Monday, March 16, 2009

Death on a Factory Farm

Tonight HBO is airing the premier of a new documentary entitled "Death on a Factory Farm," which looks at the treatment of pigs at an Ohio pig farm. Based on undercover footage taken by the Humane Farming Association, the film shows how cruelly pigs and other animals raised in factory farms are treated.

Most people who eat meat think that, while it's true that animals must die in order for humans to eat them, they at least are treated well until they die. The reality is very, very different.

Animals raised on industrialized farms are little more than products, and are treated as such. There are only two laws in this country that protect animals--the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which mandates that most (excepting poultry and rabbits) animals are stunned before they are killed, and the 28 hour law, which mandates that animals transported on trains are given food, water and rest--which means that for the entirety of a farm animal's life, until the moment that they are killed, their lives are totally without legal protection.

The result is a life of unmitigated misery, in which farm animals are confined in situations without fresh air, sunlight, grass or straw; where they have no comfort, no love, and no companionship; and where conditions are so brutal that they must have their beaks or tails removed so that they don't cannibalize each other from the stress. Farmed animals are so sick from these conditions that they are pumped full of antibiotics from birth till death.

Why do we, a country which holds human rights and human dignity as two of our most prized values, allow for the most inhumane treatment of billions of animals per year? How do we reconcile their treatment with how we wish we were treated, and how we in turn treat our beloved companion animals?

No one, except for the psychopaths among us, would tolerate some of the ways in which farm animals are treated, and which are included in this film: "...piglets being tossed into crates from across a room, impregnated sows held in pens that don't allow them to move, an unhealthy piglet being slammed against a wall to euthanize it, and a sick sow being hung by a chain from a forklift until it choked to death..." Yet while we don't tolerate this kind of treatment, we all allow it to continue, unabated, because most Americans continue to do the one thing that allows it: eating meat.

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