Farmed Animals

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League works to help all animals, including animals raised for food. The number of farmed animals killed every year in the United States is enormous — it far surpasses the number killed as a result of hunting, trapping, abuse, neglect, captivity, or experimentation combined. Only aquatic animals are killed in greater numbers than land animals raised for food.

Farmed Animals in New Hampshire

Animal farming in New Hampshire is done on a small scale, but we still support the big factory farms located in other states with our purchases. Ninety-nine percent of the meat, dairy, and eggs consumed in the United States comes from large-scale factory farms. Unless you avoid these ingredients altogether, you are almost certainly consuming them — if not directly, in baked goods, snack foods, and prepared meals.

Regardless, the idea that you can avoid causing animal suffering by buying animal products only from small farms is untrue. All animals raised for food suffer to some degree, even on small farms.

The suffering of farmed animals often begins just by being born. Farmed animals enter the world in bodies that have been selectively bred not for fitness and health but for whatever traits are valuable to the farmer.

Even the Heritage-breed chickens wandering freely around so many New Hampshire backyards are saddled with bodies that lay 20 to 30 times more eggs than their wild ancestors, who laid a reasonable 10 to 15 per year.

“Standard Agricultural Practices”

Many of the cruelties animals endure on farms are allowed because they are “standard agricultural practices.” Actions that would be considered criminal if done to a dog or cat are perfectly legal when done to an animal raised for food.

Consider that it is standard agricultural practice for a farmer to perform any of the following procedures without anesthesia: castration, removing horns, severing tails, and cutting off beaks. Artificial insemination, separating mothers and newborns, and keeping animals in cages and crates are also “standard agricultural practices.”

These methods save time and money, and for that reason standard agricultural practices are widely used — on big and small farms alike.

“It shouldn’t be the consumer’s responsibility to figure out what’s cruel and what’s kind. Cruel and destructive food products should be illegal.”

— Jonathan Safron Foer, Author, Eating Animals

“Animal Science” Programs

One reason animal agriculture endures are the many “Animal Science” programs in place at land grant universities around the country. University of New Hampshire is part of the land grant university system and has its own animal science program.

(Photo shows a cow being artificially inseminated. The farmer’s forearm is inserted in the animal’s rectum in order to guide the semen-filled instrument to the target, the cervix.)

Studying animal science at UNH prepares students for careers in animal agriculture or veterinary medicine. Graduate programs are offered in “Poultry Science,” “Dairy Science,” and “Reproductive Physiology.”

Along with other land grant universities, UNH receives government funding and grants from industry to do research that supports the continuation of animal agriculture.

We All Pay for This

If you are a New Hampshire taxpayer, some portion of your tax dollars goes toward subsidizing the state’s dairy industry — an unprofitable business that produces an unnecessary and unhealthy product at great cost to animals.

Dairy

Dairy farming may be part of New Hampshire’s “agricultural heritage,” but tradition is never justification for continuing a practice that is known to cause unnecessary harm. 

The dairy industry as a whole was founded on the premise that cow’s milk and the products made from it are nutritionally necessary to the human diet. Fortunately, groups such as the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine are challenging this long uncontested guidance:

“Milk and other dairy products are the top source of saturated fat in the American diet, contributing to heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have also linked dairy to an increased risk of breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.”
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

UNH’s Dairy Teaching and Research Center

UNH is home to the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center. This fully operational dairy farm is run by students for the purpose of instruction and research to benefit New Hampshire dairy farmers.

This sign is posted at the Fairchild Dairy Teaching and Research Center. It describes how newborn calves are separated from their mothers hours after birth. This is standard operating procedure at dairy farms everywhere.

Exploitation on Parade

NHARL regularly demonstrates at the annual Strolling of the Heifers parade in Brattleboro, Vermont. Every year, young calves are paraded down Main Street as thousands cheer them on. (Photo credit: Springfield Vermont News)

Eggs

New Hampshire is home to egg distributor Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs. Pete & Gerry’s buys eggs from 130 farms in 12 states and sells nationwide.

