Inhumane vs More Humane Food

Over 90% of the 56 billion land animals slaughtered worldwide every year live in unimaginably cruel conditions—they are crammed together in filthy barns, their bodies are mutilated, and they never see the light of day.   These “factory farms” are a far cry from the picturesque vision of farms that often come to mind where animals, people, and the land live in harmony. Instead, factory farms are industrialized farms that put efficiency and mass production over animal welfare, workers’ rights, the environment, and consumer health. When animals reach market weight or lose their economic value they are shipped from factory farms to slaughterhouses where they often experience more abuse before their death.  450 billion animals are currently living in factory farm conditions in just the US alone.


History of Factory Farms




Table of Contents

Types of Factory Farm Cruelty

Legal Protections of Farm Animals

Environmental Impact of Factory Farms

Factory Farm Companies to Boycott

More Humane Alternatives to Factory Farming


Types of Factory Farm Cruelty


  • Confined to cages
    • Many farmed animals (e.g. egg-laying hens, veal and pigs) are confined to small, uncomfortable indoor cages all their life never seeing the outside, living on concrete floors, being attacked by other stressed animals, living in waste, and often never having enough room to even turn around.
  • Body mutilations without anesthesia
    • Animals have part of their beaks, tails, and horns cut off, they are branded with hot irons or ear notches, and their testicles are removed. It is common practice to perform these mutilations without anesthesia. The industry performs these mutilations to identify animals, prevent injuries from animals exhibiting stress and boredom from overcrowded conditions or natural behaviors, and for better tasting meat.
  • Physical abuse by overworked and under trained farm handlers
    • Factory farms often overwork and under train their farm workers causing abuses from limbs being ripped off, violently jamming animals into overcrowded transport crates; running over live animals with forklifts; and hitting, kicking, and throwing animals.
  • Not always unconscious during butchering
    • According to the Humane Slaughter Act of 1978 farm animals in the US must be stun unconscious by shooting a bolt in the head, electrocution, or gas, before slaughtering the animal.  Although USDA slaughter houses have improved over the last few decades there are occasional animals that get slaughter (throat cut, hung upside down, boiled, defeathered, etc) alive. Chickens and other farm birds are not covered under this act and are usually slaughtered without being stunned.
  • Lacking protection from extreme weather, especially during transportation
    • Farm animals are usually transported to slaughter houses in tractor trailers with no protection from heat or cold sometimes up to 20-30 hours being exposed to extreme temperatures.  Transportation never stops regardless of weather.  Millions of animals die from exposure in route each year.
  • Babes removed from mothers day of birth
    • Calves, who normally would feed from their mothers for at least 9 months, are removed from their mothers within 24 hours of birth causing tremendous stress for the mother who will be impregnated within 2-3 months of birth again and again, forcing the mother cow through horrible emotional and physical pain for 3-5 years until the mother is finally slaughtered.
  • Over milking and over artificial impregnation of dairy animals
    • Female cows are artificially inseminate shortly after their first birthdays and are often re-impregnated 2-3 months after birth over and over again until their milk production decreases or they experience reproductive programs or other illnesses, usually 3-5 years of age.  Cows have a natural lifespan of about 20 years and can produce milk for 8-9 years.  Factory farm cows are milked so frequently the cows often develop milking related illnesses such as Mastitis, which is a painful inflammation of the mammary gland, easily avoided by using cleaner housing, more space, and better diets but instead the cows are just shipped to slaughter early when they get Mastitis or other illness due to factory farm conditions.
  • High cases of infections, diseases and poor health, resulting in overuse of antibiotics
    • Living conditions in factory farms are so horrible for animals they are constantly sick and usually kept alive on a steady flow of antibiotics, which not only prolongs animal suffering, it also increases the rick of antibiotic resistant pathogens from forming.
  • Unhealthy growth due to growth hormones and concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO)
    • in order to fatten animals up or increase milk production as much as possible factory farms often use growth hormones such as rBGH, which has been outlawed in the European Union and many other countries besides the US, due to its harmful effects on animal health (increases risk of Mastitis and other illnesses) and humans health (links to cancers and other illnesses).
  • Trauma
    • Animals experience fear, pain, stress, depression, and trauma very similar to how humans would experience these emotions.  Due to the above factory farm conditions most factory farm animals are in a constant state of trauma their whole lives.



Chicken Culling

  • When breeding egg laying chickens, every year millions of male baby chickens are killed the day they are born, because the male chicks can’t lay eggs and they aren’t as efficient as newer breeds of chickens raised for meat.  These chicks are usually killed by gas or being thrown into a grinder.  Unfortunately this isn’t just a factory farm process.  The majority of egg laying chickens in most humane farms came from this industry practice.  There is new technology to help identify the sex of an egg when its hatch, before it goes into an incubator, so male eggs can be diverted to the egg market instead of hatching.  The US egg industry is hoping to commercialize this process by 2020.  But until this happens the majority of eggs bought, from factory or humane farms, comes from this process.




Back to Top


Legal Protections of Farm Animals

According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund:

  • There are no federal laws governing the conditions in which farmed animals are raised
  • The majority of farmed animal suffering is exempt from state criminal anti-cruelty laws and even omitted from the federal Animal Welfare Act.
  • Many individual state criminal anti-cruelty laws exempt “standard” or “commonly accepted” agricultural practices, which are not defined by the legislature
  • The only federal oversight of farm animal treatment comes during transportation and slaughter. The 28 Hour Law requires vehicles transporting animals for slaughter to stop every 28 hours to allow animals exercise, food, and water. This law is rarely enforced, and the USDA claims it does not apply to birds.

