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Factory Farming FAQ

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Although factory farming involves many cruel practices, it is not just those practices that are objectionable. The very use of animals and animal products for food is antithetical to animal rights.

1. What is Factory Farming?

Battery cages
Factory farming is the modern practice of raising animals for food in extreme confinement, in order to maximize profits. In addition to intense confinement, abuses usually associated with factory farming include massive doses of hormones and antibiotics, battery cages, debeaking, tail docking, gestation crates, and veal crates. The animals spend their entire lives in these miserable conditions until they are slaughtered. Their suffering is unimaginable. (article continues below)

At left: Egg-laying hens in battery cages. Photo courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.

2. Why Would Factory Farmers Be Cruel to the Animals?

The factory farmers are not trying to be cruel. They are trying to maximize profits, with no regard for the suffering of the animals.

3. Why Would They Let Animals Suffer?

Factory farms do not care about individual animals. Some animals will die as a result of debeaking, tail docking, disease and intensive confinement, but the operation is still profitable overall.

4. Why do Factory Farms Use Hormones and Antibiotics?

Hormones cause the animals to grow faster, produce more milk and produce more eggs, which leads to higher profits. Large numbers of animals living in intense confinement mean that disease could spread like wildfire. Animals also fight and suffer from cuts and abrasions from their cages, so all the animals are treated with antibiotics to minimize losses from infections and the spread of diseases. Also, small, daily doses of certain antibiotics cause weight gain. This means that the animals are over-medicated, which causes bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics. Both the antibiotics and the resistant bacteria reach the consumer in the meat.

5. What are Debeaking and Tail Docking?

When confined intensively, both human and non-human animals fight more than usual. Debeaking a chicken entails cutting the bird's beak off, without anesthesia. The chickens' beaks are inserted one by one into a machine that looks like a guillotine that chops the front part of their beaks off. The procedure is so painful, some chickens stop eating and die of starvation. Pigs have their tails docked, or cut short, to prevent the pigs from biting each other’s tails off. The tail is an extension of the animal’s spine, but tail docking is done without anesthesia. Both practices are very painful and cruel.

6. What are Battery Cages?

Egg laying hens are crowded into battery cages to maximize profits, and live their entire lives never being able to spread their wings. Battery cages typically measure 18 by 20 inches, with five to eleven birds crowded into a single cage. A single bird has a wingspan of 32 inches. Cages are stacked in rows on top of each other, so that hundreds of thousands of birds can be housed in a single building. The wire floors are sloped so that the eggs roll out of the cages. Because feeding and watering is sometimes automated, human oversight and contact are minimal. Birds fall out of cages, get stuck between cages, or get their heads or limbs stuck between the bars of their cages, and die because they cannot access food and water.

7. What are Gestation Crates?

A breeding sow spends her entire life confined in a crate made of steel bars where she cannot turn around or stretch her limbs when she lies down. The floor of the crate is slatted, but she still ends up standing and sitting in her and her piglets' own filth. She has litter after litter of baby pigs until she is considered spent, and then sent off to slaughter. Confined sows exhibit neurotic behaviors such as chewing on the bars of the crate and rocking back and forth.

8. What are Veal Crates?

Male dairy calves are chained and confined in veal crates that do not allow them to move or turn around. They are taken from their mothers at birth because they are not useful for milk production. Instead of their mothers’ milk, they are fed a synthetic formula designed to keep their flesh pale and anemic, as desired by many consumers.

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