So why be Vegan? I can tell you my personal story and then give you some facts, but ultimately it’s up to you to make the decision whether or not to totally give up animal products.
I became a Vegan in the summer of 2005. I had been a Vegetarian for 3 years at that point and was already leaning into become a Vegan. I personally don’t believe animals should be used and taken advantage of for human use. One could argue the point that animals aren’t being killed to create egg and dairy products, but that is far from the truth. The end product you are eating isn’t the dead animal (like meat is), but the life that these animals live is one filled with torture and despair and eventually (and most likely) an early death. I can tell you that after 6 years of being Vegan, health-wise, I feel amazing. For me though the greatest gain has been how amazing I feel spiritually and emotionally. Knowing that just by making simple choices and giving up a few things in my life and diet is saving hundreds of animals a year is a better feeling than anything I could ever ask for.
Besides giving up Dairy, Eggs, and Honey (not to mention all the other little ingredients that I’ve discovered are animal derived) I also gave up wearing animal products (leather, fur, wool, etc) and I also stopped using products that contained animal ingredients or that were tested on animals. To me, it’s been just as important as giving up eating animal products. The lives of cows produced for leather is just as worse as those produced for meat. Also, you never know where your leather is coming from (the lives of cows produced for leather in India is atrocious). Also, the lives of sheep used for wool is so gruesome (look up mulesing)!
But that’s my story, let me give you some facts!
On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy, windowless sheds and confined to wire cages, gestation crates, barren dirt lots, and other cruel confinement systems. These animals will never raise their families, root around in the soil, build nests, or do anything that is natural and important to them. Most won’t even feel the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter. The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories.
The factory farming industry strives to maximize output while minimizing costs—always at the animals’ expense. The giant corporations that run most factory farms have found that they can make more money by cramming animals into tiny spaces, even though many of the animals get sick and some die. The industry journal National Hog Farmerexplains, “Crowding pigs pays,” and egg-industry expert Bernard Rollins writes that “chickens are cheap; cages are expensive.”
Dairy and Veal Calves
Cows produce milk for the same reason that humans do: to nourish their young. In order to force the animals to continue giving milk, factory farm operators typically impregnate them using artificial insemination every year. Calves are generally taken from their mothers within a day of being born—males are destined for veal crates or barren lots where they will be fattened for beef, and females are sentenced to the same fate as their mothers.
After their calves are taken from them, mother cows are hooked up, several times a day, to milking machines. Using genetic manipulation, powerful hormones, and intensive milking, factory farmers force cows to produce about 10 times as much milk as they would naturally.
Animals are often dosed with bovine growth hormone (BGH), which contributes to a painful inflammation of the udder known as “mastitis.” (BGH is used widely in the U.S. but has been banned in Europe and Canada because of concerns over human health and animal welfare.) According to the industry’s own figures, between 30 and 50 percent of dairy cows suffer from mastitis, an extremely painful condition.
A cow’s natural lifespan is about 25 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are killed after only four or five years. An industry study reports that by the time they are killed, nearly 40 percent of dairy cows are lame because of the intensive confinement, the filth, and the strain of being almost constantly pregnant and giving milk. Dairy cows’ bodies are turned into soup, companion animal food, or low-grade hamburger meat because their bodies are too “spent” to be used for anything else.
Male calves—”byproducts” of the dairy industry—are generally taken from their mothers when they are less than 1 day old. Many are shipped off to barren, filthy feedlots to await slaughter. Others are kept in dark, tiny crates where they are kept almost completely immobilized so that their flesh stays tender. In order to make their flesh white, the calves are fed a liquid diet that is low in iron and has little nutritive value. This heinous treatment makes the calves ill, and they frequently suffer from anemia, diarrhea, and pneumonia.
Frightened, sick, and alone, these calves are killed after only a few months of life so that their flesh can be sold as veal. All adult and baby cows, whether raised for their flesh or their milk, are eventually shipped to a slaughterhouse and killed.
The 280 million chickens used each year for their eggs, called “laying hens” by the industry, endure a nightmare that lasts for two years.
