Ethical reasons are the most common motivation to go vegan.
As the awareness of animal cruelty rises, many people turn to veganism because they don't want to support the torture and abuse of animals any longer.
In this post, we take a closer look at animal agriculture to understand why many go vegan for the animals because they no longer want to support these practices.
Before we get started, I want to quickly mention that the presented statements are not representative of all farmed animals. Still, it is true for a vast majority.
Moreover, we are keeping it basic here. No overly graphic or detailed descriptions. If you want to learn more, please let me know, and I will provide you with some resources.
Living conditions on factory farms
The living conditions present not only a physical but also an emotional burden for the animals. They are not treated like living beings but rather like machines.
Moreover, the animals only get what they need to survive and not a bit more.
Usually, the animals have to spend their days in overcrowded staples, small crates or are crammed into tiny cages.
Hens, for instance, they are stuffed so tightly into cages that they can neither move nor spread their wings.
Furthermore, the living conditions are very unsanitary. The animals must live among their on excrements and endure terrible smells that often irritate their eyes.
To not get sick constantly or die, they are routinely given antibiotics.
Even more so, the animals are not given species-appropriate food. Instead of grass and straw, for example, they are fed with corn, soybeans, and wheat.
They also receive hormones to get bigger and fatter than usual and at a faster rate.
Moreover, animals usually have to live on concrete floors or cage wires without straw.
Living conditions on factory farms is physically and mentally demanding for the animals. They live in overcrowded staples, small crates, or are stuffed into tiny cages, often among their excrements. Moreover, they are usually not given food that is appropriate for them.
To prevent the animals from injuring each other under the crowed and inhumane circumstances, they are often mutilated without painkillers or anesthesia.
For instance, chickens' beaks are shortened when they are one day old, which is a painful procedure from which the animals suffer for the rest of their lives.
Further, tails of piglets are cut off, and their teeth are shortened.
Moreover, pigs are castrated, cows are dehorned, and both are branded.
Life on a dairy farm
Cows, goats, and sheep are mammals that, like humans, produce milk to feed their offspring. The sad reality, however, is that the babies hardly get any milk from the mother.
For example, calves usually feed on milk for 9–12 months. However, on factory farms, the offspring only receives their mother's milk for 48 hours.
After that, the mother and child are separated, which is extremely painful for both. They often call for each other for days.
To keep producing lots of milk, cows/goats/ sheep are artificially inseminated and then carry out the pregnancy.
Not only is this violating, but it is also very physically demanding for the animals because they have to go through pregnancy again and again (much more often than in the normal life cycle).
As a result, these animals have a very short lifespan.
Cows, for example, typically live up to 20 years. However, on dairy farms, they are usually slaughtered at the age of 5 because their bodies are drained and can't produce enough milk to be profitable for farmers.
Moreover, the animals receive hormones and antibiotics to produce more milk.
Animals in the dairy industry are artificially inseminated routinely and then carry out the pregnancy to keep producing a lot of milk. Their offspring tends to get milk only for a few days, then mother and child are separated, which is very painful for both. The frequent pregnancies are very demanding physically, which results in a very short life span of these animals.
What happens to the offspring on dairy farms?
The fate of the offspring depends on the gender.
As soon as they are big enough to conceive, the female ones become a part of the dairy industry and experience the same fate as their mothers.
Males are put into calf or lamb factories, where they spend their short life in a small stable with very little room to move.
Moreover, they are kept malnourished on purpose. All this is necessary to ensure that their meat will be particularly tender.
The animals are then slaughtered at the age of approximately 8 months (calf) or 6-7 months (lamb).
Sometimes the males are shot right after birth because they are not the right breed to be used in the meat industry.
The female offspring becomes part of the dairy industry as soon as they are old enough to conceive. The male ones tend to become part of the meat industry and often live for less than one year.
The life of hens in the egg factory
Hens naturally lay eggs, so many believe that consumption does not harm animals. Unfortunately, this is not correct.
In their normal life cycle, hens lay 10-30 eggs a year. In factory farms, hens need to lay 250-300 eggs annually.
Can you imagine how painful and physically demanding this must be?
You can see the evidence in the very short lifespan of two years instead of the standard 8 to 15 years.
To keep getting new hens to replace the "old" ones, fertilized eggs are hatched. Female chicks become laying hens.
The males are cruelly killed at the age of one day (suffocated, ground alive, decapitated) because they are of no use to the egg industry.
"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian." - Paul McCartney
Animals, like us, have feelings. They can be happy, frustrated, and sad. They feel fear, pain, and pleasure. Like humans, they want to live.
Is there an ethical way to end the life of someone who wants to live?
Moreover, before slaughter, animals usually experience significant pain and massive fear. The killing is typically neither quick nor painless.
Often the animals are still conscious when their arteries are cut open, and they bleed to death.
It's becoming more common to kill animals via CO2 poisoning, whereby the animals experience difficulty breathing, hyperventilate, and gasp for air.
The transport to the slaughterhouse is also traumatic. Animals have to get by without food and water for a long time and experience high heat in summer.
Animals tend to experience a lot of pain and fear before they are slaughtered. It is not unusual that they are still conscious during parts of the process. The transport to the slaughterhouse is often long, and the animals don't receive water or food.
Fishing & Bycatch
Fish, unfortunately, do not have a better fate. Once caught in the nets and brought on land, they are left to die of asphyxiation, which can take a few minutes.
Many don't make it to the land alive because so many fish are caught in one net that the weight of the upper ones crushes the lower ones.
Some also die from the rapid pressure change as they are pulled ashore.
Furthermore, not only fish of the target species get caught the nets, but other marine animals (dolphins, whales, turtles, etc.) as well, which also lose their lives.
Also, the oceans are massively overfished, which has environmental consequences as well as causes other animals to suffer.
For example, seabirds are starving because there are not enough fish for them to eat.
Often seals are shot, so they don't eat the fish.
There is also intensive breeding of marine animals. The conditions there are just as terrible as in factory farms on land. ⅓ of the fish die just because of the living conditions.
In addition, individual fish might escape and spread diseases to wild fish.
For a long time, it was believed that fish don't experience pain or fear; however, now we know that this is not true. Fish tend to die of suffocation, which can take a few minutes. Sometimes they also die as they are brought on land because so many are caught in one net that the weight of others crushes some. Problematic is also that not only fish of the targeted species are captured in the nets but also other marine animals, who also lose their lives. There are also "factory farms" for marine animals, where the conditions are just as horrible as for land animals.
Why the terms free-range and cage-free are meaningless
Naturally, it always depends on the country and its regulations, but free-range farming usually only means that the animals must have access to the outside.
How much space is required is often not defined. This can result in a few thousand hens, only having a few square meters of free land, for example.
Unfortunately, cage-free usually only means that instead of being crammed in cages, animals are stuffed in a large room.
Often still unable to move around or spread their wings.
Therefore, cage-free or free-range does not mean improved living conditions or even more space.
Summary: Why go vegan for the animals
Want to find out what also motivates others to go vegan?
Learn more about the environmental impact of animal agriculture in this post on vegan for the environment.
You can also learn about the health reasons why many practics a vegan diet in this post on health benefits of a vegan diet.