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 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. (This event is canceled for 2020.)
(Photo credit: Springfield Vermont News)
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.
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. 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
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.
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 July 2020, New Hampshire Animal Rights League is aware of two restaurants with foie gras on the menu:
During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, many restaurants revised or limited their menus, which could mean fewer restaurants offering foie gras than before.
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.