Pete & Gerry’s also sells eggs under the Nellie’s Free Range Eggs label, which was the target of a widely publicized exposé and consequent lawsuit brought by consumers who were duped by pictures of hens in open green fields.

Video footage from a Nellie’s Free Range Eggs supplier

“But I only eat cage-free eggs” — As the video above demonstrates, the “cage-free” label means very little when it comes to knowing how the chickens are treated.

Also consider that the vast majority of eggs consumed in the United States come from large-scale factory farms, so unless you avoid eggs altogether, you are almost certainly consuming eggs from industrial operations — if not directly, in baked goods, at restaurants, or in store-bought prepared meals.

Tip: To quickly determine if a packaged food contains eggs, check the allergens statement on the Nutrition Facts label.

Backyard Chickens

Backyard chickens have long been a common sight in New Hampshire, and with hobby farming and homesteading growing in popularity, we are seeing even more people seduced by the idea of backyard chickens.

While the New Hampshire Animal Rights League recognizes that the average backyard chicken is almost certainly better off than the average commercial hen, there are a number of problems with keeping chickens for the purpose of eating their eggs.

For starters, “layer” chickens enter the world in bodies that have been selectively bred for maximum egg production. This is most clearly illustrated in the uniform-looking birds crowded into long sheds at the biggest egg production facilities, but it is also true of the coveted Heritage breeds poking around New Hampshire back yards. Both are saddled with bodies that lay 20 to 30 times more eggs than their wild ancestors, who laid a reasonable 10 to 15 per year.

The hen’s hyperactive reproductive system makes her susceptible to a number of different health problems, which can be painful and ultimately fatal. Some common ailments are impactions (eggs getting stuck in oviduct) and osteoporosis.

The number one killer of laying hens is egg laying.”
Justin Van Kleeck, Triangle Chicken Advocates

Being prey animals, chickens may hide their pain so as not to appear vulnerable. A seemingly “happy, healthy” backyard hen could actually be masking great distress. If she dies, her keeper may say, “She just dropped dead,” without recognizing the likelihood of an undiagnosed chronic condition. Chicken autopsies (necropsies) performed on birds who seemingly died for no reason have revealed accumulations of impacted eggs in their abdomens that were the size of baseballs.

Another ailment common among egg laying hens is osteoporosis. Laying eggs requires calcium, which is taken from the hen’s body to produce the egg shell. If calcium is not adequately replenished, a hen’s bones can become so fragile that handling her could cause a fracture or break. Once again, there may be no outward sign that the chicken is in pain.

Proper care of chickens includes veterinary care, but when people are paying $5 for a chick, how likely are they to spend money on medical care?
Life Before the Backyard

Chicks purchased at farm supply stores or from mail-order poultry suppliers almost certainly come from large hatcheries where chicks are mass produced assembly-line style. Wild chickens have strong family bonds, with both mother and father helping to raise young, but chicks born in hatcheries never know their parents, and their parents never know them.

When hatchery chicks emerge from their shells (if they are able, as there is no mother to assist) and instinctively seek the warmth and protection of a mother, they instead find themselves surrounded by a sea of other bereft chicks.

For the males, who are not wanted because they don’t lay eggs, their experience of this earth likely consists of a few lonely hours before they are ground up, gassed, or tossed into garbage bags to suffocate (the latter method is discouraged by the American Veterinary Medical Association but is not illegal).

As mentioned, chicks can be ordered online to be shipped through the U.S. Postal Service when they are just a few days old. Many chicks die during the journey, but such losses are expected and factored in. Their lives are of negligible value to the producers. Adding males to the box as “filler chicks” to take up extra space and keep the females warm is an accepted industry practice.

“We have people ship chicks as gifts to children because they want their nieces or nephews to grow up with birds and will ship them across the country… There’s nothing better than seeing how happy baby chicks make people.”

Iowa-based hatchery quoted in CountryLiving magazine

“Sexing Errors”

Only female chickens have value in the egg industry, but male and female chicks are difficult to tell apart. Therefore, a certain number of “sexing errors” are expected at the hatchery (error rates may be as high as 10-15%). Males mislabeled as females avoid being destroyed, but since they will grow into roosters their chances for a happy future are not good.

