Since the 1980's a series of mergers and acquisitions has resulted in concentrating over 80% of the 35 million beef cattle slaughtered annually in the U.S. into the hands of four huge corporations. Many beef cattle are born and/or live on the range, foraging and fending for themselves, for months or even years. They are not adequately protected against inclement weather, and they may die of dehydration or freeze to death. Injured, ill, or otherwise ailing animals do not receive necessary veterinary attention. One common malady afflicting beef cattle is called "cancer eye". Left untreated, the cancer eats away at the animal's eye and face, eventually producing a crater in the side of the animal's head.
Accustomed to roaming unimpeded and unconstrained, range cattle are frightened and confused when humans come to round them up. Injuries often result as terrified animals are corralled and packed onto cattle trucks. Many will experience additional transportation and handling stress at stockyards and auctions where they are goaded through a series of walkways and holding pens and sold to the highest bidder. From the auction, older cattle may be taken directly to slaughter, or they may be taken to a feedlot. Younger animals, and breeding age cows, may go back to the range.
Ranchers still identify cattle the same way they have since pioneer days, with hot iron brands. Needless to say, this practice is extremely traumatic and painful, and the animals bellow loudly as ranchers' brands are burned into their skin. Beef cattle are also subjected to waddling, another type of identification marking. This painful procedure entails cutting chunks out of the hide which hangs under the animals' necks. Waddling marks are supposed to be large enough so that ranchers can identify their cattle from a distance.
Most beef cattle spend the last few months of their lives at feedlots, crowded by the thousand into dusty, manure laden holding pens. The air is thick with harmful bacteria and particulate matter, and the animals are at a constant risk for respiratory disease. Feedlot cattle are routinely implanted with growth promoting hormones, and they are fed unnaturally rich diets designed to fatten them quickly and profitably. Because cattle are biologically suited to eat a grass-based, high fiber diet, their concentrated feedlot rations contribute to metabolic disorders. Cattle may be transported several times during their lifetimes, and they may travel hundreds or even thousands of miles during a single trip. Long journeys are very stressful and contribute to disease. The Drover's Journal reports, "Shipping fever costs livestock producers as much as $1 billion a year."
Young cattle are commonly taken to areas with cheap grazing land, to take advantage of this inexpensive feed source. Upon reaching maturity, they are trucked to a feedlot to be fattened and readied for slaughter. Eventually, all of them will end up at the slaughterhouse. At a standard beef slaughterhouse, 250 cattle are killed every hour. As the assembly line speeds up, workers are rushed, and it becomes increasingly difficult to treat animals with any semblance of humaneness. A Meat & Poultry article states, "Good handling is extremely difficult if equipment is 'maxed out' all the time. It is impossible to have a good attitude toward cattle if employees have to constantly overexert themselves, and thus transfer all that stress right down to the animals, just to keep up with the line."
Prior to being hung up by their back legs and bled to death, cattle are supposed to be rendered unconscious. This 'stunning' is usually done by a mechanical blow to the head. The procedure is terribly imprecise, and inadequate stunning is inevitable. The result of poor stunning is conscious animals hanging upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker makes another attempt to render them unconscious. Eventually, the animals will be "stuck" in the throat with a knife, and blood will gush from their bodies whether or not they are unconscious.

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Traditional small dairies, located primarily in the northeast and midwest are going out of business. They are being replaced by intensive 'dry lot' dairies which are typically located in the southwest. Regardless of where they live, however, all dairy cows must give birth in order to begin producing milk.
Today, dairy cows are forced to have a calf every year. Like human beings, the cow's gestation period is nine months long, and so giving birth every twelve months is physically demanding. The cows are also forced to give milk during seven months of their nine month pregnancy. In a healthy environment, cows would live in excess of 25 years, but on modern dairies, they are slaughtered after just 3 or 4 years and then used for ground beef. With genetic manipulation and intensive production technologies, it is common for modern dairy cows to produce 100 pounds of milk a day -- ten times more than they would produce in nature.
The cows' bodies are under constant stress and they are at risk for numerous health problems.
Approximately half of the country's dairy cows suffer from mastitis, a bacterial infection of their udders. This is such a common and costly ailment that a dairy industry group, the National Mastitis Council, was formed specifically to combat the disease. Other diseases, such as Bovine Leukemia Virus, Bovine
Immunodeficiency Virus, and Johne's disease (whose human counterpart is Crohn's disease), are also rampant on modern dairies, but they are difficult to detect or have a long incubation period, and they commonly go unnoticed.