At just a few days old, a large portion of each hen’s beak is cut off with a burning-hot blade, and no painkillers are used. Many birds, unable to eat because of the pain, die from dehydration and weakened immune systems.
After enduring these mutilations, hens are shoved into tiny wire “battery” cages, which measure roughly 18 by 20 inches and hold five to 11 hens, each of whom has a wingspan of 32 inches. Even in the best-case scenario, each hen will spend the rest of her life crowded in a space about the size of a file drawer with four other hens, unable to lift even a single wing.
The birds are crammed so closely together that these normally clean animals are forced to urinate and defecate on one another. The stench of ammonia and feces hangs heavy in the air, and disease runs rampant in the filthy, cramped sheds. Many birds die, and survivors are often forced to live with their dead and dying cagemates, who are sometimes left to rot.
The light in the sheds is constantly manipulated in order to maximize egg production. Periodically, for two weeks at a time, the hens are only fed reduced-calorie feed. This process induces an extra laying cycle.
Male chicks are worthless to the egg industry, so every year millions of them are tossed into trash bags to suffocate or are thrown into high-speed grinders called “macerators” while they are still alive.
After two years in these conditions, the hens’ bodies are exhausted, and their egg production drops. These “spent” hens are shipped to slaughterhouses, where their fragile legs are forced into shackles and their throats are cut. By the time they are sent to slaughter, roughly 29 percent of the hens are suffering from broken bones resulting from neglect and rough treatment. Their emaciated bodies are so damaged that their flesh can generally be used only for chicken noodle soup, companion animal food, or “canned, boned, and diced” meat, much of which goes to the National School Lunch Program.
Fish are smart, interesting animals with their own unique personalities, and just like dogs, cats, and humans, fish feel pain. Scientists who study pain are in complete agreement that the fish pain response is basically identical to the pain response system in mammals and birds.
Did you know that fish can also learn to avoid nets by watching other fish in their group and that they can recognize individual “shoal mates”? Some fish gather information by eavesdropping on others, and some—such as the South African fish who lay eggs on leaves so that they can carry them to a safe place—even use tools.
Sadly, the U.S. fish industry slaughters more than 6 billion fish each year, and sport fishing and angling kill another 245 million animals annually. Without any legal protection from cruel treatment, these intelligent, complex animals are impaled, crushed, suffocated, or sliced open and gutted, all while they’re fully conscious.
More than 40 percent of all the fish consumed each year are now raised on land- or ocean-based aquafarms. Land-based farms raise thousands of fish in ponds, pools, or concrete tanks. Ocean-based aquafarms are situated close to shorelines, and fish in these farms are confined to cramped net or mesh cages.
Fish on aquafarms spend their entire lives in crowded, filthy enclosures, and many suffer from parasitic infections, diseases, and debilitating injuries. Conditions on some farms are so horrendous that 40 percent of the fish may die before farmers can kill and package them for food. Fish who survive are starved before they are sent to slaughter in order to reduce waste contamination of the water during transport. Salmon, for example, are starved for 10 full days.
In the wild, hundreds of billions of fish—along with “nontarget” animals, including sharks, sea turtles, birds, seals, and whales—are caught each year in ocean-ravaging nets or dragged for hours on long-lines for the commercial fishing industry.
Leather can be made from cows, pigs, goats, and sheep; exotic animals such as alligators, ostriches, and kangaroos; and even dogs and cats, who are slaughtered for their meat and skin in China, which exports their skins around the world. Because leather is normally not labeled, you never really know where (or whom) it came from.
Most leather comes from developing countries such as India and China, where animal welfare laws are either non-existent or not enforced. In India, a PETA investigation found that workers break cows’ tails and rub chili peppers and tobacco into their eyes in order to force them to get up and walk after they collapse from exhaustion on the way to the slaughterhouse.
In the U.S., many of the millions of cows and other animals who are killed for their skin endure the horrors of factory farming—extreme crowding and deprivation as well as castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning—all without any painkillers. At slaughterhouses, animals routinely have their throats cut and are skinned and dismembered while they are still conscious.
Whether it came from an animal on a fur farm or one who was trapped in the wild, every fur coat, trinket, and bit of trim caused an animal tremendous suffering—and took away a life.
