Dairy

One question that I have is what happens to the males born on these factory farms. Are we only eating the poor mothers that have reproduced so many offspring that she is dried up and no longer ‘useful’? That appears to be the way it works. For the chickens I found the exact answer, males are thrown away at birth. I never found an answer for pigs, but for dairy cows, the males are sold and slaughtered for veal. There might be an exception in the beef industry, but probably those male calves are used as veal.

Shockingly enough, the first website that came up on my search was a place called Dairy Farming Today. I was prepared for a horrendous sight that would blind my eyes with pain and suffering because of the awful pictures I see most of them seem to be of a dairy cow. I guess because the oversized, swollen utters are a clear picture of a suffering animal. I was shocked again with something quite different. The site has a blue and green, grassy and fresh theme. They had videos, pictures, a dictionary, a Q&A which I’ll be using after I finish researching this and get a list of questions, a FAQ, explanations of what goes on at a dairy farm. As far as the writing content goes, it didn’t go into great detail and I wasn’t too impressed, but then I watched the videos and that changed. Had I just happened to hear a rumor that the dairy industry was a smelling a little iffy then I would be set. I’m no expert and I’m not sure what I should be looking for, but the place that was featured in these videos was just about spotless. They had pictures of cows eating grass, the greenest grass I’ve ever seen.  If I didn’t know anything about this subject, I could sleep peacefully for the rest of my life. I don’t know a lot, nor have I see a lot, but I know enough to understand that not all dairy farms are like this.

This site states that 99% of all dairy farms are family-owned and that most don’t have more than 200 cows. This may or may not be true. I haven’t been to them all to know.

My issue is that everything they do from what they feed them (some grass, but a combination of feed and they call themselves ‘recyclers of nutrients’. I’ve heard of everything from cement mix to same species meat to manure being put into the feed. So yes, they are in fact recycling) to the antibiotics that they give are so nicely described it’s hard to second guess. It truly sounds like cow heaven. While some places are probably this nice (I doubt any place is that clean which that is part of working with animals) and I know that sometimes animals just get sick, I’d like to believe that all farms are this peaceful, but I just don’t think that is the case.

So what is really going on in some of these dairy farms?

Resting Dairy Cows

http://nycanimalrights.com/dairy_cows_resting1.htm

Machines are used to milk the cows. If the machines are not properly maintained, they can send a painful electric shock though the udder several times a day.

In order for a cow to produce milk, they must be either pregnant or just have had a calf.  The mothers are kept pregnant their whole life. Each time she would be artificially inseminated on what the industry calls a ‘rape rack’ or with a farmer’s arm. Interestingly enough, I didn’t see very many calves in any of their pictures. That’s because the calves are taken away immediately after birth to avoid bonding between the mother and her child. A male calf is usually turned into veal.  Mother cows have been known to break down the stall door to find their calf.

While I was looking at videos, I saw one about dehorning cows to ‘protect the workers’. One guy commented that he had worked with cows for 30 years and that cows could be extremely aggressive. He had seen them barge through a barn door and not be the least bit phased and just kept running on their merry way. Could it be that they had a reason to do this? Could it be that they were running away from something or after something? I might be completely alone in this, but I happen to believe that most animals have a reason to do what they do. It’s called self-defense. Not always, but most of time animals have a reason for their violence. Especially in the wild. Wild animals are… well, wild. If a person gets killed by a wild animal it’s their own fault.

A cow’s natural life span is about 20 years, but most cows are lucky if they live three years. Despite the heavy use of hormones and antibiotics, usually by this time, they are ‘dried up’ and they’ll turn into what we call ‘ground up’ meat.

A male calf born to a dairy cow is the wrong breed to profitably be raised for beef. His fate, unfortunately, is much worse. Veal is the soft, pale, anemic flesh of a calf. Veal calves are kept inside in a crate barely bigger than themselves. Chained at the neck, they can’t even turn around. They are fed a liquid diet deficient in iron, so their muscles don’t develop properly. Many people recognize the cruelty in raising veal and will not eat it, yet are unaware of the intimate connection between the dairy and veal industries. Supporting one supports the other.

Veal Crates

Veal crates.

http://www.occupyforanimals.org/veal.html

Tail docking is when up to 2/3 of a cows tail is remove either by getting it cut off or banded so the circulation is cut off and the tail falls off. This is suggested to promote cleanliness of the cow, utter health, milk quality and worker health. Study after study has concluded that these are not realistic results of tail docking.

