Lent is a period of reflection and a time for Christians to repent for their sins. Whether you’re a believer or not, what better time to become acquainted with the realities of animal agriculture and abstain from inflicting pain and suffering on sentient beings?
Here’s what you’ll be giving up:
Harm to chickens
Battery hens are imprisoned in tiny cages inside sheds that hold tens of thousands of other birds. To prevent them pecking each other under such great stress and distress, their beaks are cut off with a hot wire guillotine, an extremely painful process and many have great difficulty eating properly for the rest of their short lives.
These hens are forced to lay egg after egg and after a year or so, their bodies ‘spent’, they are taken from the cages, stuffed into crates, trucked to the abattoir and shackled upside down on a conveyor belt to await slaughter. Many suffer multiple fractures during this process.
And spare a thought for the male chicks – yes, those cute, adorable, fluffy babies you and your kids probably adore: At one day old, they are shredded alive. Horrific, right? They’re put through a grinding machine that slices them up because they don’t produce any profit for the egg industry.
For chickens, ducks and turkeys – where the number of animals inside one shed is gargantuan – individual care is impossible, and so millions suffer and die without ever seeing a vet or being treated for illness, infection or injury.
Abuse of cows
Dairy is an industry built on the control of the reproductive systems of female non-humans (a timely issue in the era of #metoo and women’s continued fight for their rights to control our own bodies and reproductive systems).
Cows are kept perpetually pregnant to produce milk. Their babies (whom they carry for nine months, just like human mothers) and their babies’ milk are stolen from them. That milk – which is perfectly formulated for a calf to enable them to grow – instead goes to humans, even though we don’t need it. Don’t you find it bizarre that we’re the only species that drinks milk past childhood – and it’s from other animals!
Cows bellow with grief at the loss of their young. Female calves’ horns and extra teats are cut off with no anaesthetic and in some countries, the same happens to their tails.
Milking machines attached to the cow’s body can result in painful infections of the teats such as mastitis. The cycle of forced pregnancy, birth, theft, and grief continues until the cow’s body can give no more and these gentle, curious, smart, playful animals are shipped off, terrified, to be slaughtered.
Much the same as in the egg industry, male calves tend to be seen as ‘waste’ products. In the US these babies end up in veal crates, confined in darkness before being slaughtered just a few days after being born. In Australia, these male calves (known as ‘bobby’ calves) are often starved in the hours before they are slaughtered.
Torture of pigs
Female pigs are forcibly impregnated and many are kept in ‘sow stalls’ – tiny spaces not big enough for them to turn around, where they often go insane with boredom as they are social creatures. They are kept like this for life, constantly impregnated. After giving birth, they are forced to nurse their babies from the confines of gestation crates where they can barely reach them.
Pigs are even smarter than dogs – not that being clever should be the benchmark for who we cause harm to. In the West, we’re horrified by other countries that torture and kill dogs and cats, yet what we do to pigs (and other animals) is just the same.
As with chickens raised for their meat on factory farms, these sentient beings live and may die in their own excrement. Because of the sheer numbers, they’re often not treated for the sickness and pain they suffer.
But it doesn’t stop there. They are shoved into trucks, hundreds at a time, and transported, often for 24-72 hours, without food or water, to the slaughterhouse where they shake in fear as they hear their friends and family scream out as they’re killed.
In Australia, pigs are forced into gas chambers to be ‘stunned’ by carbon dioxide, but this so-called ‘humane’ method of slaughter induces sheer panic and terror in these sweet animals. Pigs, as well as other animals, are often fully conscious as their throats are cut and they slowly bleed out.
These are the realities of the ‘kill floor’, which, as well as being massively traumatic to the animals who fight to live, also cause major mental health problems for abattoir workers.
Suffering of fish and other marine creatures
Cruelty is something often overlooked when it comes to sea creatures. Scientific evidence has found that fish are sentient and can feel both physical and emotional pain, as do crabs, lobsters, and other crustaceans.
So, having hooks through their mouths can be incredibly painful, as is being dragged from their homes in the sea and suffocating to death or being cut open, or boiled alive.
Other sea animals are harmed by industrial fishing too: Huge nets pull trillions of fish from the oceans, but other species including whales, dolphins, porpoises, sharks, starfish, sponges, turtles, and even diving seabirds such as the albatross, are caught up in them and die slow, painful deaths.
Fish are also factory farmed in a process called aquaculture. As well causing a host of environmental and health problems, it’s also extremely cruel, imprisoning masses of fish in netted cages, where they too are forced to live in their own excrement and are fed their wild-caught friends and relatives.
So, Lent is the perfect time to give up cruelty and embrace compassion instead. Download your free Vegan Starter Kit here.
Katrina Fox is a journalist and PR consultant who has written for a broad range of print and online media in the UK, US and Australia. A vegan for 21 years, she is the founder of VeganBusinessMedia.com, providing resources, consultancy and training for vegan entrepreneurs, authors and creatives. Originally from the UK, Katrina is based in Sydney and is the Australia campaign manager for Million Dollar Vegan.