Back to Top


Environmental Impact of Factory Farms

Photo credit from Cowspiracy

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 11.45.24 PM.png


  • Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, more than the combined exhaust from all transportation.
    • Methane is 25-100 times more destructive than CO2 on a 20 year time frame
  • 55% of water consumed in the US is for animal agriculture
  • At least 50% of food grown in the world goes to animal agriculture feed
    • On average 2.5-12 pounds of feed is needed to produce one pound of meat (varies depending on animal, breed, type of feed, access to pasture, etc)
  • Animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, and habitat destruction.
  • Animal agriculture is responsible for up to 91% of Amazon destruction.
  • Every minute, 7 million pounds of excrement are produced by animals raised for food in the US which is not treated and often finds its way in our rivers and water supplies
  • Animal agriculture is considered by many to be the single greatest polluting industry

Click on link to learn more

Environmental Injustice/Racism

In North Carolina there are estimated 10 million pigs in the farming industry creating waste equivalent to 100 million humans.  There are no septic systems for these farms.  They are stored in giant lagoons that are periodically emptied by spraying the sewage over fields.  These lagoons often pollute groundwater and the sprays often drift to nearby poor minority communities.  Nearby residents complain that it’s literally raining hog waste when the sprays hit the right wind.  People living near these lagoons experience horrible smells daily and health problems such as asthma, diarrhea, eye irritation, depression, blood pressure increases, neurological issues, lung issues, cancer and other health problems.  The local residents are left with little recourse.

According to a 2017 Observer article:

“An analysis conducted by WaterKeeper Alliance found that out of 2,246 pig concentrated animal feeding operations in the state, only 12 have been required to obtain permits under the Clean Water Act. The rest operate under lax state permit guidelines. A 2014 study conducted by University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that black people are 1.54 times more likely to reside near these hog operations in North Carolina than white people, Hispanics are 1.39 times more likely, and Native Americans are 2.18 times more likely.”

Observer: Feces From Hog Farming Is Poisoning Black Communities in North Carolina

NY Times: North Carolina’s Noxious Pig Farms

Invisible Vegan

The Invisible Vegan is a 90-minute independent documentary that explores the problem of unhealthy dietary patterns in the African-American community, foregrounding the health and wellness possibilities enabled by plant-based vegan diets and lifestyle choices. Over the past three decades, obesity, coronary heart disease, and diabetes have steadily grown as the leading causes of health problems in America, disproportionately impacting the African-American community in particular. This documentary offers both historical and contemporary perspectives on the dietary trends among African-Americans, showing how intertwined histories of slavery, twentieth-century socioeconomic inequalities, and the rise of Big Food, have led to the increased consumption and dependence on meat, processed, junk, and fast food.

Back to Top


Learn More about Factory Farming

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 7.04.56 PM.png

Back to Top


Factory Farm Companies to Boycott


Fast Food Involved in Animal Cruelty to Boycott

Back to Top

Higher Animal Welfare Alternatives to Factory Farming


Although the majority of animal agriculture in the US and the world is factory farming there is a growing movement today of farms with higher animal welfare, leaving behind the horrors of factory farming and returning to better animal welfare standards which can include but not limited to:

  • freedom to roam pastures
  • ability to engage in natural behaviors
  • protection from weather at farm and during transport (warm and cold)
  • no growth hormones, no overmilking and no high density feedlots
  • no body mutilations (beak trimming, branding, dehorning, nose ringing, tail docking)
  • antioxidants only when an animal is actually sick/not factory farm sick
  • USDA regulated or better slaughterhouses
  • Farm handlers treated animals with care
  • and if indoors access to sufficient space, light and circulation

These farms achieve various different levels of animal welfare standards and when possible should be researched.  And ultimately the only 100% humane situation is to live as much as possible on a plant-diet (resources to live on a plant-based diet).

But if you’re not ready to live entirely on plants, these growing humane farms, no matter where they are at on the animal welfare spectrum, are a huge improvements in animal welfare and environmental impacts over factory farming.  And the more consumers buy into higher animal welfare farms and create a demand for high animal welfare products, the larger the humane industry will grow, making higher animal welfare meat and dairy products more accessible and with better animal welfare standards.

Below are a list of links to resources and guides to making the highest animal welfare choices

Learn how to make the highesg animal welfare product choice no matter where you at with the:

Animal Welfare Hierarchy

Screen Shot 2017-12-03 at 2.42.27 PM

Learn more about:

Animal Welfare Certifications, Labels and Farmers

Understanding “Humane” Egg Labels

The Responsible Consumer: Factory Farm Alternatives

Where to Find Humane Products in Greater DC Area?

Locate Higher Animal Welfare Meat, Dairy and Pet Food Products in Greater DC Area

Want to Make a Difference in your lifestyle and/or world?

How to Get Involved with Making a More Humane Food System

Humane DC Plant Based Diet Resources

(Only true 100% humane choice)

DC Plant Based Diet Resources

Great Vegan Substitutes for Meat and Dairy


Humane Products to Promote

Saltwater Brewery and their Sea Creature Safe Edible Six-Pack Rings

Sustainability Resources

The Responsible Consumer: Consumer Guides to Sustainable Seafood

Green America’s Green Pages: Sustainable Seafood


Want to Learn More?

Humane DC: Humane Food Resources

Back to Top

If you have any feedback or resources to add please email