I've lived beyond the sidewalks for many years now and as one friend has said: this is your life's blessing -to be close to the animals.
It will come as no surprise to you if you've read my posts about horse slaughter and puppy mills, that I believe that all animals should be treated with compassion and protected from suffering.
Many was the day I dragged a lawn chair out to just sit in quiet meditation with my cattle herd. There's a zen quality to bovine that is magical. While some of my "cowgirls" would simply continue to browse the grass, some would come and lay beside me. Quietly chewing their cud and gazing off in the distance. Perhaps they were looking inward, like me.
|Some of my cowgirls.|
Unfortunately, billions of farm animals lack even access to pasture, let alone the most basic welfare protections under the law.
According the ASPCA, more than 99% of farm animals in the US are raised in factory farms - large, industrial operations that raise large numbers of animals for food. There the focus is on profit and efficiency, not animal welfare.
Where did that milk come from that you poured over your cereal this morning? The hamburger you ate last night? How about that pork chop? Or the eggs in your recent omelet?
Probably from animals being raised in extreme confinement, not in those gorgeous pastures shown in commercials and print ads. Those animals have been bred to grown unnaturally fast and large to maximize profit.
Cows belong in fields. Watch the dairy cows below. They've just been released into fresh spring pasture. They remind me of my own "cowgirls." When we moved them from one pasture to another they danced with joy and glee.
Living in confinement, dairy cows ares often injected with BGH (bovine growth hormone) which can increase the incidence of mastitis and lameness. Tails are often docked. A dairy cow is considered "used up" at 5 years of age on average in the United States and slaughtered for human consumption. In a natural setting, cows can live more than 20 years.
Beef cattle usually begin their lives on pasture with their mothers. However, they're soon separated for weaning and by the time they're a year old they on their way to a feedlot. There they're fattened on an unnatural diet unto they reach optimal market weight and sent to slaughter.
Sows (female pigs of breeding age) most often live a life confined to a gestation crate which is only slightly larger than their own body. Their lives are a cycle of pregnancy, birth, nursing and then, finally, slaughter.
Each year in the United States, over 200 million male chicks are killed upon hatching because they will never lay eggs. The majority of hens (female chickens) are debeaked and spend their lives in battery cages which usually hold 5-10 chickens with room enough to barely turn around if they're lucky. After a year or two, when egg production declines, those chickens are sent to slaughter.
In addition to the egg industry, chickens raised for meat usually spend their lives confined to warehouse packed with as many as 20,000 chickens. Again, with individual space enough to turn around if they're lucky. They're often slaughtered at only 42 days old.
What you can do:
- Meatless Monday - Try going meatless one day a week.
- Eat at restaurants that support the local sustainable food system. Visit the Eat Well Guide to find them near you.
- Shop at your local farmer's market.
- Check out purchasing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. One good resource is Local Harvest.
- Explore independent grocery stores and co-ops looking for locally produced meats, eggs and dairy products from traditional farmers.
- Look for local farmers online. More and more smaller farms sell directly to consumers via a website.
- Become a label reader. Look for "pasture access." "Grass fed" does not necessarily mean the animals were ever on pasture. "Organic" does not mean that the animals didn't spend their lives in confinement on a dry lot/feedlot.
- Follow and take action on legislation related to factory farming with the Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, or other animal welfare organization.
January 15th is Blog the Change Day - a day when pet bloggers and pet lovers come together to blog, read, share and Be the Change for Animals. Bloggers are encouraged to write about pet fire safety in July or about a cause near and dear to their heart. Readers are encouraged to read and share their favorite posts. Join Team BtC on January 15th to Blog the Change for animals.