The main objection to roosters (aside from their not laying eggs) is the crowing. Many cities, towns, and neighborhoods that allow chicken keeping specifically prohibit roosters for this reason (even though barking dogs likely generate far more noise). Roosters may also be considered a “nuisance” for doing what nature intended — trying to protect the females and guard the eggs.

For these reasons, roosters are routinely killed, abandoned, or passed off to animal sanctuaries, which are reportedly inundated with such requests.   

Unsafe Housing

Another concern with backyard chickens is that they often have inadequate shelter to protect them from predators. The average chicken tractor or coop cannot guarantee safety. Coyotes and bears can easily tear through chicken wire, and raccoons have the dexterity to open latches. Rather than providing protection, the coop may actually be a death trap, as the chickens have no way to escape. Wild chickens have the option of flying up into a tree to flee predators.

Backyard chicken keepers may come to accept these deaths as just part of having chickens. One chicken keeper reported using “spent hens” (older hens whose egg production has declined) to test the impenetrability of a new pen before moving the rest of the flock in. She lost a few of these older hens during the test period, but their lives held no value for her.

What to Do If You Have Chickens
  • Don’t eat eggs, including eggs from your own chickens. Although it may seem harmless to eat the eggs of a well cared for chicken, doing so reinforces the idea that eggs are an appropriate food for humans. Until eggs are no longer considered food, profit-driven people will find ways to produce them as cheaply as possible, at great cost to the hens.
  • Help protect your hens from nutrient deficiencies by feeding their eggs back to them. This may seem weird, but it is normal behavior in nature and can benefit her greatly.
  • Seek regular veterinary care for your chickens, and ask your veterinarian about options for reproductive relief.

What You Can Do

  • Educate friends and family about the problems with eating eggs, even those from backyard chickens.
  • Next time someone points out their “happy” backyard hens, ask where their brothers are to start a conversation.

Cows Raised for Food

Beef has been getting a lot of bad press lately, and for good reason. Eating beef has been shown to have a negative effect on our health, the environment, and, of course, the animals. Nevertheless, for many beef is still the habitual main course for the big weekend meal, dinner out, and special occasions.

Despite our devotion to beef, consider that our taste for it might be largely learned. Parents often have to urge young children to “eat your meat,” or use catsup or some other sweet sauce to make it appealing. As adults, if we eat beef it’s likely out of habit, perhaps because it was always just there — at the dinner table, in the cafeteria line, on the restaurant menu, and so on. Eating beef might feel like a “personal choice,” but chances are the choice was made for us, long ago.

“But I Only Eat Grass-Fed Beef”

As the truth about what happens to animals raised for food is increasingly reaching the general public, growing numbers of people are looking for meat that they can buy with a clear conscience. Beef producers have responded to this demand with labels such as “grass fed,” “local,” and “humanely raised.” Such marketing works because consumers want to trust these labels. But even on the best of farms, there are inherent cruelties involved in raising animals for food, including:

  • Shortened lives — Whether grass-fed or factory-farmed, cows raised for food live only about one-eighth of their natural life span. Beef cows are typically slaughtered between two and three years old. “After about 30 months of age, you will start running into tenderness problems…” one one beef producer wrote.

  • Painful procedures — In addition to living very short lives, cows raised for food may be subjected to painful procedures, such as castration and horn removal without anesthesia. Many of the cruelties animals endure on farms are legal because they are “standard agricultural practices.” These methods save time and money, and for that reason standard agricultural practices are widely used, on big and small farms alike. Pain management is suggested but not required.

  • Potential neglect — Even on small local farms, good care, including providing veterinary care to sick or injured animals, is not guaranteed. For example, sometimes cows aren’t given enough to eat, or nothing is done to protect them from swarming flies, a local beef producer told us. Hay and fly control are expensive. If cash is tight, a farmer may cut corners.

Transport and Slaughter

An inescapable fact of eating animals is that they have to be killed. When that day comes, a local beef producer has only a handful of options in and around New Hampshire. This means that beef producers are often pulling a trailer of animals for hours to get to the slaughterhouse. (Anyone selling meat to the public must take the animals to a slaughterhouse; backyard slaughter is allowed only if the flesh is for one’s own household or will be given away.)

