Why Vegan? Part 4: The Meat Industry

More than 150 billion animals are killed each year by humans. To put that number into perspective, consider this: 1 billion seconds is just over 31 years, and 150 billion seconds is 4753.5 years. It’s a massive number- and these animals do not want to die. They all share the same simple desire to be free from pain and to carry out their natural behaviours, protected from human interference.  It is estimated that 3000 animals will die every second in slaughterhouses around the world. Competition to produce inexpensive meat, dairy and eggs had led to animal agribusiness treating animals as objects and commodities. Most people like to think that their animal products are coming from the small, homely farms that are showed throughout meat-industry advertising. In reality, these farms have been replaced with violent factory farms and almost all meat will come from large warehouses where animals are confined in crowded cages or restrictive pens. The only way this industry can survive is through secrecy: the less the consumer knows the better.


Fish are killed by the tonne. Indeed, more fish and marine life are killed than any other animal on the planet. Science has proven that fish have senses for detecting stimulation of pain and they have cerebral mechanisms which process the stimulation and provoke negative physical responses (such as violent jerking). Fish have the capacity to experience pleasure and pain: they are sentient.

There are many horrendous methods used to kill fish. Fish caught in commercial fishing nets may be suffocated or crushed under the weight of the other fish. They may also be frozen in the boat’s cooling chambers. When they are hauled to the surface, they will suffer from agonising decompression: their eyes and internal organs literally explode. Fish killed by anglers and hooked lines have their sensitive mouth parts ripped open by sharp hooks. They are then suffocated or clubbed to death. On fish farms thousands of fish are crammed together and forced to swim in circles. In these crowded conditions, 10-30% of all fish die from parasites and infections. Fish are starved for up to two weeks before slaughter to empty the gut and reduce risk of the flesh being contaminated during the gutting process.

The fish humans eat are not the only animals killed during this process. Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, seals and other marine animals die in fishing nets worldwide. Fish-eating species like seals, birds and mink not only lose their source of food, but are actually shot by fish farmers protecting their stock.


Pigs are incredibly intelligent creatures, who can spend hours playing and exploring their surroundings with their keen sense of smell. In a trade journal, hog farm manager John Byrnes once said “forget the pig is an animal. Treat him just like a machine in a factory”.

Sows used for breeding are forcibly impregnated throughout their lives. Against her will, a long steel device will shoot hog semen into the sow’s vagina. She will be forced to produce twice as many piglets as she would in the wild. Sows are separated from their babies soon after birth. Normally, piglets are weaned after 4-5 months, but in the meat industry it can be 4 weeks or even less.  Although gestation crates have been phased out across Europe and in some parts of the US, sows are still severely confined. As soon as their reproductive capacity is exhausted, they are sent for slaughter.

Shortly after birth, male pigs are mutilated in various ways by unqualified workers who rarely use anaesthetics. Tail docking involves holding the piglet upside down and cutting their tail off. This is done to prevent tail biting, which is common in the overcrowded, unnatural conditions that they are forced to live in. Pigs are also known to fight and bite each other, so 2-8 teeth are cut off so that they cannot pierce each other’s flesh. Teeth clipping also allows mothers to nurse more piglets, because there is reduced wear and tear on their nipples. Ear notching is the practice of ripping out a portion of their ears to mark them. They also have their testicles ripped out in a sick attempt to pacify the industry-induced anger.

Beef cows

Cows are very sociable creatures capable of recognising each other and establishing strong relationships that can last a lifetime. Calves for veal are removed from their mothers to be bought and sold soon after birth. Separating a child from their mother, especially at such an early age, is one of the cruellest things anyone can do to a human or animals. Mother cows have been known to scream for weeks on end for their lost baby and the confusion and anxiety that the calf must feel is unimaginable. Most cows will have their horns cut off at some point during their short lifetime. “Disbudding” will involve the use of saws, horn shears, or even cutting wire. The horns contain blood and nerve endings, so they have to be cauterised to stem the bleeding. Cows will be castrated by crushing the spermatic cord of each testis, or by using a tight rubber ring which restricts blood flow. Cows are first allowed to graze in large fields, but are eventually moved to dirt-covered feedlots for the last 10 months of their lives until they are sent for slaughter.


