Farm animals undergo painful mutilations and surgical procedures performed without anesthetic that would be illegal if performed on cats or dogs. In fact, 30 U.S. states have enacted laws that specifically exempt farm animals from certain parts of their anti-cruelty statutes. Thereby certain acts, no matter how cruel, are outside the realm of legal protection as long as the acts are deemed accepted, common, customary, or normal farming practices.
“Free-range” cows and sheep must be “grass fed and live on a range,” and birds must have some form of access to the outdoors, but no other criteria - such as the size of the “range,” the amount of space individual animals must have, or animal care and handling - are required. The Washington Post Magazine reported that, especially in the case of birds, the term free-range “doesn’t really tell you anything about the [animal’s] quality of life, nor does it even assure that the animal actually goes outdoors.” Moreover, the accuracy of these claims is rarely if ever verified because the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which defines free-range and free-roaming for labeling purposes, relies “upon producer testimonials to support the accuracy of these claims.”
The parents of these birds suffer as well. According to Ian J. H. Duncan, Ph.D. and Professor of Poultry Ethology at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, meat-type chickens used for breeding are “obviously suffering,” as a result of only being allowed 40-50% of food they would normally eat to satisfy their hunger. This state of constant starvation is considered necessary to keep the birds’ weight down and avoid the crippling that plagues their offspring. Turkeys are so genetically altered that they can not even breed naturally, so all turkeys are forcefully inseminated by artificial means.
Producers who allow their cows to graze in pasture and claim to treat animals humanely offer no explanation for the fate of the calves produced on their dairies. To continue to produce milk a cow must have a calf each year. Calves normally stay with their mothers for a year or more.
Confinement: More than 80% of all pigs raised in the U.S. are raised on farms which keep more than 1,000 animals. The pigs are crammed into indoor, near-dark, windowless confinement sheds, where the air is filled with eye- and lung-burning ammonia created from the waste that collects below the floors. Young pigs destined for slaughter are raised in crowded pens while their mothers spend most their lives in metal crates so small that they cannot even turn around. Some farms also use a “tether system” in which sows are tied by a neck collar and chain or girth strap inside an open backed crate — such crates are sometimes referred to as “rape racks” because sows can not escape the advances of the breeding boar. Denied adequate space and freedom of movement, crated sows often develop stereotypic behavior. Stereotypic behavior consists of repetitive movements that serve no practical purpose, such as head bobbing, jaw smacking, and rail biting. While farmers claim that such crates are necessary to prevent sows from crushing their piglets and to make breeding easier, pigs have survived in the wild and on farms for centuries without the “benefit” of confinement crates.