Dehorning is something that was not mentioned. There are many methods used to dehorn cows. I don’t believe that this isn’t completely unnecessary because I’m sure that a person or another cow could be seriously injured by these accidently. But I do think that dairy isn’t essential to the human diet and if we didn’t drink it and didn’t cause other people to force themselves on a cow then we wouldn’t have to consider doing this at all. I also think that it’s horrible that cows are subjected to this horror while they’re awake and that the people removing them are so careless.

http://www.sustainabletable.org/issues/dairy/

Like all the other animal sections of factory farming, these cows are treated cruelly. They are also injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH) to increase by up to 25% the already exorbitant amount of milk they produce. Of the 9 million dairy cattle in the U.S., 7-25% are injected with BGH. The use of BGH to increase milk production results in increased udder size and increased frequency of infections such as mastitis. This causes abnormally large udders and produce problems walking, so a cow’s legs are usually spread apart, distorting the normal configurations of her pelvis and spine. Mastitis and other untreated infections injuries aren’t rare sights on these farms. Once the damages have taken their course and render the cows immobile, the cows are termed ‘downers’ are sent to be slaughtered. If you’ve seen Food, Inc. then you know that they aren’t treated very kindly at this stage either.

Mastitis

http://www.chooseveg.ca/animal-cruelty-canada.asp

Downed Cow

http://nycanimalrights.com/downed_cow.htm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RNFFRGz1Qs&feature=player_embedded

And those are just a few horrors that you’ll find in some dairy farms. Stay tune because the next post will give solutions to some of these problems.

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Chickens

Chickens. Over 8 million of them are born and raised on a factory farm. They’re called Broiler chickens and they are what line our store shelves and mostly stock our refrigerator shelves. From the time they are born till the last second they die, they are just treated with such cruelty that it’s sickening. Like with the other farm animals, there is not a day that goes by that they are actually treated with any type of kindness. Everything that they go through from the crowding to the food they eat, to the lack of lighting goes against everything in their nature.

Because male chicks can’t lay eggs they have no value in the chicken industry. As soon as they hatch they are thrown away without even being killed. They often suffocate as other chicks are thrown on top of them.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2009/05/21/even-as-a-hen-gathereth-her-chickens-under-her-wings/

They have all kinds of diseases, skin lesions and health complications. It’s awful. This breed is genetically predisposed for fast growth, lameness and heart disease. If they were fed an unrestricted diet only 20 percent would reach full growth. Instead, they are fed one-fourth of the food they would otherwise eat which causes malnutrition and frustration.

Chickens are seen inside cages on a truck near a poultry market in Dengzhou

http://poisonedpets.com/tag/rendering-plants/

In the 1950’s it took 84 days to grow a five pound chicken. How long does it take now? 45 days. What’s the difference? Today we rely on selective breeding, antibiotics and hormones to get us these diseased, health problem infested chickens. As a result of the speedy growth spurt, the chickens go through a number of problems such as, disorders and heart disease. One study said that , 90% had visible leg deformities and around 26% were suffering from chronic pain due to bone disease.  Leg deformities are fatal for 1% because they can no longer stand to reach food or water. Tibial dyschondroplasia (TD), an abnormal mass of cartilage at the growth plate of a bone, usually the tibia, is the cause of some leg problems. The end of the tibia may become enlarged and weakened, and the bone may bend backward as it grows. Lesions can become necrotic and may lead to spontaneous fracture, severe lameness, and, in some cases, the complete inability to stand.  Studies show that 45-57% of the chickens raised for meat consumption have this, but the disease is rare in other types of birds.  The chickens are now growing so fast that the heart and lungs aren’t developing fast enough to support the body, so they’re dying of congestive heart failure.

 http://www.safe.org.nz/Campaigns/Chicken-cruelty/

One study found that 92 percent of male breeders had pelvic limb lesions, 85 percent had total or partial rupture of ligaments or tendons, 54 percent had total ligament or tendon failure at one or more skeletal sites, and 16 percent had total detachment of the femoral head.

 http://www.culinaryhatchet.com/meattype-chicken-pickin/

Broiler chickens are confined in grower houses which are usually long warehouses which house up to 20,000 chickens in a single shed. A five pound chicken is usually given a generous space the size of one piece of paper. As with the pigs, this causes a great amount of stress and makes it easier for diseases to run rampant. Because they are all packed together in such confined spaces and creates stress, each bird has a portion of their toes cut off and males have their combs and leg spurs removed, so they can’t harm each other as much. Their beaks are also cut off. Sometimes it’s so the chickens won’t peck each other to death and sometimes it’s so a feeding tube can shoved down their throat.  This of course is done without anesthetic.

