Home    Jewish Vegetarianism    Online Course    FAQ    Jewish Recipes
What You Can Do    Links    Feedback    Media    Newsletter

How are farmed animals treated today?

As we have seen, the Jewish tradition stresses compassion for animals and commands that we strive to avoid causing them pain (tsa’ar ba’alei chayim). Unfortunately, the conditions under which animals are raised for food today are quite different from any the Torah would endorse.

Chickens are raised for slaughter in long, windowless, crowded sheds, where they never see sunlight, breathe fresh air, or get any exercise. From hoppers suspended from the roof, they obtain food and water, along with many chemical additives according to a programmed schedule. Their filth is not cleaned, and the resulting dust and ammonia in the air burns their eyes and causes respiratory problems. Crowding is so bad that chickens cannot even stretch their wings. The results of these very unnatural conditions are potential feather-pecking and cannibalism. To avoid this, the lighting is kept very dim, and more drastically, they are "de-beaked." De-beaking involves cutting off part of the chicken's beak with a hot knife, a very painful process.

Ruth Harrison describes the results of her observations of current methods of raising chickens in her excellent book, Animal Machines. She found that the chickens seemed to have lost their minds; their eyes gleamed through the bars, they viciously pecked at any hand within reach, and they pulled feathers out of other chickens' backs looking for flesh and blood to eat.

Because so many birds are killed daily in continuous operations by the vast breeding companies, a prayer which should be recited upon the ritual slaughter of every bird has become a prayer for every thousand birds.

Cattle are routinely castrated, branded, and have their horns gouged out without any anesthetic. Dairy cows are repeatedly impregnated, and their young taken away just after birth to be raised for veal, kept in the dark immobilized in crates and fed an anemic diet.

There is tremendous cruelty in the forced feeding of ducks and geese to produce pate de foie gras. Foie gras literally means fat liver. The liver of a goose or duck is fattened by having 60 to 80 pounds of corn inserted by force down its gullet. The farmer generally holds the neck of the goose between his legs, pouring the corn with one hand and massaging it down the neck with the other. When this process is no longer effective, a wooden plunger is used to compact it still further. The bird suffers unimaginable pain, and as the liver grows to an enormous size, sclerosis of the liver develops. Finally, after 25 days of such agony, when the bird is completely stupefied with pain and unable to move, it is killed and the gigantic liver, considered a delicacy, is removed. Currently machines are used to force-feed birds to make the process more "efficient," with greater resultant agony.

Although it would seem impossible to surpass the cruelties described in the previous cases, perhaps this occurs in raising veal calves. After being allowed to nurse for only 1 or 2 days (a violation of Jewish law), the veal calf is removed from its mother, with no consideration of its need for motherly nourishment, affection, and physical contact. The calf is locked in a small slotted stall without enough space to move around, stretch, or even lie down. To obtain the pale, tender veal desired by consumers, the calf is purposely kept anemic by giving it a special high-calorie, iron-free diet. The calf craves iron so much that it would lick the iron fittings on its stall and its own urine if permitted to do so; it is prevented from turning by having its head tethered to the stall. The stall is kept very warm and the calf is not given any water, so that it will drink more of its high-calorie liquid diet. The very unnatural conditions of the veal calf -- its lack of exercise, sunlight, fresh air, proper food and water and any emotional stimulation make for a very sick, anemic animal. The calf leaves its pen only when taken for slaughter; sometimes it drops dead from the exertion of going to slaughter.

All these animals have been genetically and hormonally manipulated to grow many times faster than they do naturally, growing so big that their legs can't hold up their own weight and their bodies often simply give out.

All these animals -- including those raised for eggs or milk -- are transported to slaughter under extreme overcrowding for up to days through all weather extremes without food or water. Animals frozen to the side of the truck in the winter are torn off leaving flesh behind; animals suffering heat exhaustion in summer are often thrown aside into piles to die slowly of starvation. At the slaughterhouse they are commonly beaten, hoisted into the air by their legs, and for nonkosher meat often skinned and cut to pieces while fully conscious.

Click here for more frequently asked questions