Chickens, turkeys and ducks are also sociable creatures, who like to forage, bask in the sun and be with companions. In the meat industry they are deprived of freedom and cannot exhibit their natural behaviours. Ducks, for example, have a natural desire to keep clean with water. Because they are reared without water they suffer greatly due to frustration. Chickens are crammed into cages or huge sheds (even in “free-range” farms). There is approximately half a square foot of floor space per bird, which is equivalent to half an A4 sheet of paper. In such crowded conditions, waste accumulates, and the resulting ammonia causes painful burns to the birds’ skin, eyes and respiratory tracts.

Chickens have been selectively bred to be ready for slaughter in a third of the time it would take the traditional broiler chicken. As a result, they gain too much weight and struggle to move. Heart attacks are common. Despite the immense suffering this causes, it is the most profitable way of raising chickens. Their legs cannot support the weight of their bodies and they will be “in chronic pain for the last 20% of their lives.” The breeding hens are severely feed-restricted to avoid reproductive problems and lameness (which is caused by obesity).


To cut losses from birds pecking each other in the stressful, overcrowded conditions, farmers remove a third to half of the beaks of laying hens, breeding chickens and most turkeys and ducks. They are given no pain relief. Their beak will be partially amputated, usually with a heated blade or with a laser infrared beam. Farmers may also use a powerful electric spark. The birds will suffer severe pain for weeks and many are unable to eat and starve.

Other animals

As well as the animals mentioned previously, a number of other animals are victimised for their flesh and the products of their body. These include rabbits, dear, woodpigeons, ostriches, and even many insects like bees, lac and cochineal.

Problems with raising animals for meat

mutilations and more


Every aspect of raising animals for food is controlled. Farmers artificially inseminate animals, they genetically modify their animals and they even castrate them. Natural reproduction is almost obsolete, because the meat industry cares only about profit. Animals have been altered to produce more meat, more eggs, more milk, more wool… and in a shorter time. And the animals always have to suffer because of this. As soon as animals become spent and less profitable, they are always killed and replaced by younger, more efficient animals. When an animal reaches the market weight, there is no need for the industry to keep them alive, so they are immediately sent to be slaughtered.

baby eaters and lifespan


Pattrice Jones once said that “woman and animals- along with land and children- have historically been seen as the property of male households. Both women and animals are seen as less rational and both suffer by being reduced to their bodies, or even worse their body parts.” Animals’ reproductive organs are exploited. The females are raped, they have their babies stolen, and are exploited for their milk. If true feminists really knew what happened to these animals, I have no doubt that they would go vegan.

sexual abuse

 For more information on this, read:


And this book:

Lisa Kemmerer- Sister species: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sister-Species-Animals-Social-Justice/dp/025207811X

Farmed animal feed

The feed for farmed animals varies greatly. When people buy “organic chicken”, they like to imagine that this chicken will have improved welfare. In reality, it will probably just have been fed more organic feed. Animals may be fed forages (like grasses), cereals and other home-grown crops, and products and by-products of the food and brewing industries. These are foods not suitable for human consumption. They can include manure, animal blood, and ground up bodies of diseased animals to name just a few. Much of this food is nutrient deficient, so animals are often supplemented to help prevent diseases of deficiency.

For a more in-depth look into animal feed, check out this official article:


And this video:


Among almost all farmed animals, neurotic behaviours are common. In the confined, unnatural conditions they live in, animals may become frustrated and aggressive (hence why beaks, teeth and horns are cut off). They display a variety of symptoms like chronic stress and neurotic coping methods, such as bar biting and sham chewing (chewing nothing) that can be compared to depression, and even suicidal behaviour.

For a more detailed look at this issue check out the following links:




When animals are transported to the slaughterhouse, they are crammed into slatted trucks and forced to travel long distances of 10 hours or more. They have to stand in urine, faeces and vomit. Those that fall and can’t get up may be trampled or suffocate. In different areas and times of year, they are often exposed to extremes of temperatures. Hot weather and humidity causes severe dehydration which is most deadly for pigs. In the US, for example, approximately 200 000 pigs die every year on their way to the slaughterhouse. Animals can also suffer from frostbite and even get frozen to trailers and cages. The animals will usually go 12-18 hours, sometime even days, without food. They arrive at the slaughterhouse injured, weak, starved and severely dehydrated only to be forcibly moved by handlers. If the animals won’t move, handlers will grab animals by the hind legs.