Once at the slaughterhouse, by law the animals are supposed to be killed as quickly and painlessly as possible. But our humane slaughter laws represent a goal, not a guarantee. Even with inspectors on site, mistakes are inevitable. Knives miss the mark. Stun guns don’t work on the first try. Shackled animals come loose and fall to the ground.

Make enough mistakes and the USDA will issue a citation and perhaps even shut a slaughterhouse down for a period, but that’s of no use to the animal who was deprived of the one mercy promised by law: a quick and painless death.

Small-scale New England slaughterhouses may make fewer mistakes than larger facilities, but errors are inevitable. When Blood Farm in West Groton, MA was shut down for violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act as a result of an employee improperly stunning an animal on the killing floor for the third time,  the owner of the establishment was quoted in the Lowell Sun as saying:

“It’s a common thing that happens in other slaughterhouses. I’d like to see the slaughterhouse that doesn’t have this problem.”

— Owner, Blood Farm Slaughterhouse

Foie gras

A Moulard duck rescuced from the foie gras industry (photo credit Farm Sanctuary)

Foie gras, French for “fatty liver,” is the unnaturally fattened liver of a duck (or, less commonly, a goose). It is produced by force feeding ducks so that their livers grow from six to ten times the normal size. Images of these birds hanging featherless after slaughter show bulging livers that take up the majority of their lower half.

Ducks used for foie gras are generally all males. The female duck’s liver doesn’t grow as well as the male’s, so it is most profitable to raise only males. Female ducklings are destroyed or sold to duck meat farms overseas. This use of males is a break from what generally happens in animal agriculture, where more often than not male animals have little or no value.

While the practice of force feeding birds has been with us for thousands of years, our modern view of foie gras as a delicacy likely comes from its connection to French cuisine. Because dishes such as foie gras appear on the menus of fancy, expensive restaurants, we collectively come to regard them as desirable.

Growing Public Awareness

Because of the work of animal rights groups in targeting foie gras and publicizing their methods, which include inserting a feeding tube down the bird’s throat, the general public is aware that there is “something bad” about foie gras.

A number of countries and jurisdictions have laws against the production, import, and sale of foie gras. New Hampshire has no such laws. In many places foie gras laws and bans face ongoing opposition and sometimes get overturned.

The “Humane Foie gras” Myth

Defenders of foie gras point to the anatomy of ducks in arguing that the force feeding is not inhumane. They point out that unlike humans ducks do not have a “gag reflex,” and for this reason claim that the birds are not bothered by having a tube inserted down their throat. The second defense is that the birds are predisposed to “gorge” as normal pre-migration behavior.

Yet an undercover investigation carried out at Hudson Valley Foie Gras, a self-proclaimed “humane foie gras” operation in Ferndale, New York, revealed injured and dead birds, as well as workers talking about the number of birds who die during force feeding.

Sometimes the duck doesn’t get up, and it dies,” one Hudson Valley Foie Gras worker explained while demonstrating the force feeding process.

Oversized livers push against nearby organs, including the lungs, which can make it difficult for a bird to breathe.

Arguments about whether or not the ducks suffer and to what extent miss the point, as summed up by Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the United States when he argued in favor of the California foie gras ban:

“Is a soft rubber tube better than a hard tube? Maybe, but you are missing the point. You are still forcing them to eat more than they would ever eat voluntarily and inducing a state of disease.”
Paul Shapiro, Humane Society of the U.S.

New Hampshire Restaurants Serving Foie Gras

Various New Hampshire restaurants have served foie gras at one time or another. As of June 2021, New Hampshire Animal Rights League is aware of three restaurants that serve foie gras:

Note: At The Foundry in Manchester, foie gras is no longer on the menu. When asked about the decision, the General Manager wrote, “We decided not to have it on the menu anymore due to non sale and too much waste on product.”

What You Can Do

  • Avoid restaurants that serve foie gras. Consider contacting the restaurant and expressing your concern.
  • Educate friends and family about the cruelty behind foie gras.