The traditional view of farming is green fields full of grazing animals, or animals lying in straw in barns, with hens scratching around in the farmyard. Sadly this picture is far removed from the reality of life on the modern farm. The vast majority of farm animals never see the daylight or feel the sun on their backs. Millions of animals spend their entire lives in cages, stalls or huge, windowless sheds where they can barely move. The cramped conditions in which thousands of animals can be kept in one building is known as 'factory farming'.
What is Factory Farming?
The term 'factory farming' is used to describe very intensive forms of farming where the animals are kept in cramped conditions where they are unable to carry out their natural behaviours. The animals are treated as little more than production machines - hence the term 'factory farming'. Laying hens, broiler chickens, pigs (breeding sow and fattening pigs), dairy cattle, grain feed beef cattle and even fish, are usually kept in 'factory farm' conditions.
How are most pigs kept?
Some breeding sows are still kept in confined stalls during their 16-week pregnancy. The stalls do not allow the sow to turn around. The farrowing crate is where the majority of sows will give birth. The crate is narrower than the sow stall and this makes it difficult for the sow to lie down quickly. The sow is unable to build a nest for her piglets or turn around. Young pigs are fattened in crowded conditions, often in semi-darkness with very little opportunity for movement or play.
How are laying hens kept?
Approximately 80% of egg production in Australia comes from laying hens that are kept in battery cage systems for their entire lives. The cages are so small that they cannot even stretch their wings and are unable to perform natural behaviours such as scratching the ground, perching, dust bathing and nesting. To add, a lack of exercise couples with the intensive production of eggs results in hens suffering from brittle bones and related injuries. Not to mention, the cruel practice of de-beaking only to prevent stressed hens from pecking each other in crowded environments.
HSI India have had success working towards banning battery cages for egg-laying hens. Read more on this story here.
What about chickens reared for meat?
Industry figures show that Australia brought
close to 470 million meat birds (broiler chickens) to market last year. Although these birds are not kept in cages
they are still reared in very crowded conditions. Tens of thousands of birds
are crammed into windowless sheds where they are forced to grow at twice their
natural rate. As a result, many will suffer bone deformities and lameness
before being slaughtered at just six weeks old.
Are dairy cows kept intensively?
Yes. The modern dairy cow is being pushed to breaking point to produce ever more milk. Dairy cattle frequently suffer from painful mastitis (an inflammation of the udder) and lameness. In order to produce milk, the cows have to give birth to calves. The male calves are transported to slaughter within weeks of birth or reared on a special diet to produce milk fed veal for the restaurant trade. Many cows are worn out by the age of five or six years.
How are fish factory farmed?
Salmon and trout are now also farmed in cages or pens, where they are crowded together. The cages are suspended in coastal waters. These conditions are totally unnatural and often lead to the fish becoming stressed or diseased.
How do animals suffer on factory farms?
Animals suffer in a variety of ways on factory farms. Theses include:-
- Frustration of natural ('normal') behaviour, eg. hens being unable to perch, dustbathe or make a nest.
- Being deprived of social contact/behaviour, eg. isolation of sows in the farrowing crate.
- Overcrowded conditions, eg. broiler chickens are crammed together in huge sheds and battery hens in cages.
- Physical discomfort and pain, eg. from standing on concrete or wire mesh.
- Pushing animals to their physical limits, eg. broiler chickens being forced to grow so quickly they suffer leg problems and dairy cattle being forced to produce large quantities of milk and being worn out in just a few years.
What You Can Do
Your concerns about
the way animals are reared on ‘factory farms’;
Ask what he/she is doing to improve conditions for farm animals
and to support measures to improve conditions for farm animals; and
Ask them to support measures to improve farm animal welfare.
You can also try to avoid meat and dairy produce resulting from factory farmed animals. Look out for welfare friendly products, especially organic and free-range. You might like to try alternatives to meat and dairy products. For more information on free range certified products, see our Humane Choice label.
And if you want to do more, help us to help farm animals.
Click here to visit our Latest News page on Farm Animal Welfare.
Click here to visit our Farm Animal Welfare Home Page.
Click here to learn more about the Live Export Trade and for Live Export News Stories.
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