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.
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
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.
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.
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