A cow eating a normal grass diet could not produce milk at the abnormal levels
expected on modern dairies, and so today's dairy cows must be given high energy feeds. The unnaturally rich diet causes metabolic disorders including ketosis, which can be fatal, and laminitis, which causes lameness. Another dairy industry disease caused by intensive milk production is "Milk Fever". This ailment is caused by calcium deficiency, and it occurs when milk secretion uses calcium faster than it can be replenished in the blood. Although the dairy industry is familiar with the cows' health problems and suffering associated with intensive milk production, it continues to subject cows to even worse abuses in the name of increased profit. Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH), a synthetic hormone, is now being injected into cows to get them to produce even more milk.
Besides adversely affecting the cows' health, BGH also increases birth defects in their calves. Calves born to dairy cows are separated from their mothers immediately after birth. Half of the dairy calves born are female, and they are raised to replace older dairy cows in the milking herd. The other half of the calves are male, and because they will never produce milk, they are raised and slaughtered for meat. Most are killed for beef, but about one million are used for veal in the U.S. each year.
The veal industry was created as a by-product of the dairy industry to take advantage of an abundant supply of unwanted male calves. Veal calves live for up to sixteen weeks in small wooden crates where they cannot turn around, stretch their legs, or even lie down comfortably. The calves are fed a liquid milk substitute which is deficient in iron and fiber and designed to make the animals anemic. It is this anemia which results in the light colored flesh which is prized as veal. In addition to this high priced veal, some calves are killed at just a few days old to be sold as low grade 'bob' veal for products like frozen TV dinners.

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Approximately 300 million egg laying hens in the U.S. are confined in battery cages -- small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows in huge warehouses. The USDA recommends giving each hen four inches of 'feeder space', which means the agency would advise packing 4 hens in a cage just 16 inches wide. The birds cannot stretch their wings or legs, and they cannot fulfill, normal behavioral patterns or social needs. Constantly rubbing against the wire cages, they suffer, from severe feather loss, and their bodies are covered with bruises and abrasions. Practically all laying hens have part of their beaks cut off in order to reduce injuries resulting from excessive pecking, an aberrant behavior which occurs when the confined hens are bored and frustrated. Debeaking is a painful procedure which involves cutting through bone, cartilage, and soft tissue.
Laying more than 250 eggs per year each, laying hens' bodies are severely taxed. They suffer from "fatty liver syndrome" when their liver cells, which work overtime to produce the fat and protein for egg yolks, accumulate extra fat. They also suffer from what the industry calls 'cage layer fatgue', and many die of egg bound when their bodies are too weak to pass another egg. Osteporosis is another common ailment afflicting egg laying hens as the birds to lose more calcium to form egg shells than they can assimilate from their diets. One industry journal (Feedstuffs) explains, "...the laying hen at peak eggshell cannot absorb enough calcium from her diet...". While another (Lancaster Farming) states, "... a hen will use a quantity of calcium for yearly egg production that is greater than her entire skeleton by 30-fold or more". Inadequate calcium contrbutes to broken bones, paralysis, and death.
After one year in egg production, the birds, are classified as 'spent hens', and sent off to slaughter. They usually end up in soups, pot pies, or similar low grade chicken meat products where their bodies can be shredded to hide the bruises from consumers. The hens' brittle, calcium-depleted bones often shatter during handling and/or at the slaughterhouse. With a growing supply of broiler chickens keeping slaughterhouses busy, egg producers have had to find new ways to dispose of spent hens. One entrepreneur has developed the Jet-Pro system to turn spent hens into animal feed. It is described in Feedstuffs, "Company trucks would enter layer operations, pick up the birds, and grind them up, on site, in a portable grinder... it (the ground up hens) would go to Jet-Pro's new extruder-texturizer, the 'Pellet Pro'". In some cases, especially if the cost of replacement hens is high, the hens may be force molted. This process involves starving the hens for up to 18 days, keeping them in the dark, and denying them water to shock their bodies into another egg laying cycle. The birds may lose more than 25% of their body weight during the molt, and it is common for between 5% and 10% to die.