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/factory_farming/fact-sheets/what_is_a_factory_farm.html

After those 45 days, the chicken are transported to a slaughterhouse without food, water, or shelter from extreme temperatures.

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/06/big-meat-fueling-change-or-greenwashing-fuel/57304/

In the U.S. there is no law that requires chickens to be unconscious during slaughter, so as soon as they arrive at the slaughterhouse, the chicken are dumped onto a conveyor belt, hung upside down in shackles by their legs. Then their throats are slit by either a hand or a machine.  An upwards of 8,400 chickens go through this in one hour. Mistakes are made and many chickens are still alive when they enter the tanks of scalding water.

http://www.easyvegan.info/2009/05/21/even-as-a-hen-gathereth-her-chickens-under-her-wings/

These current standards insure that every single chicken experiences some kind of pain. If anti-cruelty laws applied to farm animals, but there is no such discretion

http://www.chickenindustry.com/

http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/welfare_broiler.pdf

Click here for some solutions.

Beef: Part 2

Pollan also paints a slightly different picture of a cow’s life. He said that when calf is taken away from their mother, the mother bellows for days.

The cows are forced to live, to sleep, to eat in their own feces. There is manure as far as the eye can see and it only gets cleaned out every six months.

This guy also ended up buying a cow, so he could go through the whole process from the cow’s perspective, what he ate, what antibiotics he got, etc.  and the rancher’s perspective, what the costs and benefits of such a system are, etc.

He wasn’t allowed to watch his cow get slaughtered, but he claims that the process goes something like this:

“Then they will get on another truck and travel 100 miles to Liberal, Kansas, to a National Beef plant there. They will be put in a pen in a parking lot and wait their turn, and go up the ramp, and through a blue door. I was not allowed to go through the blue door. The kill floor is not something that journalists are allowed to see, even if you own the animal, I learned.

But I have reconstructed what happens on the other side of the blue door. What happens is that the animals go in single file. At a certain point, they pass over a bar, their legs on both sides, and the floor slowly drops away, and at that point they’re being carried along sort of on that bar, which is a conveyor belt, and they then pass through a station where there’s a man on the catwalk above. He’s holding an object that looks like a power nailing gun or something. It’s a pneumatic device called a stunner.

This essentially injects a metal bolt. It’s about the size and length of a thick pencil into its brain, right between the eyes, and that should render the animal brain dead.

At that point, chains will be attached to his rear legs. He will be lifted up by the chains. The chains are attached to an overhead trolley, and then he will be bled. Another person in another station will stick a long knife in and cut his aorta and bleed the animal. And then he will be completely dead.

And from there he goes through a series of stations to clean him and to remove his hide. One of the real problems is that the animals have spent their [lives] lying in their manure, are smeared and caked with the stuff, and they’re entering the food plant. And so many steps are taken to make sure that the manure doesn’t infect the meat, which can happen very easily.”

And that’s how he says it goes.

Bill Haw says, “As you progressively go down the chain … it becomes a less violent, a less bloody, a less difficult thing to watch, and really becomes kind of a miracle of efficiency as that live animal is reduced to a carcass and the carcass is reduced to parts that we’re very familiar with in eating. … The economies of scale, the mobilization of capital — all of those things that drive businesses are very much at work in the packing industry. …”

Well, in that case…

He said a bunch of other crap too, but we won’t go there. The link below will take you to a bunch of pretty interesting interviews including Pollan’s and Haw’s.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/meat/industrial/consolidation.html

One other thing I think should be added to the slaughter debate is that a standard beef slaughterhouse kills 250 cattle every hour. The high speed of the assembly line makes it increasingly difficult to treat animals with any semblance of humaneness. A Meat & Poultry article states, “Good handling is extremely difficult if equipment is ‘maxed out’ all the time. It is impossible to have a good attitude toward cattle if employees have to constantly overexert themselves, and thus transfer all that stress right down to the animals, just to keep up with the line.”

This ‘stunning’ is usually done by a mechanical blow to the head as described by Pollan. The procedure is terribly imprecise, and inadequate stunning is inevitable. Conscious animals are often hung upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker makes another attempt to render them unconscious. Eventually, the animals will be “stuck” in the throat with a knife, and blood will gush from their bodies whether or not they are unconscious.

I’m not sure why Pollan didn’t talk about this during the interview. Maybe because he didn’t see it with his own eyes and he doesn’t know if it’s true. It may not be, but I’ve read about this in various source which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true, but I have less reason to doubt. This article also has an account from a factory worker that claims the same. He’s written a book called The Omnivore Dilemma where he talks about the buying cow experience. Hopefully, sooner rather than later I’ll get to read it and I’ll give an update.

http://www.farmsanctuary.org/issues/factoryfarming/beef/

I try not to use PETA stuff, but I’m making an exception.

http://www.factory-farming.com/beef_production.html

Click here for ways to help.

