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Why Veg?

The Facts On Our Food

Many people believe (and hope) that animals raised for food for humans must be very well treated because sick, diseased or dead animals would be of no use to agribusiness.

But this is not true.

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” (1)

Albert Einstein

(1)    This quote is frequently attributed to Einstein, though I can’t find the exact source.  I once heard that it was quoted in an interview Einstein did with a vegetarian magazine.  This site gives a little more information on Einstein and his vegetarian beliefs: http://www.ivu.org/history/northam20a/einstein.html

The twisted feet of a chicken raised for meat.(2)

(2)   Photo courtesy Animal Liberation South Australia, http://www.animalliberation.org.au.  Apparently this bird was British.  For photos of Australian broiler chickens and other Australian farmed animals, see Animal Liberation Victoria’s website http://www.openrescue.org/archives.html.

Factory Farming: Industrialised Cruelty

The pressure to produce inexpensive beef, chicken, pork, veal, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products has led  modern farming to treat animals as mere commodities or machines. The worldwide trend is to replace small family farms with intensive, industrialised factory farms. The philosophy of mass production lies behind it all, while environmental devastation and our society’s epidemic of ‘diseases of affluence’ follow closely.

We don’t have to be complicit: a diet free of animal products can be the healthiest diet for us. The health benefits of a plant-based diet are outlined later in this booklet.

Climate Change

You’ve probably heard talk that eating less meat will reduce your greenhouse emissions, but this major issue rarely receives the attention and action it warrants. How much could you really save?

Per kilogram of product

Beef production emits a whopping 130 times more greenhouse gas than wheat and other types of grain, Sheep meat emits 36 times more and Pig meat an unacceptable 9 times more.(3)

(3)   Australian Greenhouse Office (Commonwealth) (2002) “Australia’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory” Source: http://www.greenhouse.gov.au/inventory/enduse/pubs/endusereport-volume1.pdf

Worldwide livestock production is responsible for more greenhouse gas than all the cars, trucks, airplanes, ships and other transport combined.(4)

(4)   FAO’s Livestock's Long Shadow report (2006) calculates Livestock is responsible for 18% of worldwide emissions.  Source: http://www.virtualcentre.org/en/library/key_pub/longshad/A0701E00.pdf

UK Treasury’s Stern Review (2006) calculates transport is responsible for 14% of emissions.  Source: http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/media/4/3/Executive_Summary.pdf

Meat chickens

Virtually all chickens raised for meat in Australia are factory farmed.

The birds are crowded into sheds, by law up to about 20 full-grown birds per m2.(5)  They are left to stand in their own stinking excrement, which releases noxious gases causing them eye and respiratory damage.(6)

(5)   Animal Care and Protection Regulation 2002 (Qld). Source: http://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/A/AnimalCaPrR02.pdf

For broilers (meat chickens), the Regulation says 40kg of birds is allowed per square metre, which is about 20 full-grown birds.  If you’ve ever seen an adult hen, you will know they’re not that small, and 20 in a square metre is very crowded.  Similarly, for egg layers, the less-than-an-A4 page allows very little movement, and only with difficulty.

Also: "Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals – Domestic Poultry 4th Edition" (2002) by Standing Committee on Agriculture and Resource Management (SCARM). Source: http://www.publish.csiro.au/books/download.cfm?ID=3451

(6)   Carpenter G et al (1986) "Effect of internal air filtration on the performance of broilers and the aerial concentrations of dust and bacteria" British Poultry Science, vol 27 (471-480)

Through selective breeding, meat chickens are forced to grow unnaturally fast. It once took 14 weeks for a chicken to grow to 1.6 kg, it now takes just over five weeks(7). This unnatural growth rate leads to high rates of leg disorders (well documented by vets and the industry), leaving many birds crippled and unable to reach food or water(8),(9).

(7)   Hartmann W (1989) "From Mendel to multi-national in poultry breeding" World's Poultry Science Journal, vol 45 (5-26)

(8)   Dansbury T et al (2000) "Self-selection of the analgesic drug carprofen by lame broiler chickens" Veterinary Record, vol 146 (307-311)

(9)   Bains B (1994) "Broilers suffer from dyschodroplasia and femoral necrosis" Misset World Poultry, vol 10:10 (109-111)

One veterinary study found 90% of meat chickens had a gait abnormality. For more than one in four it found “there is likely to be chronic pain and discomfort” due to their leg trouble. “In addition, some of the birds had probably died of malnutrition or dehydration before they could be (studied).”(10)

(10)   Kestin S et al (1992) "Prevalence of leg weakness in broiler chickens and its relationship with genotype" Veterinary Record, vol 131 (190-194)

Often their hearts can’t cope, so many die from heart attacks(11),(12),(13), even before they are 6 weeks old. Overgrown babies, this is their age when they are taken for slaughter(14).

(11)   Steele P & Edgar J (1982) "Importance of acute death syndrome in mortalities in broiler chicken flocks" Australian Veterinary Journal, vol 58 (63-66)

(12)   Riddell C & Springer R (1984) "An epizootiological study of acute death syndrome and leg weakness in broiler chickens in Western Canada" Avian Diseases, vol 29 (90-102)

(13)   Olkowski A & Classen H (1997) "Malignant ventricular dysrhythmia in broiler chickens dying of sudden death syndrome" Veterinary Record, vol 140 (177-179)

(14)   Many citations, e.g.

Berndtson E, Danielsson-Tham M & Engvall A (1996) “Campylobacter incidence on a chicken farm and the spread of Camphylobacter during the slaughter process” International Journal of Food Microbiology, vol 32:1-2 (35-47)

(Cites 5-6 weeks rearing time in this study)

Puette M, Crowell W & Hafner W (1994) “Ultrastructural examination and cell count determinations of avian glomeruli from grossly normal and grossly swollen kidneys of broilers at slaughter” Avian Diseases, vol 38:3 (515-522)

(Cites 6-7 weeks at slaughter in this study)

“The life of an animal in a factory farm is characterised by acute deprivation, stress, and disease. Hundreds of millions of animals are forced to live in cages just barely larger than their own bodies. While one species may be caged alone without any social contact, another species may be crowded so tightly together that they fall prey to stress-induced cannibalism… the victims of factory farms exist in a relentless state of distress.”

Humane Farming Association
The Dangers of Factory Farming

Inside a broiler (meat chicken) shed.(15)

(15)   This photo is from the original US version of the booklet, however is representative of Australian conditions.  See http://www.openrescue.org/archives.html for similar photos taken on Australian farms.

"One of the best things modern animal agriculture has going for it is that most people... haven't a clue how animals are raised and processed... If most urban meat-eaters were to visit an industrial broiler house, to see how the birds are raised, and could see the birds being 'harvested' and then being 'processed' in a poultry processing plant, some, perhaps many of them, would swear off eating chicken and perhaps all meat.  For modern animal agriculture, the less the consumer knows about what's happening before the meat hits the plate, the better."

PETER CHEEKE, PhD, Professor of Animal Agriculture
Contemporary Issues in Animal Agriculture


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