Globally, over 72 billion land animals and 2.7 trillion sea creatures are killed in the name of food every year . That equates to around 3 billion individuals every single day. The animals included in these statistics are predominately chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys, lambs, ducks, fish, and shellfish . These statistics exclude the millions of male chicks who are killed as a result of the egg industry, as well as the animals who are killed for clothing, medical research, and “entertainment”.
When a person or organisation speaks out against the mass slaughter of animals for food, they usually get ridiculed for their choices. This, however, contradicts the prejudices many have about certain cultures, particularly Asian cultures.
Firstly, what is a wet market?
A wet market is typically a series of stalls that sell both live and dead animals – from sea creatures to birds to other wildlife – as well as fresh fruits and vegetables, for human consumption.
Most, if not all countries, have a form of wet markets. Western cultures, may not have the dogs, cats, or exotic animals, but they still have an array of living and dead species.
Asian Wet Markets
Many, particularly people from the West, are quick to judge Asian cultures for their “unusual” taste in animals. They condemn them for having dogs, cats, and wild animals in cages; for killing animals in front of each other; and for making the slaughter visible to the consumers. They also ridicule them for their “unhygienic” practices.
But we have to ask ourselves, why does the killing of dogs and cats for food upset us? Is it the visible slaughter that makes us uncomfortable? Are Western practices really that much “better”?
The truth is, most people willingly purchase the body parts of pigs, cows, chickens, fish, and lambs from neatly packaged supermarkets, butcher shops, and restaurants, without much or any thought for the animal who once was. We don’t question how the animal was killed or think about what they looked like, or if they had a personality. To the general public, some animals are just faceless, personality-less bodies, here to be consumed. This simply isn’t true though. All animals are individuals. All have unique personalities, quirks, likes and dislikes, and all have the same desire to be safe.
A common argument that allows for the persecution of Asian practices, is that we have animal welfare policies. That is true, but they are far from “humane” or “ethical”. The policies are set with the vested interest of maximising profits. Those with the authority and power to prosecute against animal cruelty, are those who are also profiting off of their deaths. The government and industries throw the idea of “high standards of animal welfare” around, when in reality, farmed animals are often exempt from the prevention of cruelty laws. This means that certain practices that are illegal for a dog, are legal for a pig, cow, or chicken, etc.
In Australia, it is still legal to mutilate baby animals, to maximise profits. Most of the mutilations are a band-aid solution to prevent the animals from injuring each other when they are bored, stressed, and frustrated because of their permanent confinement and poor living conditions.
Pigs: Piglets have their teeth clipped, tails cut off, and ears notched, while males are also castrated – all without pain relief. Due to boredom and frustration caused by being confined, pigs are known to chew on one another. A way to reduce the impacts is to cut off the tails and clip their teeth so they do less damage .
Layer hens: Almost all layer hens have their beaks seared off when they are just one day old – without pain relief . Like pigs, chickens become bored in their cages and frustrated when housed in large numbers, as it is unnatural. As a result, they peck one another. To reduce their impacts, they have their beaks seared off, which is proven to cause long-term pain.
Lambs: Lambs used for their wool have been genetically altered to grow extra skin and thus, more wool. Australia’s hot climate means that the sheep are prone to flystrike and as a way to combat this issue, they have their tails cut off – known as mulesing – without pain relief .
Goats: Baby goats have their horns cut and seared off – known as disbudding – without pain relief . Their horns can be dangerous for workers and also other goats – once again, because of the unnatural living conditions – so it is legal to remove them. Watch Aussie Farms exposé here.
Cows: Like goats, cows have their horns cut and seared off – without pain relief – and the Males are also castrated .
Chickens: Chickens raised for meat reach their slaughter weight in just 7 weeks. Selective breeding, artificial lighting, overcrowding, and drug use , created abnormally large chickens. They suffer from skeletal and metabolic disorders, tendon ruptures, and lameness. According to the industry 4% of chickens, that is approximate 27,670,000, die in the sheds because of health issues .
