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Posts Tagged ‘factory farms

On Mother’s Day, don’t forget animal moms

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By Jeff Mackey

If you’re like most people, you’ll no doubt treat your mom to brunch or dinner on Mother’s Day. But this year, while you are saluting your own mom, please honor all mothers by celebrating with a meal that doesn’t include meat, eggs or dairy products. Some of the best mothers in the world are found in the animal kingdom, yet few animal moms on today’s farms are ever allowed to nurture their babies as nature intended.

For mother cows and their calves, for example, it’s love at first sight. The first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Their attachment and affection for each other is so deep that both mother and baby become extremely distressed if they are forced apart. Mother cows bellow in vain and their calves wail inconsolably; they cry out for each other for days. Some mother cows have even been known to escape their enclosures and travel for miles searching for their babies.

Sadly, such pitiful scenes are common on dairy farms. Mother cows are allowed to bond with and care for their calves for only a few hours before the babies are torn away so that we can have the milk that was meant to nourish them. Wide-eyed and terrified, the calves are desperate to suckle but instead are given a bottle of milk “replacer” and a short life in a veal crate (for males) or a life just like that of their sad mothers (for females). Meanwhile, the mother cows will soon be impregnated again, only to endure the same heartbreak nine months later.

If allowed, mother hens would turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to the chicks inside, who chirp back from within their shells. Once hatched, the chicks are shielded from predators by their protective mother’s wings.

Yet 90 percent of our eggs come from hens who are treated like virtual laying machines. They are crammed together in wire cages where they never see the light of day and don’t even have enough room to spread a single wing. The stench of ammonia and feces hangs heavy in the air. Female chicks will follow their mothers into a lifetime of intensive confinement and constant egg production. Male chicks are worthless to the egg industry and will be tossed into trash bags to suffocate or thrown into high-speed grinders while they are still alive.

Pigs are also devoted mothers, who, if allowed, would spend days preparing a nest of leaves or straw before giving birth. Newborn piglets learn to run to their mother’s voice, and mother pigs “sing” to their young while nursing. The piglets would stay with their doting mothers for about 15 weeks.

On factory farms, however, most sows are confined to metal crates in which they are unable to lie down comfortably, much less turn around to nurse their piglets naturally. Many sows develop raw, painful sores from the bars.

The piglets are torn from their distraught mothers after just a few weeks—months before weaning would naturally occur—and spend their entire lives in extremely crowded pens on slabs of filthy concrete. The mother pigs are impregnated again and again until their bodies wear out and they are sent to slaughter.

As parents, we are compelled to love, shelter, feed, nurture and protect our children from harm. Why, then, do we ignore the very same innate needs in animals? Every time we pour milk on our cereal or fry up an egg, we are paying a farmer to tear a mother animal away from her beloved baby. This Mother’s Day, please remember that all mothers love their babies, and enjoy the day with a humane vegan meal.

Jeff Mackey is a blog writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 8, 2013 at 5:44 pm

This Thanksgiving, meet a turkey named Fern

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By Jennifer O’Connor

Some years ago, when I interned at a sanctuary for farmed animals, I’d sit in the barn, and a turkey named Fern would back up into my lap and demand to be petted. When I’d stop, she’d look over her shoulder imploringly as if to say, “More, please.” I always think of Fern this time of year, when supermarket bins are filled with the frozen bodies of her relatives. If people got a chance to know these interesting and personable birds, I believe they’d balk at baking and eating their wings, legs and breasts.

Turkeys on farmed-animal sanctuaries quickly prove themselves to be intelligent and industrious, as well as outgoing at times and shy at others, much like human children. As I sat in the barn watching them, the birds’ distinct personalities were immediately clear.  Some, bold and hilarious, would walk right up and look me square in the eye as if to challenge my right to invade their space. Others, like a coy debutante, would peer over their shoulders, aloof but not wanting to miss anything exciting. Many, like Fern, would actually purr when being petted.

In a game of “one does not belong,” one wild turkey integrated herself into the rescued flock. Her plumage was iridescent and she stood out like a beacon. Her robust health contrasted painfully with the crippled legs, mutilated beaks and unnatural white feathers of those around her who had been saved from slaughter. Even though the rescued birds were safe and tenderly cared for, their hideous past had left them physically and emotionally scarred for life.

Like other birds, turkeys thrive in fresh air and sunshine and spend most of their time taking dust baths and scratching in the dirt hunting for tasty treats. They “gossip” with friends and shelter their babies under outstretched wings. On factory farms, turkeys are crammed by the tens of thousands into massive warehouses where there is barely enough room to take a breath much less move around.

Factory-farmed birds live in a thick stew of their own waste. Part of their beak and the ends of their toes are painfully cut off to keep them from injuring one another in the extremely crowded and stressful conditions. Some develop congestive heart disease, enlarged livers and other illnesses. Their unnatural forced weight gain often cripples them since their legs cannot support their oversized bodies.

In slaughterhouses, terrified turkeys are hung upside-down and their heads are dragged through an electrified “stunning tank,” which immobilizes but does not kill them. Many turkeys flail and fight to save themselves and manage to dodge the tank, so they are still conscious when their throats are cut. And if the knife wielder fails to cut the birds’ throats properly—and given the thousands going down the line every hour, that’s exceedingly common—the animals end up getting scalded to death in the tanks of boiling water used to remove their feathers.

This Thanksgiving, please take a moment to reflect: Can the fleeting pleasure of a meal justify the immeasurable pain and suffering of a bird who didn’t want to die?  Give turkeys like Fern a reason to purr. Stuff yourself with mashed potatoes, cranberries, pumpkin pie and other goodies and leave the birds alone.

Jennifer O’Connor is a staff writer with the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

November 23, 2011 at 9:33 pm