Beef: Part 1

I sort of wrote about this subject before, so instead of repeating it, I’ll just add on.

http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/demographics.html

But 84% of the slaughter is controlled by 4 companies.

Total U.S. beef consumption for a population of 311,800,000
2002: 27.9 billion pounds
2004: 27.8 billion pounds
2006: 28.1 billion pounds
2008: 27.3 billion pounds
2010: 26.4 billion pounds

A typical life of a cow goes like this: It’s born, when it reaches 400-500 pounds it usually gets sold. It grows to 700-800 pounds. During this time it eats grass, but during its last 120-180 days it gets a high-energy diet consisting of corn in a feedlot. Or that’s what Bill Haw, CEO of Kansas City’s National Farms which is one of the biggest feedlots in the country.

Feedlot

http://www.richardbealblog.com/?p=4310

Michael Pollan paints a slightly different picture. He calls them a city of the 14th century, a time before modern sanitation.

“They’re from the time when cities really were stinky. When they were teeming and filthy and pestilential and liable to be ridden with plague, because you had people coming from many, many different places, bringing many, many different microbes into a concentrated area where they could spread them around.”

The only reason we’re not reliving a black plague type nightmare is because antibiotics have been our saving grace.

“Every hour I was on this feedlot, another tanker truck came in filled with liquefied fat. Another one with liquefied protein. Every hour there was another truck with 50,000 pounds of corn. You see all the feedstuff coming into the city, and you see the waste going out. The wastes, by and large, are manure, trucks coming in from farms carrying it away. But a lot of this was pooled in these lagoons, which were just full of this.”

Cows in Manure

Cows standing in manure.

http://www.healthbanquet.com/raw-milk-safety.html

Around six months, a cow has usually seen its last blade of grass. We used to grow a cow for four to five years, but we’ve now cut it down to 14 months, according to Pollan.

Feedlothttp://www.mindfully.org/Farm/Factory-Farm-Peter-Rosset.htm

Cows have evolved to eat grass. They have a four chambered stomach called a rumen that digests grass in successive stages.

In the first two compartments of the stomach, the grass is mixed with saliva and is separated into liquid and solid layers. The solid clumps join together and form a cud.

The cud is then regurgitated where it is slowly chewed to further mix it with saliva and break it down to smaller particle sized bits. After the grass is suitably liquid, it passes into the third stomach chamber where the water and many of the inorganic minerals are absorbed into the bloodstream. Eventually the grass is turned into a protein.

Next it goes to the final chamber which is most equivalent to the human single chambered stomach. The material is then transported to the small intestine where digestion and absorption continues.

Finally it off to the large intestine where fermentation continues and then it’s on to the exit door.

That’s how it works when the cow eats grass as it was designed to do; this is beef production nature’s way. On a normal grass diet, it takes a steer around five years or so to reach a slaughter weight of 1200 pounds or more.

But after 6 months they no longer eat grass. They’re fed a steady stream of corn. They’re stomachs weren’t designed for corn, so this leads to many of their health problems.

We fix this by adding a steady stream of antibiotics into their diet. That fixes a small portion of the problem because they don’t get sick as much, but they’re digestion is still out of whack. What happens to us when our digestion is out of whack? Exactly. And the same thing happens to them.

As they burp, methane gas is released. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas and it contributes to global warming.

Also in this upset stomach scene, they swallow saliva which keeps their stomach base instead of acidic. This combined with a corn diet, leads to formation of slime which covers the rumen. This prevents gas from being to escape, so the rumen keeps filling with air like a balloon. Eventually it starts to press on the heart and lungs which will lead to suffocation if nothing is done.

They also can get acidosis, which is an acidifying of the rumen. … And when the animals get acid stomach, it’s a really bad case of heartburn, and they go off their feed. Eventually, if you give them too much corn too quickly, it ulcerates the rumen; bacteria escape from the rumen into the blood stream, and end up in the liver, creating liver abscesses which are treated with more antibiotics.

Liver abscesses could end up with a completely shot liver.

But you’ll like what Bill Haw had as a response, “I think what we have found in the industry today is that the liver is not a very economically viable part of the animal. There’s been a willingness to sacrifice the quality of the liver for the overall growth of the animal, which far transcends the value of the liver that may be damaged in the process.”

Isn’t he a peach?

Click here for part 2 and here for solutions to some of these problems.