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Spoiler Alert: 10 Things Animal Exploiters Do Not Want You to Know

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Music legend and animal advocate Paul McCartney has said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian. No one understands this sentiment better than those who profit from animal abuse -- few people can view video footage of animals writhing in pain in vivisection labs, bludgeoned to death for fur or sadistically beaten to perform circus tricks and not be moved to do something about it. For the most part, such footage is obtained secretly, for animal exploiters know that should their abusive practices be exposed, the public will react with understandable horror. Indeed, the recent video footage taken inside the Hallmark/Westland dairy cow slaughterhouse by an investigator for the Humane Society of the United States has disgusted much of the world, and for good reason (see it for yourself at www.hsus.org). 

Though animal abuse is generally well hidden, make no mistake: Behind every plastic-wrapped chicken breast in the supermarket, beneath every animal-circus Big Top, inside every egg carton and lacing every pharmaceutical there is a world of suffering that animal exploiters work tirelessly to guard.  

By exposing the truth of what animal profiteers endeavor to make invisible, we reveal a means to end abuse that is nearly as senseless as it is reprehensible. To that end, following are ten facts animal exploiters hate the public knowing about -- and what you can do about them. 

1. Male chicks in the egg industry are killed shortly after hatching. Because male chickens of the egg industry don’t lay eggs, and since they have not been genetically manipulated for profitable meat production like “broiler” chickens, they are of no economic value to egg producers, including “free range” farmers. Newly hatched chicks are quickly sexed: females will be used as “layers,” most likely trapped in a tiny wire battery cage with five or six other hens, while males are immediately killed. Standard killing methods include maceration (grinding them up alive), gassing them or throwing them into a Dumpster to suffocate or dehydrate. Workers make room for more chicks in the trash by mercilessly stomping down on them, many of whom are still peeping for their mothers. The U.S. egg industry quietly “disposes” of more than 200 million male chicks every year.   

Clearly, the “incredible, edible” egg does not have a sunny side. The good news is humans have no need for eggs. Eggless foods like tofu scramble might sound a little strange at first, but they’re delicious, healthier than eggs and will help save lives. For the hard-boiled truth about eggs, along with advice for cooking without them, visit www.EggIndustry.com. 

2. Cows do not “give” us their milk. Thanks in part to savvy marketing, even many vegetarians regard dairy foods as innocuous. Slick ads tell us milk and cheese come from “happy cows,” and the dairy industry claims that milk “does a body good” (conveniently ignoring the fact that cow’s milk is the number-one cause of food allergies among infants and children, according to the American Gastroenterological Association). What the dairy industry does not mention is the suffering inherent in producing dairy foods. In today’s industrialized farming practices, a cow is strapped into what farmers call a “rape rack,” where she is impregnated. Once the calf is born, however, mother and baby are separated -- a heartrending ordeal in its own right -- so that the mother’s milk can be taken and sold for human use. Female calves are raised on milk replacers, while male calves are sold for meat. Many of these young males are locked into tiny crates, preventing all exercise, and slaughtered a few months later for veal. After several cycles of giving birth and having each baby torn from her, the dairy cow, her body exhausted, begins producing less milk and she’s loaded onto a crowded transport truck for a terrifying journey to the slaughterhouse, having lived only a fraction of her natural lifespan. 

Consumers need not be a part of this cruel scenario. Fortunately, cruelty-free foods like soy ice cream and cheese have drastically improved in recent years, and if you’ve got a jones for latte or breakfast cereal, plant-based milk is delicious and available fortified with calcium and other nutrients. Visit www.MilkSucks.com for more information. 

3. Animal agriculture is a major contributor to global warming. Actually, raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. According to a 2006 report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, farmed animals and the energy used to feed them account for 18 percent of global greenhouse emissions, while transportation accounts for 13.5 percent. This is not surprising, considering the livestock sector now occupies 30 percent of the world’s land, making agribusiness a leading cause of deforestation. Billions of animals raised every year for food generate 37 percent of the world’s methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide -- two powerful greenhouse gases. The methane comes chiefly from cows, who produce it naturally during digestion, but it is also a byproduct of most manures stored for long periods in lagoons or tanks. The USDA estimates that more than 335 million tons of manure are produced annually on farms in the United States alone. That’s about 130 times more manure than is produced by the nation’s entire human population. The biggest inconvenient truth for anyone who cares about this planet is how animal agribusiness is destroying it. 

By consuming animal-based foods, we are ultimately contributing to ecological disaster. The solution here is as clear as it is simple: Adopt a planet-friendly plant-based diet. Check out www.TryVeg.com and www.GoVeg.com to learn how easy it is. 