Australian housing standards are far from “hygienic” and are most definitely not “ethical”. It is standard practice to have:
Layer hens: sheds have rows of cages, stacked on top of each other. Inside these cages are 4-8 chickens jammed inside. A single shed can hold up to 100,000 hens. The hens will spend 12 confined to these cages, unable to exhibit any of their natural behaviours . The sheds are rarely cleaned. Some systems have a conveyor belt that automatically moves the waste to the end of the aisles and the piles are cleaned weekly. The other system lets the waste to build up under the cages and it is cleaned after the birds have been depopulated. This means that birds are living above their waste for 12 whole months.
Chickens: Between 40,000-60,000 day old chicks are dumped into sheds where they will spend the next 7 weeks. During this time, the sheds are not cleaned, meaning they are living among their own filth. Ammonia burns their noses, eyes, skin, and feet, and causes a range of health issues . After the chickens are slaughtered they are washed with Chlorine, to remove some of the bacteria from their skin [12 PDF].
Turkeys: On average, 14,000 turkeys are crammed into sheds where they will spend the 12 weeks living in their own waste. This equates to around six birds per square metre. Like chickens, turkeys have been selectively bred to grow larger than their ancestors. The increase in body weight causes a range of health issues and premature death .
Ducks: In Australia, ducks are legally housed without access to open water, despite being aquatic animals. They are placed in sheds like chickens and live on top of their waste . Our exposé found showed an infestation of bugs that crawled through the waste and ducks feathers .
Pigs: Mother pigs are confined to tiny stalls or housed in groups, where they live in their waste. Boars are also kept confined to stalls and are only allowed out for semen collection. Piglets are kept in group housing, where they also live in their own waste for around 6 months .
These practices deny animals from their natural behaviours and are equally as heartbreaking, as a few hours or days at a market stall.
Animals in Australia are predominately killed out of sight, and thus, out of the consumers mind. Packed tightly onto trucks, they make the (often long) journey to the slaughterhouse. Anonymously supplied footage shows the animals frantically trying to escape the holding pens, runs, knock boxes, and conveyor belts. We may not see what happens to them, but we know that in all instances, animals are treated as nothing more than an object.
Prior to having their throats slit, animals in Australia are supposed to be “stunned”, rendering them “unconscious”. There are three methods used, a captive bolt gun, electric stunner, and gassing. Some smaller facilities use a shotgun or rifle to stun the animals.
The captive bolt gun is predominately used on cattle and pigs. Footage obtained by anonymous activists has shown that some animals require multiple shots to the head before they collapse, and are still blinking and moving while their throats are slit .
An electric stun gun is used on smaller animals, such as pigs, calves, lambs or sheep, and goats. Its purpose is to pass a current through the brain, only disrupting the normal brain functioning for a short period of time .
Gassing is used for male chicks, layer hens, pigs, and goats. It uses carbon dioxide to cause a gradual loss of consciousness. Death by C02 hypoxia is incredibly cruel, as it causes significant pain and distress due to acute respiratory distress . Last year we exposed the gassing of spent layer hens for the first time.
After the animals are “stunned”, they have their throats slit and are left to bleed out. Anonymously obtained footage shows how ineffective the stunning methods are. Animals can be seen thrashing about, blinking, and moving post stunning, and are fully conscious while their throats are slit and they bleed out. You can view various exposés here.
It is evident that all countries exploit and abuse animals in the name of food. The reason many people become angered at the thought of a dog being killed whilst eating a cow, pig, or chicken, is because of speciesism. Speciesism is a type of discrimination, which involves treating some species as are more morally important that others, even though their interests are equivalent.
We know that animals are unique individuals and that they never walk willingly to their death, yet, we continue to treat them as faceless corpses with no other purpose than to become food. It is up to us to change this mentality because our actions matter. We each have an ethical responsibility to cause as little harm as possible. Lucky for us, it is so easy to leave animals and their secretions off of our plates. Start your journey today, with the help of Vegan Easy.