Non-humans trapped in the agriculture industry for their byproducts are no better off than those raised primarily for their flesh. Female cows and chickens, imprisoned for the biological artifacts of their reproduction and labor, endure some of the worst treatment in the animal agriculture industry.
Cows, like other mammals, must experience pregnancy and birth in order to lactate (produce milk); on what the industry calls a “rape rack”, female cows are continuously forcibly impregnated to keep production at profitable levels. The female calves are fed back into the system for a life of abusive milk production.
The male calves (or veal calves) are separated from their mothers less than 24 hours after their birth and immediately housed in a tiny crate less than 2 feet wide and 5 feet long. For weeks, the calves are rendered immobile while fed a high-fat liquid diet and deprived of water. In depriving calves of vital nutrients like iron and simple activities like walking, turning around, or any exercise at all, “choice” meat is produced for an elite market. When the calves are finally released from their crates, it’s only a short walk on atrophied legs to the slaughterhouse truck, all while being shocked by electric prods.
Their female calf sisters suffer greatly during their time in the dairy barn. Over half of the cows tortured in the dairy industry suffer from mastitis, or a painful infection of the mammary glands that causes swelling, irritation, and leaking of pus into the milk bottled and sold at your local grocery store. These cows are hooked for long hours to forceful milking machines and fed a nutritionally worthless grain-based diet heavily dosed with antibiotics and medications to numb the entire barn.
The average life span of a free cow can be 25 years, but the short and brutal life of the exploited female cow lasts a mere 6. Continuous pregnancy, birth, and daily mechanical milking in combination with inadequate feed and abuse of antibiotics renders most female cows used for the dairy industry exhausted and critically ill.
After about 5 years, most female cows in the dairy production system start to regularly collapse from exhaustion and infection. Now labeled “downers”, these cows are slaughtered and their flesh used as low-grade byproduct or filler.
Female chickens (or “layers”) exploited in egg production also suffer brutish, short lives. After hatching in a heated metal incubator, chicks are sorted by sex. Male chicks are seen as “worthless” to the industry and are discarded, alive, in garbage cans, often suffocating under the weight of other chicks. Most are ground up into feed for the hens in the barn, seen only useful for feed in egg production.
The female chicks are then sent off to a de-beaking machine, where their beaks are soldered off without anesthetic even though a beak is more sensitive than a human fingertip. This practice only exists because the crowded and abusive living conditions create stress and anxiety that pushes the chickens to peck each other to death. After such trauma, the chickens will endure chronic pain for the remainder of their short lives.
The cages, which almost a dozen chickens are crammed into, are no bigger than a sheet of legal sized paper. The open-wire frames of many cages are painful to stand on, and cause blisters, bare spots, and deformities on the legs and feet of the hens. Each cage is stacked in endless rows and columns in a shed with no sunlight or fresh air, which means the urine and feces from chickens at the top cages drain down onto the hens below. These living conditions require regular antibiotics in feed and water for the hens which keep them barely healthy enough to lay eggs, but not enough to prevent the pain and suffering of infection.
The food provided to hens (with the ground up bones and flesh from their brothers) is delivered in a fine powder, which regularly causes throat blisters and inadequate nutrition. Added mold inhibitors also cause other digestive problems and ulcers.
In order to stimulate egg production at an unnaturally high pace, the hens are forced to undergo regular molting where the light and food available to them is manipulated and hens can go without food, water, harsh light and/or darkness for as long as 14 days straight. After two years of this horrible cycle, the hens are loaded onto crowded and horrifying transport trucks shipped to slaughterhouses.
Those who opt out of consuming animal flesh should not rest easy, because blood stains your milkshakes, your omelettes, your parfaits, and your birthday cake. To assume non-humans do not die or suffer in the production of dairy and eggs is an industry supported lie. Exploitation of beings for profit, regardless of species, will always result in extreme cruelty and abuse. There is no mercy in the dairy or egg industries, for after the painful, short lives of cows and chickens are ended by murder, they are still consumed for their flesh.