4. Most of the animals slaughtered for food in the U.S. are not legally protected from cruelty. That sounds axiomatic; after all, slaughtering animals for something so unnecessary is inherently cruel. But even animal exploiters can show concern for an animal’s welfare, which is what Congress had in mind 50 years ago when it enacted the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, prohibiting methods of handling and slaughter that cause pain to animals. Yet “poultry,” which to the UDSA includes chickens, turkeys, ducks and, for some reason, rabbits, are not among the animals protected by the Act. Of the 10 billion animals raised and killed for food in this country, more than nine billion of them are chickens. The HMSA is by no means the gold standard of compassion (it’s much kinder not to raise and kill animals at all), but at least it asserts that animals should be rendered insensible to pain before being killed. Because the HMSA does not explicitly include poultry, slaughterers continue to kill billions of birds annually using such inhumane methods as shackling them upside down, electrically stunning them into paralysis (but not unconsciousness) and sometimes drowning them in tanks of scalding water -- all while countless birds are fully conscious. 

Urge Congress to amend the law, giving poultry the same basic protection given to cows, pigs, sheep and other livestock. Visit https://community.hsus.org/campaign/petition_for_poultry to learn more. 

5. Animals used in circuses are abused to perform tricks. Believe it or not, elephants, bears, chimpanzees and big cats are not natural performers. Indeed, animal “trainers” routinely use extremely cruel devices -- including electric prods, sharpened bullhooks, whips, chains and tight collars -- to induce fear and pain and force wild animals to ride tricycles, balance on balls, jump through fire and execute other stunts for human amusement. Psychological abuse is also key, as elephant “trainers” George Lewis and Byron Fish explain in their book I Loved Rogues: The Life of an Elephant Tramp: “[Training an elephant to lie down is] done by gradually tightening the chain, a few inches at a time, until the elephant is supporting its weight entirely on the front and hind legs that are free. It is very tiring for a bull to hold up its mass in this manner. When the handler sees it weakening, he gives the command, ‘Down! Come on down.’ The command is repeated until the elephant obeys. Just before it gives in, it will show signs of fear and defeat. Its eyes will bulge and its bowels become loose and watery as they are emptied several times. When the elephant finally surrenders and falls over on its side, it knows it is comparatively helpless and that it has lost a psychological battle.” 

Fortunately, animal-free circuses are growing in popularity and offer families plenty of excitement and spectacle -- without the misery. For more about cruelty-free circuses, and what you can do to end animal abuse under the Big Top, visit www.Circuses.com. 

6. Pet-food makers torture and kill animals. Few people would guess that many of the same companies producing commercial pet food -- and promoting dogs and cats as “members of the family” -- keep animals in small cages as test subjects. In fact, Menu Foods, which initiated last year’s massive pet-food recall, confirmed its product caused death by feeding it to animals in laboratories. In another experiment, sponsored by pet-food maker Iams, 18 young Great Danes were killed to study the effect of diet on bone density. PETA’s undercover investigation in one pet-food test lab revealed dogs who had their vocal chords severed so they couldn’t bark and part of their leg muscles hacked out and animals confined in dungeon-like cells, left to suffer without veterinary care. Moreover, Iams purchases animals specifically bred for experiments, thereby supporting the vivisection industry. Iams told PETA they will continue to conduct laboratory tests on animals, despite the fact that these tests are unnecessary and not required by law. 

Although nutrition research for animals is important, this can be accomplished by studying animals who suffer naturally from diseases. It is no more necessary to torture and kill animals to improve pet food than it is to make people suffer while studying the human diet. For more information, including a list of pet-food companies that do not engage in animal testing, visit www.IamsCruelty.com or www.IamsKills.com. 

7. The proper care and use of most animals in U.S. laboratories are not covered by law. In another bow to corporate interests, the USDA excludes mice, rats and birds bred for research from the definition of “animal” under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), thus neatly eliminating from government protection approximately 95 percent of all animals used in laboratories. Enacted in 1966, the AWA provides minimal standards of care and use for animals in laboratories, zoos, circuses and the pet industry (though not pet stores). Even those animals covered under the AWA -- such as dogs, cats and rabbits -- can be denied analgesics, anesthetics and tranquilizers if it is deemed “scientifically necessary” to do so. What this means is that researchers can force-feed chemicals to animals, pour caustic substances into their eyes, conduct repeated surgeries on them, implant wires in their brains, crush their spines, burn them, electrocute them, psychologically torment them and much more, often with impunity and without any painkillers. 

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Mark Hawthorne is the author of two books on animal rights: Bleating Hearts: The Hidden World of Animal Suffering and Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism, both from Changemakers Books. He gave up eating meat after (more...)
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