Panel 8 - Animal suffering

Animals are sentient beings, with feelings and emotions, as common sense suggests, and as confirmed by the evidence and the many ethological studies we have today.

Farmed animals, however, as treated like objects. As long as the activity of factory farms, feedstuff factories, slaughterhouses and distribution chains are economically compatible with the production levels demanded by the market, the price of meat, milk and eggs must remain accessible to the largest possible number of consumers. Thus, in order to be economically sustainable, chemical and intensive factory farming must maximise profits, which means lowering costs.

Paying the price of factory farms (which are the norm in industrialised countries; small "farms" are almost a thing of the past) are first and foremost the animals which are raised there, subjected to extreme suffering. In factory farms as we know them today, billions of animals destined for slaughter are forced to live chained up or shut in overcrowded cages, incompatible with their physiological needs, deprived of any freedom of movement, and prevented from following their affective and sexual instincts. They are mutilated, constantly fed antibiotic and hormonal treatments (to prevent the outbreak of epidemics and to accelerate their growth), subjected to round-the-clock lighting which prevents them from sleeping, fed chemical and unnatural foodstuffs unsuitable for their species and forced to breathe air lacking in oxygen and filled with carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphur, ammonia vapour and various kinds of dust.

As well as showing signs of serious organic and psychological problems (hens which peck each other to death, mother rabbits which eat their young, pigs who eat their own tails), the animals exploited in this way are also subject to genetic manipulation and deformities.

Sometimes attempts are made to reduce the aggressiveness of the animals - for example in the case of pigs - by putting "toys" in the stalls such as old tires, which the animals can take their aggression out on. Instead of removing the cause of the stress, however, it simply "cures" its symptoms.

This panel lists various dossiers and articles published by animal protection and animal welfare associations, which describe the conditions in which animals are kept on factory farms, on their journey to slaughter, and how they are treated in the slaughterhouses themselves. Requesting documentation on these issues from the animal products industry itself, or from the health bodies responsible for carrying out checks, is unthinkable, because they has clearly "vested interests" and therefore they are not objective, and in any case uninterested in the issue of animal suffering. The large body of information now available on the issue is irrefutable, and should serve to generate serious reflection in every responsible, rational and honest person with a common sense of justice.

Dairy cows and veal calves

Dairy cows are genetically selected and artificially inseminated to produce as much milk as possible. From the age of approximately two years, they spend nine months of every year pregnant (because, like all mammals, they must give birth in order to produce milk).

Shortly after birth, the calves are removed from their mothers and shut in tiny stalls just tens of centimetres wide, where they do not even have space to lie down. They are fed on an inadequate diet so that their flesh remains white and tender (as consumers like it), before being sent to slaughter. The cow will then be milked for months, during which she will be forced to produce 10 times the amount of milk which would be necessary in the wild to feed her calf. It is no surprise that a third of the cows exploited on dairy farms every year suffer from mastitis (painful inflammation of the udder). At around five or six years of age, exhausted and exploited to the greatest possible degree, the cow is then slaughtered. In the wild she would live to anywhere between 20-40 years of age.

Egg-laying hens and chickens bred for meat

For egg production, hens are forced to live (in groups of up to four) in cages the size of a sheet of newspaper.

This forced immobility causes their wings to atrophy, while their feet develop deformities due to being in constant contact with the metal bars of the cage floor. To increase profits, many breeders use genetically manipulated breeds, destined for further suffering due to painful bone disorders and spinal defects.

In the farms which breed egg-laying hens, the male chicks (useless for the market because they do not lay eggs and are unsuitable for the production of broilers) are thrown into a mincer while still alive, suffocated in plastic bags, or crushed in special machines to become feedstuff, while female chicks have their beaks cut off to prevent them pecking the others to death. This procedure, involving the cutting of soft tissues similar to the flesh that human beings have under their nails, is very painful for the animals.

As soon as the productivity of the hens falls under the established level, normally after 2 years, they are slaughtered and sold as second-grade meat.

Treatment of the chickens bred for meat (broilers) is no better: they are raised in extremely crowded sheds, with up to 10-15 chickens per square metre, with round-the-clock lighting to accelerate their growth. They are killed when they are 45 days old; in the wild they would live for up to 7 years.


Often fish are not even considered "animals", one step lower on the scale of human compassion. And yet fish also feel pain. Many of them have complex nervous systems, while some, like the octopus, are particularly intelligent, capable of carrying out elaborate activities.

A third of the fish caught throughout the world is thrown back into the sea after death, "rejects" because they belong to species considered inedible. The nets, however, rake up everything.

As well as the fish caught at sea, the practice of intensive fish farming, or aquaculture, is becoming more and more widespread. These animals are kept in very small spaces, where they suffer due to the unnatural living conditions. Lobsters too are raised in cages, before being boiled alive in the saucepans of consumers everywhere.

Transport towards death

It is often the case that animals are not taken to the nearest slaughterhouse, but are forced to endure horrifying journeys, sometimes crossing different countries.

The animals are crammed into trucks, unable to rest, with no access to food or water, including their young. Many of them arrive at their destination in terrible state; some die during the journey.

If an animal falls in the truck it is often unable to get up and is trampled, suffering fractures to its limbs or pelvis. These animals, called "downers" are even more unfortunate than the others, if that is possible; while the others are pushed towards the slaughterhouse, they remain agonising on the truck, before being hitched up by their fractured limbs and dragged off the vehicle. They are not put out of their misery, but await their turn for slaughter.

The animals which die during transportation are thrown into a pile, called the "pile of the dead".

Being animals of little value, chickens are treated even more badly, because even if a few die during the journey, the loss is minimal. The trucks are loaded at night, and workers must load tens of thousands of animals in the shortest possible time; the animals are treated roughly, tossed from one person to another like football balls before being stuffed into cages.

Slaughter and death

Due to the speed of the slaughter lines (sometimes killing up to 400 animals per hour each), often the animals are not properly stunned and are conscious when their throats are cut, when they are skinned, decapitated and cut up, or when they reach the boiling water of the scalding baths. During an interview, a worker at an American slaughterhouse declared that 15% of the animals die "piece by piece" every day, rolling their eyes and moving their heads (some of his co-workers use hockey protection to avoid serious injury from agonising animals).

For pigs, the moment of slaughter is particularly distressing, because the number of animals killed is extremely high, sometimes as many as 1000 animals in a morning. In situations such as these, the animals are often not properly stunned; their throats are cut and they are thrown into the vats of boiling water while they are still conscious. Examination of the lungs reveals that these contain both blood and water, showing that the animals were still alive and breathed in boiling water when they were thrown into the vats.

For fish, their death is even worse: they die of suffocation, in a slow agony, silent because we are unable to hear the sounds they make. Sometimes they are still alive when they arrive at the fish market, ending their agony on the ice. Crustaceans and molluscs end up being boiled alive.