Every day, some of the most vulnerable females on Earth are confined against their will, denied the freedom to live as they please, sexually assaulted and even forcibly impregnated. As horrific as it sounds, we may be unwittingly funding and supporting this oppression--if we eat meat, eggs and dairy products.
PETA's undercover investigations of factory farms and slaughterhouses have documented time after time that, in addition to the routine cruelty that occurs in these nightmarish facilities, workers often take their issues out on the animals imprisoned there by violently beating them, screaming at them and sexually assaulting them--sometimes in the animals' terrifying last moments.
At a Hormel supplier's farm in Iowa, for example, a supervisor (who was later convicted of livestock abuse) rammed a cane into a pig's vagina and boasted that he had thrust gate rods into the anuses of pigs who frustrated him. At the same facility, another worker, who was also later convicted of livestock abuse, urged PETA's investigator to beat a pig as if she had scared away a "voluptuous little f---ing girl." The employee was also caught on video urging a supervisor to beat pigs and to expose his genitals to get them to move.
PETA documented similar horrific abuse at West Virginia's Aviagen Turkeys, Inc., which bills itself as the "world's leading poultry breeding company." A worker was indicted for cruelty to animals after being caught on video pinning a female turkey to the ground and pretending to rape her. When interviewed by police, he reportedly admitted that he'd done the same thing to dozens of other turkeys. Eventually, the worker was convicted of related acts.
At a Butterball slaughterhouse in Arkansas, a PETA investigator witnessed a worker repeatedly sticking his finger into a turkey's cloaca (vagina). Another worker mimed the rape of a bird whose legs and head he had crammed into the metal shackle that would carry her to her death.
Even under "normal" circumstances, factory farms treat animals--especially females--as nothing more than meat, milk and egg machines. Pig factory farm workers confine boars to tiny carts and parade them in front of sows so that other workers can look at and touch sows' genitals to determine the best time to insert a tube of pig semen into them.
On egg farms, four to 10 hens are shoved into wire "battery" cages that are no bigger than a filing cabinet drawer. The light in the sheds is constantly manipulated in order to maximize egg production, and periodically, for two weeks at a time, the hens' calories are restricted to force their bodies into an extra laying cycle. After two years, "spent" hens are sent to slaughter, where many of them have their throats cut and are dumped into the scalding-hot water of feather-removal tanks while they are completely conscious.
On dairy farms, workers often forcibly restrain female cows so that an insemination instrument can be shoved into their vaginas. Cows are kept nearly constantly pregnant, and their calves are torn away from them within a day of birth so that the milk they produce for their babies can be used for humans instead. When their worn-out bodies are too spent to produce milk (usually decades short of their natural life span), they are sent to slaughter to be turned into cheap hamburger meat, soup or dog or cat food. Their female offspring replace them, and the cruel cycle continues.
The victims of this oppression may not look like us, but just like abused and exploited human women, they feel pain and fear, and they long for the freedom to live their lives as they choose. Those of us who want to end the exploitation of humans should also care about the exploitation of all beings--and do something to stop it. We can work toward a world that is more just and fair for females of all species simply by leaving meat, eggs and dairy products off our plates.
Lindsay Pollard-Post is a research specialist for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.