Animals on fur farms spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. Fur farmers use the cheapest and cruelest killing methods available, including suffocation, electrocution, gas, and poison.
More than half the fur in the U.S. comes from China, where millions of dogs and cats are bludgeoned, hanged, bled to death, and often skinned alive for their fur. Chinese fur is often deliberately mislabeled, so if you wear any fur, there’s no way of knowing for sure whose skin you’re in.
Animals who are trapped in the wild can suffer for days from blood loss, shock, dehydration, frostbite, gangrene, and attacks by predators. They may be caught in steel-jaw traps that slam down on their legs, often cutting to the bone; Conibear traps, which crush their necks with 90 pounds of pressure per square inch; or water-set traps, which leave beavers, muskrats, and other animals struggling for more than nine agonizing minutes before drowning.
During the annual Canadian seal slaughter, tens of thousands of baby harp seals are shot or repeatedly bludgeoned with clubs tipped with metal hooks. Also in Canada, hundreds of black bears are shot at point-blank range or caught in traps and left to suffer for days so that their skins can be used to make the ceremonial hats worn by Queen Elizabeth II’s Five Guards’ Regiments.
Sheep are gentle individuals who, like all animals, feel pain, fear, and loneliness. But because there is a market for their fleece and skins, they are treated as nothing more than wool-producing machines.
If they were left alone and not genetically manipulated, sheep would grow just enough wool to protect themselves from temperature extremes. The fleece provides effective insulation against both cold and heat.
Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without regard for the welfare of the sheep. Says one eyewitness, “[T]he shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals … I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or their fists until the sheep’s nose bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off …”
In Australia, where more than 50 percent of the world’s merino wool—which is used in products ranging from clothing to carpets—originates, lambs are forced to endure a gruesome procedure called “mulesing,” in which huge chunks of skin and flesh are cut from the animals’ backsides, often without any painkillers.”
Within weeks of birth, lambs’ ears are hole-punched, their tails are chopped off, and the males are castrated without anesthetics. Male lambs are castrated when they are between 2 and 8 weeks old, either by making an incision and cutting their testicles out or with a rubber ring used to cut off blood supply—one of the most painful methods of castration possible. Every year, hundreds of lambs die before the age of 8 weeks from exposure or starvation, and mature sheep die every year from disease, lack of shelter, and neglect.
Millions of these sheep who survive on the farms are then shipped to the Middle East on crowded multilevel ships. These live exports, which can last for weeks, go to countries where animal welfare standards are non-existent. The suffering sheep are dragged off the ships, loaded onto trucks, and dragged by their ears and legs to often unregulated slaughterhouses, where their throats are slit while they are still conscious.
Animal Used for Experimentation
Many people are surprised to learn that some cosmetics, personal care products, foods and beverages and household cleaning products are still tested on animals, or that their local university or hospital torment animals in cruel experiments.
Although modern alternative test methods exist, huge multiproduct manufacturers, including Unilever, Clorox, Church & Dwight, Johnson & Johnson, and others, continue to poison and harm animals in tests that aren’t even required by law.
Rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits, and other animals are forced to swallow or inhale massive quantities of a test substance or endure the pain of having caustic chemicals applied to their sensitive eyes and skin––even though the results of animal tests are often unreliable or not applicable to humans. Even if a product has blinded an animal, it can still be marketed to you.
Luckily, the non-animal tests available today are cheaper, faster, and more accurate at predicting human reactions to a product than the old animal tests ever were. More and more companies are switching to non-animal tests as consumer support for cruelty-free products grows.
Universities and hospitals also imprison millions of animals for use in painful and deadly medical training exercises and curiosity-driven experiments that are funded by tax dollars and health charities.
Monkeys are addicted to drugs and have holes drilled into their skulls, sheep and pigs have their skin burned off and rats have their spinal cords crushed. Tiny mice grow tumors as large as their own bodies, kittens are purposely blinded, and rats are made to suffer seizures. In archaic medical training courses, pigs and dogs are cut open and killed and cats and ferrets have hard plastic tubes forced down their delicate throats.