My wife and I were watching a clip from the Oprah Winfrey Show. In the clip, a large portion of her staff members were going vegan for a week. In addition, one of her staff members was going to a beef producer’s facilities. While the vegan journey of her staff was interesting, something else stood out quite a bit to me.
The staff member that went to the beef producer’s facility started with where the cows are “grown”. The person in charge of the cows said they feed them to fatten them up for 200 days before they go to the slaughtering part of the process.
The reason this struck me was because nobody talked about it again. They basically said, we over feed these cows to get them ready to slaughter for 200 days. This was ignored and just brushed off as okay and normal. Then, this episode went through all the things they do to make killing these animals better. Since when is killing anything good?Since when is killing anything good? Click To Tweet
Sure, you can argue that these cows feed us, but that’s not the complete truth. In order to produce one pound of beef (4 normal sized servings or 2 American sized servings) we use 2,500 gallons of water, 12 points of grain and 35 pounds of topsoil. There’s more nutrition in those 12 pounds of grain than in that one pound of beef and you could feed far more people with that 12 pounds of beef.
The average cow produces about 750 pounds of beef and the numbers above are just to produce 1/750th of that cow. Imagine how many people we could feed and give clean water to if we didn’t produce this one cow. You’d have 1,875,000 gallons of water and 9,000 pounds of grain. That’s just one cow!
I know, I got just a bit off topic there, but it’s important to understand why the argument of cows feeding us is false and utterly ridiculous.
The Oprah episode goes on to show how they keep the cows calm before they shoot them in the head with a bolt gun. Somehow keeping them calm makes it okay in these people’s mind. This isn’t even the part that jumped out at me, either.
They over feed these cows for 200 days in order to fatten them up and that’s somehow humane. Would you want to be overfed for 200 days? Do you want to gain 2 to 3 pounds a day before you get killed? Does that seem like any type of quality of life?
Not only are we robbing them of more than 12 years of life, but we are also turning them into gluttons for 200 days in order to eat them. What about that seems okay?
While this is disturbing enough for me to stop eating cows (and all other meats) it’s still important to understand what happens when we raise an animal for food. I will be using mainly conventional meat animals below, but just know, grass-fed or free range are not much better. They are a little bit better, but not much.
Using Pigs for Food
Pigs have been proven to be smarter than dogs and they are also very loyal and friendly animals. They are actually very clean when treated correctly and also very outgoing. These animals love to lie in the sun, play and enjoy the company of humans.
Put them in an indoor pen and they become a shell of what they were meant to be, not to mention they will soil their area and become incredible gross. However, this isn’t how they are naturally. This is how they are because humans raise them for food.
Most Sows (female mother pigs) spend their time in crates so small they cannot even turn around. They have to have litter after litter of babies until their body cannot take anymore. When this time comes, they are slaughtered and sold for meat.
Baby pigs (piglets) spend very little time with their mother (just a few weeks) before they are pulled away, have their tails chopped off and the ends of their teeth snipped. If they are male, they are castrated and all of this happens without painkillers. This is all done so they can live their short little lives on dirty concrete in small pens full of other pigs.
We have all seen the pigs put into the trucks for transportation, but you probably have no idea what’s really going on. We like to think they are just moving them and we even get our kids excited about the pigs. However, these pigs are headed to slaughter and usually go through multiple climates on the truck.
In fact, many die from heat exhaustion or even arrive frozen in the truck, depending on the time of the year. Reports have shown that more than 1 million pigs die every year during the transportation process and another 40,000 are injured before they arrive.
The slaughter process is even worse, as man pigs are conscious after they have been stunned and are dumped into the scalding-hot water. This water is used to remove hair from their body and make the skin softer.
Here’s a video of what is supposed to be a humane way to slaughter a pig.
They don’t actually show the slaughtering part, but that’s the most room those pigs have had to enjoy during their entire life and it’s their march to death.
