5 ways to help farm animals

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1. Eat less meat, dairy and eggs

Approximately 9 billion land animals are slaughtered for food in the United States each year. The average person in America consumes far more meat than is recommended. In fact, the average meat eater will consume a total of 2,500 pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys and sheep in their lifetime.

Less than 1% of farm animals are raised on pasture, with space, fresh air, sun and the opportunity to interact with others of their kind. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for the United States to raise billions of animals under these conditions. To give all farm animals a life worth living, Americans need to eat less of their produce, meaning less meat, dairy, and eggs.

Consuming fewer animal products is not only good for animals, it’s also better for humans, reducing the risk of a number of preventable chronic diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Eating less animal-based foods also benefits the planet by saving precious resources and reducing greenhouse gases associated with global warming.

Eating less meat doesn’t have to be intimidating. Simply eating smaller portions and cutting out animal products from one meal a day, or one day a week, can have a significant impact. To find out how to get started, visit meatlessmonday.com.

2. Buy higher wellness foods

Most pet food sold in supermarkets comes from “factory farms”, where large numbers of animals are confined to very small spaces. The conditions for the animals generally bear no resemblance to the pastoral imagery used by agricultural companies to advertise their products. Many of the country’s most popular meat and egg brands are produced from animals raised under the worst conditions.

You can avoid factory-farmed meat, dairy, and eggs by shopping at farmers’ markets or buying directly from small family farms. Ask the farmers how their animals are raised and if you can visit the farm.

If you shop in a supermarket, ask the manager to stock food from pasture-raised or free-range animals and products certified to the highest animal welfare standards. Use customer comment cards and helplines to tell food retailers that you care about farm animal welfare. And beware of the “natural” claim, which has nothing to do with how the animals were treated.

You can identify foods that meet the highest animal welfare standards by looking for these food certification logos on packaging:

If certified products are not readily available, look for these claims:

  • “high pasture”
  • “free range”

For more information on common label claims for meat, dairy and eggs, see the AWI Food Labeling Guide.

3. Never eat these foods

Some foods are produced from animals that have been raised or slaughtered in particularly inhumane ways. Unlike foods such as eggs, pork, and chicken, which may come from animals raised on “factory farms” or high welfare farms, these foods still involve significant animal suffering and should be avoided.

Milk-fed veal: Milk-fed or “white” veal comes from very young calves (often less than a month old) that have been confined to limit their physical activity and muscle development. Animals are also typically fed a diet low in iron and fiber to produce pale, tender flesh.

Frog legs: Frogs are eaten to extinction with perhaps 1 billion taken from the wild every year. Frog farming operations almost never humanely kill the animals.

Foie gras: French for “foie gras”, this dish is made from the liver of ducks or geese, which have been abnormally enlarged by shoving a feeding pipe down the birds’ throats twice a day to force-feed them.

Shellfish : Scientific research suggests that lobsters, crabs and crayfish are capable of feeling pain. These animals are not rendered unconscious before being killed, but are almost always cooked alive.

Live sashimi: Various species of aquatic animals are dismembered while still alive and sent writhing on a plate. Octopus, among the smartest invertebrates, is sometimes served alive, and prawns can be stunned in alcohol and then served alive in a dish called drunken prawns.

Shark fin soup: No less than 73 million sharks are killed each year for their fins. Sharks are usually caught in open water and their fins cut off before being thrown back into the sea to drown, bleed to death or be eaten by other animals. Shark finning is illegal in US waters and some US states prohibit the sale or possession of shark fins.

4. Fight the growth of factory farms

Farm animal husbandry today is dominated by industrialized operations known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs, or “factory farms”) that maximize profits by treating animals not as sentient creatures, but as production units. Raised by the thousands in one place, animals in factory farms are confined to spaces so cramped that they can barely move, let alone behave naturally.

Factory farms not only mistreat animals, they also pollute the environment and endanger the health and well-being of their workers and residents of the surrounding community. They consume large amounts of natural resources and lower the value of community properties.

Local opposition is one of the most effective ways to fight against the construction or expansion of livestock factories. In fact, small local activist groups across the country have been successful in keeping factory farms out of many communities. If you discover a development project in your area, here are some steps you can take to stop it:

  • Learn all you can about the company and its plans for the facility.
  • Join a local citizen action group or start your own and seek legal advice.
  • Organize a letter-writing campaign or circulate a petition.
  • Meet with your elected officials or local decision-makers to share your concerns.

5. Spread the word and more!

Other ways to help farm animals:

  • Share what you’ve learned with your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues. Grow your audience by sharing via social media.
  • Consider volunteering at a farm animal shelter or adopting a rescued farm animal if you have the resources.
  • If you witness or learn of possible farm animal cruelty or neglect, report it to your local humane society, animal welfare agency, or law enforcement official.
  • Become politically active by supporting state and federal legislation to protect farm animals and opposing efforts that benefit factory farms.
  • Remember to take your valuables with you when you travel and don’t be tempted to try local cuisine that involves cruelty, such as dog or cat meat, ‘bushmeat’, whale meat or live seafood.
  • Sign up for AWI eAlerts to receive the latest news on how you can help all animals.
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