Farm animal abuse

Despite evidence that animals can emotionally and physically experience the world in much the same way that we do, we continue to treat them as mere commodities that can be exploited for our benefit. It is the desire to maximise profit and fill supermarket shelves, which has led to such inhumane treatment of farm animals. Because it is less expensive than more humane alternatives, we accept the practice of keeping animals in abysmal concentration-camp style factory farms, in zoos, in testing facilities, in pet stores and cages of all sorts. In many of these facilities, they lead bleak lives, with no stimulation, unable to perform their natural behaviours.

Besides the Indian subcontinent, Asian countries have been traditionally dairy-free. Most indigenous tribes worldwide do not consume milk. But today many believe that cows naturally produce milk for human consumption. However, like all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their own young. Repeated pregnancies are required for continuous milk production.

Traditionally here, cows were raised as members of the family and revered as a mother because they gave milk. Calves were first given their share of milk. Female calves were raised as milk producers and male, to work in the fields. In the absence of refrigeration milk did not have commercial value. Today every part of the cow is of commercial value from the cow dung and urine to leather and bone.

For farm animals the journey to the slaughterhouse entails further suffering – they are packed onto lorries, squashed together and often shipped abroad for slaughter in foreign abattoirs where their short lives are ended in barbaric ways. Broken bones, and wings, injuries and sickness over and above the lack of food water and rest. Fear, pain, frustration, despair, hopelessness are just some of the negative emotions we are guilty of causing them.

We are happy to attribute feelings to our pets, but for the animals we eat or use in other ways for our material gains, we create an entirely new set of rules. This disconnect, for many, is an attempt to continue practices that are inconsistent with our values.

Some of the following anecdotes are adapted from Dr. Nandita Shah’s account of her one-month internship at Farm Sanctuary, an organization in upstate New York (USA), whose mission is to raise awareness about the plight of farm animals:

Farmed chicken

Chickens (1)

Farmed pigs – Inhuman factory conditions and treatment

The pigs are usually slaughtered at an age of six months, when they weigh about 250 lbs! Again, these animals have trouble supporting their weight. They can hardly walk and often suffer extremely painful arthritis and deformities in their limbs. They are abused in factory farms where sows are kept in gestation crates all their lives with no room to move. To the industry, they are just piglet producing machines. They are allowed to nurse their piglets while still confined for 2 weeks after which the piglets are torn from them to be fattened for slaughter. The sows are immediately impregnated to begin another 4-month cycle.  Pigs normally form strong bonds with their young for two years, but because it is not profitable, they are deprived this natural bond by the industry. Many of these pigs raised in this captivity demonstrate extreme discomfort, but as long as they produce piglets, this goes ignored. When their bodies are worn out – which doesn’t take long – they, too, are dragged to slaughter. At the time of their demise, they are often too weak to even walk. If allowed to live out their life, these animals can live up to twenty years.

Crammed  together and inspected (4)

Farmed sheep

In nature, sheep shed their wool seasonally, but these sheep have been modified to produce so much wool that they cannot shed it themselves. As a result, they must be sheared by humans. This abundance of wool causes them to have folds in their skin, which are prone to abscesses. If unchecked, these abscesses can lead to death.

Farmed cows and calves

9b cow and calf in garbage (1)


Billions of fish are caught each year. All too often unwanted species are also caught and left to die without reason. Fish are sentient creatures and feel pain. They die by suffocation which is extremely painful and which can sometimes take many minutes. Today Canada is killing thousands of baby seals brutally by clubbing because they are competing with Canadian fishermen for the catch! So a fish eater is indirectly responsible for more deaths than the ones he sees on his table alone.

Commercial fishing has decimated the aquatic environment. Shrimp nets kill countless sea turtles. Dragging trawlers kill all life including the plant life that fish thrive on, at the bottom of the ocean. Overfishing is causing extinction of species that are fished, as well as those that depend on these fish for food.

Today, fish are also victims of the factory farming system. They are often farmed in floating cages or in artificial ponds. Because of the large numbers involved, and the restricted movement, disease spreads rapidly, often also to wild specimens, and the water gets highly polluted. Each vegetarian or vegan will save at least half a ton of fish in a lifetime.


Slaughterhouses are some of the worst workplaces. Most animals are slaughtered in front of each other with no stunning. In many states in India, cow slaughter is forbidden but keeping an animal that is non productive is unaffordable. These animals are clandestinely slaughtered without stunning, or are transported under abysmal conditions to distant slaughter-houses and often slaughtered in front of one another.  The workers are poor, often illiterate, and sometimes children. They are treated almost as callously as the animals dying by the billions in those same facilities. The pay is low, turnover is high, and injuries and illnesses are frequent and often severe.