Here’s a video of a slaughter machine for pigs.
Can you hear them squealing?
If we didn’t raise pigs for food or treat them like they were a factory product, they would thrive in conditions other animals cannot live in and they would have a great life full of fun. They eat a very diverse diet in the wild (very bland and boring on the farm) and they can live for 6 to 10 years (if domesticated) or 4 to 8 years (if wild).
However, when we factory farm pigs for the bacon, ham and other meat we decide should be our food, they only get to live for 4 months to one year.
We take these very outgoing, friendly and intelligent creatures and we turn them into food. During the process, they are stuck living a boring life, in a crowded pen with a very boring diet. They are lucky to see the light of day and sows are not able to naturally have babies as they are turned into pig-creating machines.
The pregnant pigs are constantly banging their heads against their crate. They are also forced to lie on bare concrete when they nurse their young and after just 14 to 21 days, they never see their babies again.
The teeth of the piglets are clipped and so are the tails because they get bored when they are moved to the “nursery” and become very frustrated. This leads to aggressive behavior. Even a portion of their ear is cut out so that they can easily be identified.
Pigs also have a very good sense of smell, which becomes a way they suffer as some industry farms will have 5,000 pigs filling buildings and making the smell simply unbearable. This leads to respiratory disorders and other issues with the pigs.
In addition, since they are forced to live on concrete (not natural for the pigs at all) many end up with leg injuries and disorders.
Every single year, we slaughter more than 116 million pigs in the United States. They endure these horrific conditions, and they we kill them. The only thing the producers of these pigs care about is the bottom line.
Here’s a video from a slaughterhouse that has been approved by the USDA.
Of course, those making the decisions at the USDA include people profiting from the pig industry and other animal agriculture sectors.
How that Chicken Gets on Your Plate
We refer to chickens raised for meat as “broiler” chickens. These chickens spend most of their life in a confined shed with no windows. The shed will hold tends of thousands of chickens at one time.
Chickens are known to do well in small groups, but they have to be able to establish a pecking order. When they cannot do this, which is impossible in such large groups, they become frustrated and aggressive with each other. This leads to many deaths due to pecking on chicken farms.
The confinement also leads to disease and filth. Often, these chicken sheds include such a smell of ammonia it’s hard to even go into them as a human being. The smell of feces can also be so strong it burns your eyes and lungs as you try to breath. These smells cause the chickens to suffer from health issues all their life.The smell of feces can also be so strong it burns your eyes and lungs as you try to breath. Click To Tweet
Did you know that about 66% of chicken meat analyzed by Consumer Reports was infected with campylobacter, salmonella or both? In fact, some have called chicken the most dangerous meat because of the harmful bacteria it can and does hold.
Many chicken growers give their chickens antibiotics, which causes antibiotic-resistant bacteria to begin to grow. This comes into contact with humans when they handle or eat chicken. This is all done to make the chicken about four times the size compared to chickens in the 1950s.
The larger size actually leads to many injuries of the legs for chickens and can put a strain on the lungs and heart.
Another important term when talking about factory-produced chickens is the “breeder” chicken. This type of chicken is very much ignored in the United States as more than 8 billion chickens are created every year by these “breeder” chickens.
The “breeder” chickens are confined to the same type of disgusting sheds and they don’t have any access to fresh air or sunlight. A portion of their beaks are cut off when they are just one to ten days old to keep pecking to a minimum. They may even have their combs, toes and spurs cut off. Many of the chickens starve to death after their beaks are seared off because it’s too painful to eat.
The “breeder” chickens end up living in factory farms for over a year and are kept alive longer than those raised for meat or “broiler” chickens because they are used to create more chickens. However, the conditions are pretty much the same, so they face an even higher risk of health issues and death.
In order to keep “breeder” chickens from becoming too large, chicken growers will limit how much they eat. This keeps the chicken frustrated and in a constant starvation state. Once these “breeder” chickens have been used until their body cannot produce any more new birds, they are sent to slaughter.