Whether free-range, local, organic or factory farmed, the survivors of this cruel industry will be killed. The animals will smell, hear and see the slaughter before them. As they struggle, they are often abused by frustrated workers who are under constant pressure to keep the lines moving at rapid speeds.

they do not want to die

Mammal slaughter

Stunning is a common practice in the meat industry, but it is not what people have been made to believe. An electric current will be used to induce a heart attack and/or seizure. Captive bolt guns are used to deliver a blow to the skull or shoot a rod into the animal’s brain. Most animals have to endure 1-2 failed stuns and a failed electrical stun will cause animal paralysis, but the animal will not lose sensibility. Unconscious animals whose necks are not cut soon enough may regain their senses after being hung on the bleed rail. The Washington Post reported that, “Hogs, unlike cattle, are dunked in tanks of hot water after they are stunned to soften the hides for skinning. As a result, a botched slaughter condemns some hogs to being scalded and drowned. Secret videotape from an Iowa pork plant shows hogs squealing and kicking as they are being lowered into the water.” The myth of painless slaughter holds little real value. The killing process is never simple, because these animals do not want to die.

Religious slaughter

Kosher and halal practices are just as violent as common slaughter. Halal animals are killed with a knife and a prayer. The animals are often fully conscious while their throats are cut. This is supposed to induce rapid loss of consciousness, but it is known that the animals still have sensibility ranging from 8-120 seconds.

For more information on this:


Bird slaughter

Birds are immobilised by electrical stunning. Hanging in shackles, the birds’ heads are passed through an electrified water bath. When their wings violently flap in fear, birds have been known to dislocate joints and break bones.

Legal protection

In most countries, animals in factory farms receive virtually no legal protection. This section of Gary’s ADAPTT provides more detail: “Were you also aware that animals in the meat, dairy and egg industries receive no legal protection whatsoever? After all, slavery and slaughterhouses cannot co-exist with freedom and protection. Here’s an excerpt from section two of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), the federal law that oversees animal-use in America: “When used in this act, the term “animal” … excludes farm animals, such as, but not limited to, livestock and poultry used or intended for use as food …” That’s pretty cute, isn’t it? The animals who are enslaved or eaten aren’t even recognized as animals under the law. Does this remind you of another piece of legislation that ignored the victims and existed to shield victimizers from prosecution? When the Constitution was first enacted, only land-owning, slave-owning, white men of European descent were protected. Blacks, Natives, women and many others were conveniently excluded.”

Even when there are welfare laws in place, it is virtually impossible to enforce them properly. As I’ve described previously, the meat industry is a business and money ALWAYS takes priority over the animals.

For the current UK laws regarding animal welfare, see this:


And this document highlights the problems with such “laws”:


“Humane slaughter”


Almost all the cruel practices I have explained apply to “humane” meat products. If read in their entirety, the two links above should be proof enough that there is no such thing as humane animal products. Labels like “organic, grass-fed, local, free range…” mean nothing and people should not waste their money on them. These labels were created solely to make more money. For example, consider this:

humane vs ordinary cows

free range bullshit

A note about different countries

Most people buy meat from a number of countries around the world without even realising it. Since I’m from the UK, a large portion of the research that went into this post has come from UK sources. That being said, I have also included many practices from all around Europe and the US. The UK is one of the best for animal welfare in the world, and the practices are still beyond brutal. All around the world, animals are being tortured and murdered. The methods may vary slightly, but the same basic evils are committed over and over.


It wouldn’t matter if none of these violent practices existed; even if we somehow didn’t have to rape animals and steal their babies; even if we didn’t drive animals insane through endless confinement; even if we didn’t cut off animals’ horns, beaks, tails and testicles. It wouldn’t matter, because it would still be theft, slavery and exploitation. But they do exist.

And it needs to stop.

pro animal abuse

More information about the meat industry

Overviews of meat industry:



A detailed booklet about factory farming from Animal Aid:


In the Ultimate Vegan Guide there is extensive detail about factory farming:


More concise info on factory farming:



This site has information on birds, pigs, cows, sheep, aquatic animals, the free range myth and the why and how of veganism:


This brilliant site has information about factory farming, animal sentience and more…



Video and information links about UK factory farming:


This website exposes the lies of the “humane” movement:


This official site has information about the different animals and how they are used in the industry:


Videos about the meat industry:

Animal Aid secret videos of UK Slaughterhouses:



“Humane” slaughter (US):


Life of a meat chicken:


Video with all aspects of the meat industry:


Undercover footage of a number of different slaughterhouses:


And the two greatest videos available:


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