How Animals in the U.S. are Subjected to Cruelty to Keep Meat on the Table

James R. Coffey By James R. Coffey, 17th Sep 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Activism

While much attention has been focused in recent years to animal rights in the U.S. regarding dog fighting and individual cases of animal abuse, people continue to turn a blind eye to the blantant animal cruelty perpetrated by the meat and poultry industries. And this is largely due to the fact that Americans want meat on their dinner tables and often do not care how it gets there. (This is a gruesome story.)

Evolution of the livestock industry

In the last half of the 20th century, the livestock production industry in the U.S. moved from the small family farm to factory farms–huge warehouses where great numbers of once free-roaming animals were robbed of their freedom and healthy standard of living and put into crowded pens or in tiny cages. Citing the need to cater to an ever-expanding demand for meat for the public at large, the meat producing industry began treating animals as mere objects to be exploited, rather than individual creatures that can suffer much like you and I and deserve to be humanely treated.

Slaughterhouses and chicken farms

With the cruelty that once typified the infamous slaughter-houses of Chicago meeting severe disapproval from the public in the 1980s, meat producers simply started hiding their practices (especially once many prevention of cruelty to animals groups starting keeping a vigilant eye on the meat industry). Now hidden from public view, cattle, pigs, turkeys and chickens have since been subjected to a systematic process by which their lives are controlled from conception to slaughter–existing in the most inhuman and deplorable conditions imaginable. For example: Deciding it is more economically efficient to put greater numbers of birds in each cage, (and accepting lower productivity per bird but greater productivity per cage), chickens are now housed in cages where the space is so limited that they are completely unable to turn around where they stand; remaining in virtually one spot their entire lives. At any point should one appear sick, small in size, or less robust than the others, it is quickly cut from the group, killed, thrown away, and replaced with another. In this unhealthy and stifling environment, chickens often peck out the eyes of their neighbors, pull out their feathers, or cause some other physical harm–too close together to even defend themselves.

Pig farms

Similarly, piglets too spend most of their lives in tiny pens. Killed at birth if they are not of money-making quality, they are weaned from their mothers after only 2-3 weeks (10 weeks short of the natural process) in order to feed them weight-gaining hormones and antibiotic-saturated feed. Because of this altering of the natural process, once crammed into the tiny pens they will occupy until they are fat enough for slaughter, piglets commonly bite the end off the tails of those pigs in front of them due to their craving for their mother’s teat and attention. To avoid this phenomenon, pig farmers often snip off the end of their tails so as not to promote this habit. (This is why so many pigs seen in pictures have a stubby tails.) This leaves the pig with a permanently sensitive tail which causes life-long pain.

Being fed a diet that makes them balloon to incredible sizes very early in life often means that pigs will literally explode–their stomachs ruptured–while young. And rather than treat pigs for the variety of ailments commonly befalling all pigs, they are thrown aside to die or quickly killed and disposed of. No money is spent on common vet treatments if it doesn’t equate with profitability.

Cattle abuse

From the moment a female beef cow is with calf, the offspring is treated like property to be consumed. Long before birth, the calf is injected with hormones (via the mother) to force it to grow abnormally fast. Once born (a process that is timed to the day and if the calf does not come naturally, it is extracted), it is evaluated for financial worth. Those born underweight or in less than perfect heath, are immediately killed (and in most cases ground up and added to the feed of other cattle). On a daily bases, beef cattle are injected with hormones and antibiotics (which are in the product you later consume), kept in tiny confines in which they cannot even turn around, rarely see the light of day, often suffer sores, tumors, bite marks (due to boredom, they chew on each other), and are only allowed to mate as part of a completely orchestrated process. (The growing trend is for artificial insemination only).

Like chickens, pigs and cattle are processed in much the same way: hit in the head with a stun gun, followed by immersion in vats of hot water; (Immersing them in hot water while partially alive makes for a more tender meat). This means that most pigs and cattle are actually scalded to death rather then given the humane death their deserve. ( has videos of pigs squealing and writhing in pain at being scaled to death.)

Turning a blind eye

The meat industry has long argued that even though they cannot afford to make all the humane concessions to the raising of animals-for-meat, at least the end process is humane. But as has been shown in news documentary after documentary, that is far from the truth. Chickens, for example, are given an electric shock just prior to slaughter, followed by the a “bolt gun” which shoots a metal rod into their brains (while they are still alive). Because the animals are often fluttering from the electric shock, the “humane” bolt gun often misses its mark and blows off a portion of the chickens’ head, causing unimaginable pain. Chickens that survive this stage are typically held by the head and smashed against the wall by plant workers, killing or knocking them unconscious. The birds are then dropped into boiling water (often while still alive)–vats typically having fluttering birds struggling in pain. (Turkeys are slaughtered in much the same way; think of the millions killed by this method each Thanksgiving!) Chickens that are not killed by the stun gun and bolt gun, are often left on the factory floor with crushed skulls, broken wings, or open wounds for hours or days until they die. The fast pace of the chicken-farming industry does not allow time for stragglers to be dealt with humanely (so they say). As seen in a 2009 NBC News behind-the-scenes documentary, chickens are typically thrown, kicked, and otherwise mutilated by workers in most plants. Chickens who are stuck in their cages due to getting caught between the bars, usually end up with their heads ripped off.

The conditions described above are not the exception, but the norm. Because of the continued and increasing demand for meat among Americans, the meat-producing industry is willing to risk fines, penalties, and other sanctions because of the huge profit margin the industry enjoys. As history has shown, American households are willing to pay whatever it costs to have meat on the table; a cost that translates to ongoing and unchecked cruelty to animals. While many consider the possibility of becoming a vegetarian no possibility at all, a change of attitude is needed if we are to treat these creatures in a fair and human manner. Americans will spend their last penny and ounce of strength to protect and preserve the lives of their cats or dogs, but ignore the sadistic abuse to all other animals. How can this be right?

(images via


Animal Abuse, Animal Cruelty, Animal Rights, Meat Industry, Pig Farms, Poultry, Thanksgiving

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author avatar James R. Coffey
I am founder and head writer for James R. Coffey Writing Services and Resource Center @ where I offer a variety of writing and research services including article composition, ghostwriting, editing...(more)

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author avatar Mark Gordon Brown
17th Sep 2010 (#)

Its actually worse than you have posted, there are NOT humane slaughter laws in regards to poultry in the USA at this time.

The laws in regards to the other animals actually show how horrific slaughtering is - as the laws reference what is to be done when animals are not stunned and are flailing around on the slaughter floor -

you will note the animals ARE only STUNNED - not killed when they are chopped up.

anyhow pretty sure farmers can not legally feed cattle to cattle as the result of the BSE problems.

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author avatar Jenny Heart
17th Sep 2010 (#)

Very thought provoking information.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
17th Sep 2010 (#)

Happy to spread the word; sorry that I have to.

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author avatar siboiss
17th Sep 2010 (#)

Almost wants to make you be a vegetarian.

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author avatar James R. Coffey
17th Sep 2010 (#)

Well, I actually discovered this cruelty 35 years ago. I've been a vegetarian ever since. Just couldn't face myself in the mirror.

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author avatar Jerry Walch
18th Sep 2010 (#)

Ditto Mark Gordon Brown's comments. Things were a great deal different when I was a boy growing up on three working farms.

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author avatar pupajz
21st Sep 2010 (#)

Good reading, excellent article, just thanks

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