A study from Harvard done in 2006 and including 135,000 people showed that those eating grilled, skinless chicken (you know, the type every major diet promotes as healthy) had a 52% higher chance of developing bladder cancer compared to those not eating the chicken. It’s actually the most dangerous meat on your plate and yet pushed as the healthiest.
One last note, many of the male chicks are simply ground up at birth because they serve no use for the chicken producers.
Here’s a video put out by the U.S. Poultry & Egg Association to convince you that their process of killing chickens is humane and acceptable.
Here’s a news report showing a bit more of the truth.
How Cows Become Food
An article found on PBS.org written by Michael Pollan says, “My cow has a date with the knocker, or the stunner, in June. One day in June, he will be judged sufficiently fat, because they really do get obese. And they move around at the end with that kind of the lugubrious awkwardness of the truly obese”
First off, cows don’t get obese, factory farming forces them to become obese. They shouldn’t move around with such awkwardness, either, but add an addition 250 – 400 pounds to your body and see how you move around.
Cows go through the same horrible transportation conditions as pigs do. They are moved in the summer heat or the freezing temperatures of the winter with as many as 1,200 to 1,500 miles to travel before reaching their destination. Usually 40 to 45 cows are put in one trailer and they go to the bathroom right in the trailer.
After they have traveled in horrific conditions, the cows are sent to slaughter. A captive-bolt gun is used to stun them, but the poor training often means the cow is completely conscious when the legs are being cut off. In fact, Ramon Moreno, a worker from a slaughterhouse told The Washington Post that he often cuts the legs off conscious cows. He said, “They blink. They make noises, The head moves, the eyes are wide and looking around. … They die piece by piece.”
Some cows are alive for as much as seven minutes after they have been hit with the captive-bolt gun. This means they will have their legs cut off and many other body parts hacked off while they are still alive. Workers cannot even tell their bosses to stop the line due to the abuse because they could lose their jobs.
I already touched on how cows are treated and you can see what a “humane” process looks like in the Oprah episode. However, here’s another video showing the humanely, grass-fed type of cows. This is NOT The normal, btw.
They live for about 3 years and then the farmer says they “have one very bad day at the end.” Then, he rationalizes it by saying, “we all have one very bad day at the end.”
This is the rationalization we love to use, but we love to forget, cows are supposed to live 5 to 7 times longer than the 3-year mark used for slaughtering them for food.
It’s even worse if a cow is a dairy cow and not grass-fed. The grass-fed cows at least get to run around (well, at least for the video). Conventional cows (not grass-fed or organic) don’t get more than a few feet of space to live in and they don’t get to graze the grasses.
Here’s a video showing a closer look at what the industry really does and probably doesn’t want us to see.
Here are a few more videos showing what the process really looks like.
I have covered all three of the major meats we eat in the United States: pork, chicken and beef. I could also go into fish, but that’s an entirely different subject as it’s not as much about the slaughter process as the way they are grown on farms and how we over fish the oceans.
Anyways, some of these stories are certainly a part of why I have become a vegan. I started my vegan journey due to the health benefits, but once I started to research what really happens, the cause became more than just about me. It’s bigger than all of us and while my decision to no longer purchase or consume meat certainly won’t cripple the factory farming industry, I can at least sleep at night and look myself in the mirror.
I am not going to tell you that going vegan or not eating meat is the only way to live or that everybody should do it. That’s a decision you have to make for yourself. I was a huge meat-eater and I have changed due to the horrific way we devalue the life of animals in this country. They should not be on our plates, at least not the way we consume them today – or slaughter them.
I am a big believer in awareness and for me, once I became aware of what was going on, I couldn’t look at the dead food on my plate the same way anymore. I made the decision to stop allowing my body to be a graveyard for these poor, mistreated animals.
Have you stopped eating meat or do you love it so much this doesn’t even affect you? Either way, leave your comments below.