis) is common among dairy cows. A recent B.C. study concluded that over 28 percent of cows suffer from foot lesions caused by a lifetime spent on concrete floors wet with feces.
In 2014, Canada’s largest dairy farm, located in Chilliwack, B.C., made international news when hidden camera footage documented workers kicking, punching, beating, and hitting cows in the face and body with chains, canes, metal pipes, and rakes; sick and injured cows suffering from open wounds, oozing infections, and painful injuries left to suffer without proper veterinary care; workers using chains and tractors to lift sick and injured cows by their necks; and workers callously taking delight in poking and squeezing festering wounds, ripping clumps of hair out of cows’ sensitive tails, and punching bulls in the testicles. Provincial law enforcement officials recommended animal cruelty charges against eight workers as well as the facility itself.
Veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry. Male calves born to cows on dairy farms have no use, and are sold to become veal meat. On milk-fed veal farms, calves are isolated into cramped, filthy crates, sometimes chained by their necks. They are fed a diet deliberately low in iron, which keeps their flesh soft but results in anemia. The sickly calves—deprived of any companionship or mothers’ milk—will never go outside or breathe clean air. In 2014, the Toronto Star reported that a Canadian veal producer was caught kicking, punching, and slapping calves.
Although it is a common mistake for us to consider aquatic animals to lack intelligence or sentience—likely because they look so alien to us—science has proven this could not be further from the truth. Fishes are behaviourally and cognitively sophisticated, and their ability to experience pain is virtually the same as that of land-based vertebrates.
In Canada, fishes are not counted as individuals; their lives are measured by weight. More than 172 thousand tonnes of aquatic animals were killed for food in 2013 in Canada, including more than 100 thousand tonnes of salmons. Incredibly, these sentient animals are not covered by federal slaughter laws.
The intensive confinement of Canadian fish farms can cause abrasions, sea lice infestations, oxygen starvation, deformities, and the frustration of any normal or natural behaviours. Aquatic animals are generally killed by being suffocated when they are removed from water, their natural environment. Fishes pulled from deeper in the sea suffer painful decompression when they are plucked from their homes.