For every egg laying hen confined in a battery cage, there is a male chick who was killed at the hatchery. Because egg laying chicken breeds have been selected exclusively for maximum egg producton, they don't grow fast enough or large enough to be raised profitably for meat. Therefore, male chicks of egg laying breeds are of no economic value. They are literally discarded on the day they hatch - usually by the least expensive and most convenient means available. They may be thrown in trash cans where they are suffocated or crushed under the weight of others. A common method used to dispose of unwanted male chicks is grinding them up alive. This method can result in unspeakable horrors as a research scientist described, "Even after twenty seconds, there were only partly damaged animals with whole skulls". In other words, fully conscious chicks were partially ground up. Eyewitness accounts at commercial hatcheries indicate similar horrors with chicks being slowly dismembered on augers carrying them towards a trash bin or manure spreader.

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With a growing number of consumers switching from red meat to poultry, the chicken and turkey industries are booming. In addition to selling a growing quantity of poultry meat to consumers in the U.S., poultry companies are also benefitting from expanding markets around the world.
Record numbers of chickens and turkeys are being raised and killed for meat in the U.S. every year. Nearly ten billion chickens, and half a billion turkeys, are being hatched in the U.S. every year. These birds are typically crowded by the thousand into huge factory-like warehouses where they can barely move. Chickens are given less than half a square foot of space per bird while turkeys are each given less than three square feet. Both chickens and turkeys have the end of their beaks cut off, and turkeys also have their toes clipped. All of these mutilations are performed without anaesthesia, and they are done in order to reduce injuries which result when stressed birds are driven to fighting.
Today's meat chickens have been genetically altered to grow twice as fast, and twice as large as their ancestors. Pushed beyond their biological limits, hundreds of millions of chickens die every year before reaching slaughter weight at 6 weeks of age. An industry journal explains "broilers [chickens] now grow so rapidly that the heart and lungs are not developed well enough to support the remainder of the body, resulting in congestive heart failure and tremendous death losses." Modern meat type chickens also experience crippling leg disorders, as their legs are not capable of supporting their abnormally heavy bodies. Confined in unhealthy factory farms, the birds also succumb to heat prostration, infectious disease, and cancer.
Like meat type chickens, commercial turkeys also suffer from genetic manipulation. In addition to having been altered to grow fast and large, commercial turkeys have been anatomically manipulated to have large breasts to meet consumer demand for breast meat. As a result, turkeys cannot mount and reproduce naturally, and so their sole means of reproduction is artificial insemination. Like meat chickens, turkeys are susceptible to heart disease, and their legs have difficulty supporting their overweight bodies. An industry journal laments "...turkeys have been bred to grow faster and heavier but their skeletons haven't kept pace, which causes 'cowboy legs'. Commonly, the turkeys have problems standing and fall and are trampled on or seek refuge under feeders, leading to bruises and downgradings as well as culled or killed birds."
Chickens and turkeys are taken to the slaughterhouse in crates stacked on the back of trucks. The birds are either pulled from the crates, or the crates are lifted off the truck, often with a crane or forklift, and then the birds are dumped onto a conveyor belt. As the birds are unloaded, some fall onto the ground instead of landing on the assemblyline conveyor belt. Slaughterhouse workers intent upon 'processing' thousands of birds every hour, don't have the time nor the inclination to pick up individuals who fall through the cracks. Sometimes the birds die after being crushed by machinery or vehicles operating near the unloading area, while in other cases, they may die of starvation or exposure after days without receiving their basic needs.
Once inside the slaughterhouse, fully conscious birds are hung by their feet from metal shackles on a moving rail. The first station on most poultry slaughterhouse assemblylines is the stunning tank, where the birds' heads are submerged in an electrified bath of water. Although poultry is specifically excluded from the Humane Slaughter Act which requires stunning, the practice is common because it immobilizes the birds and expedites assemblyline killing.
Stunning procedures are not monitored, and they are often inadequate. Poultry slaughterhouses commonly set the electrical current lower than what is required to render the birds unconscious because of concerns that too much electricity would damage the carcass and diminish its value. The result is that birds are immobilized but are still capable of feeling pain, or they emerge from the stunning tank still conscious. After passing through the stunning tank, the birds' throats are slashed, usually by a mechanical blade, and blood begins rushing out of their bodies. Inevitably, the blade misses some birds who then proceed to the next station on the assembly line, the scalding tank. Here they are submerged in boiling hot water. Birds missed by the killing blade are boiled alive. This occurs so commonly, affecting millions of birds every year, that the industry has a term for these birds. They are called "redskins".

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