Before the production of animals became a corporate industrial process, the ethic of animal husbandry held that good care of animals was wholly consistent with the interests of the farmer. Most animals were raised on diversified farms that produced both crops and several species of animals, which generally had access to the pasture or barnyard whenever weather conditions permitted. For the most part, husbandry was considered the responsibility of the producer. Now that has all changed. In fact, conditions have gotten so bad that according to one poll conducted by Oklahoma State University and the American Farm Bureau Federation found that 75% of the public would like to see government mandates for basic animal welfare measures (http://asp.okstate.edu./baileynorwood/aw2/aw2main.htm).
Chickens are now raised to reach slaughter weight so quickly that their organs frequently fail, unable to keep up.1 Each gets about fifty-nine square inches in massive sheds which contain such high levels of ammonia from waste that their air, food and water become toxic. CAFOs raise turkeys under similar conditions.2
Laying hens live in battery cages which allow them no more space than a sheet of paper.3 They frequently grow into or become entangled in the wires of their cages, dying slowly of thirst.
Breeding hogs endure most of their life in gestation crates too small to allow them to turn around.4 Pigs are more intelligent, intellectually and emotionally, than dogs. They’re also equally social.
Sick and diseased piglets are killed by slamming them against a wall. The National Pork Board states that blunt trauma is an acceptable means of euthanizing a pig under twelve pounds.5
Gases build up in hog CAFO buildings to such a high level that if a building loses power and the huge exhaust fans shut down the hogs are asphyxiated within minutes.
Workers in such animal prisons become desensitized to the fact that they are dealing with living creatures. CAFO workers have beat hogs with metal rods, kicked them, and ripped across their backs with clothespins. They sprayed paint up pigs’ nostrils and in their eyes and slammed piglets onto the concrete floor. Other far more cruel and disgusting actions have been observed in hog CAFOs. In some cases the workers even bragged about hurting the hogs.6
Hogs raised in CAFOs never see the outdoors during their entire brief lives. Piglets are shunted from the farrowing pens where they are kept with their mothers for their first 3-5 weeks oflife. They are then moved to a nursery facility where they are kept for 4-6 weeks. Finally they are moved to a grow-finish building where they stay until they die or are shipped out for slaughter at about 6 months.
It is not uncommon for pigs to die in CAFOs before they are ready to be sent for slaughter. As recently as April 22, 2009 at a CAFO in Littleton, Illinois 11,000 pigs perished in a fire which destroyed two CAFO buildings. 2,500 to 3,000 sows and 9,000 piglets died in the fire. As was quoted in a news article about the fire, “You could hear a lot of squealing.”7
Cattle raised in feed-lots are fattened up on grain, even though their digestive systems are designed to eat grass. The cattle put on weight faster, however, they often suffer digestive system abscesses.8
Animals raised in CAFOs are unable to exhibit natural behaviors. In addition, the animals are often physically altered, without pain relief, or restrained to prevent injury to themselves or CAFO workers. For example, one natural behavior of hogs is rooting. This is impossible for them to do in the CAFO buildings where they live on grates and concrete.9
Because the animals are kept in large quantities in close confinement, disease is a huge problem in CAFOs, often requiring extensive “preventative” use of antibiotics. Exposing animals to such diseases is just another form of cruelty.10
Streptococcus suis (S. suis) is a disease often found in so-called well-managed herds. It causes meningitis (brain infection), arthritis (joint infection), septicemia (blood infection), endocarditis (infection inside heart, often on the valves), pericarditis (infection outside heart) and rhinitis (nose lining infection). This is a zoonotic disease, i.e. it can be transmitted from hogs to humans. In humans, S. suis type 2 can cause meningitis, which may result in permanent hearing loss, meningitis, septicaemia, endocarditis and death.11
PRRS (“Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome”) is a major disease issue in hog CAFOS. PRRS allows other pre-existing pathogens to attack the animals. The list of secondary pathogens that can be associated with PRRS problems is extensive: Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, Salmonella choleraesuis, Streptococcus suis, Haemophilus parasuis, porcine respiratory Corona virus, Pneumocystis carynii, etc.12
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been found to be transmittable from hogs to humans. This infection can be fatal.13
Many of these diseases and syndromes are linked to the confined conditions in which the animals are raised. The large numbers of animals raised within a limited area allows for rapid evolution and spread of harmful diseases.
1 VivaUSA, Chicken/Broiler Industry Media Briefing.
2 Fact Sheet: Battery Cages. http://www.animalvisuals.org/empathy/virtualbatterycage December 2008.
4 A Report of the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production. Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America. 33 (2008).
5 Death on a Factory Farm. Humane Farming Association (2009) – filmed at a Ohio CAFO; National Pork Board – http://www.aasv.org/aasv/documents/SwineEuthanasia.pdf (2008).
6 http://getactive.peta.org/campaign/iowa_pigfarm_abuse (2008); Undercover video shows workers abusing pigs at a CAFO run by supplier to Hormel. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26757660/ (September 17, 2008).
7 Estimated 11K pigs killed in hog confinement fire. WGEM (April 22, 2009) http://www.wgem.com/global/story.asp?s=10233491&ClientType=Printable.
8 Pew Commission Report at 33.
10 Karen Florini. Resistant Bugs and Antibiotic Drugs: State And County Estimates Of Antibiotics In Agricultural Feed And Animal Waste. Environmental Defense. 1, (June 2005).
11 Monte B. McCaw. Streptococcus Suis: Nagging Nursery Nightmare. Proceedings of the North Carolina Health Hogs Seminar; M. Gottschalk. Infections caused by Streptococcus suis: Studies on virulence factors of S. suis serotype 2. Canadian Research Network on Bacterial Pathogens of Swine. (2005); W.E. Morgan Morrow. Protecting Yourself From Pig Diseases. Proceedings of the North Carolina Health Hogs Seminar; J.J. Staats. Streptococcus Suis: Past And Present. 21 Veterinary Research Communications 381-407 (1997).
12 Robert Desrosiers. Secondary Pathogens Associated With PRRS. Proceedings of the North Carolina Health Hogs Seminar.
13 Pew Commission Report. at 21; Mary J. Gilchrist. The Potential Role of Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations in Infectious Disease Epidemics and Antibiotic Resistance. 115 No. 2. Environmental Health Perspectives 331-316 (February 2007).