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WHY ‘WELFARE’ in ANIMAL WELFARE IS AN OXYMORON

3rd June 2024 … talking about animals …

THIS WEEK’S DISCUSSION [number 13 in the series]


Why 'WELFARE' in Animal Welfare is an Oxymoron

Suggested by Gerry Boland, founder of and spokesperson for Animals Behind Closed Doors, advocating for appropriate rights for animals and for a vegan lifestyle (087-6397557)

‘Our starting point in developing this strategy is that animals are sentient beings who can perceive their environment and experience sensations such as pain and suffering or pleasure and comfort, and can give expression to these sensations.

Veterinary professionals and other experts now acknowledge that in addition to their fundamental behavioural needs, animals’ feelings are also important …’ [from the introduction to the Irish Government’s 2021-25 Animal Welfare Strategy]


RATIONALE

The Irish government’s 2021-25 Animal Welfare Strategy declares in its introduction that ‘animals are sentient beings who can perceive their environment and experience sensations such as pain and suffering or pleasure and comfort’. It would be reasonable to assume, therefore, that the government’s approach to animal welfare would reflect this view.


Sadly, the introduction – which reads like an animal rights charter – bears no resemblance to the daily reality of life for a factory-farmed pig or chicken and cannot be reconciled with the notion of sentience of those same pigs and those same chickens. Connecting a declaration of sentience with the realities of life on a factory farm amounts to a classic case of cognitive dissonance [when people hold conflicting beliefs].


CHICKENS

A fully-grown chicken in a typical shed will share each square metre of floor space with eighteen other birds. This translates to each individual chicken having the equivalent floor space of less than an A4 sheet of paper. In the final days of a chicken’s life, the often crippled bird is unable to stand, due to its brittle bones and the massive upper body mass it must carry.

How can cramming 40,000 chickens into a single shed for their entire 38/40-day life honour their sentience?


SOWS

Almost all the pork sold in Ireland comes from production units in which breeding sows are confined in stalls for up to half of their productive lives, between the time they spend in service crates and farrowing crates. These iron cages are barely larger than a pig’s body, preventing her from turning around, or taking more than a step forward or backward. Sow stalls deprive pregnant sows of almost all their natural behaviours in that they cannot exercise, explore, forage or socialise. A factory-farmed sow will never feel the rain on her skin, or feel the warmth of the sun on her back.

How can confining a sow in an iron cage barely larger than her ownbody honour her sentience?


FATTENING PIGS

On a factory farm, the pigs to be fattened for slaughter are raised in large groups in overcrowded pens, on concrete floors without bedding. Contrary to EU regulations, they have their tails docked and their teeth

clipped or crushed. The latter procedure is to prevent the piglets from damaging their mother’s teats, while the former procedure is to eliminate the biting of other pigs’ tails. Both procedures are painful and are usually carried out without the use of anaesthetic. [Council Directive 2008/120/EC

states:

"Neither tail-docking nor reduction of corner teeth must be carried out

routinely but only where there is evidence that injuries to sows'; teats or to other pigs;

ears or tails have occurred.”

How can forcing thousands of pigs to live indoors in a crowded,stressful environment honour their sentience?


“It's all very well producing animal welfare strategies filled with full- colour images of the perfect farm with seemingly healthy and happy animals, but until factory farms disappear from the Irish landscape, there is no possibility of animal sentience being recognised and honoured,” argues Gerry Boland.

“The very existence of factory farms makes a mockery of the Irish Government’s Animal Welfare Strategy.”



MORE ABOUT CHICKENS

 Many chickens suffer from painful leg disorders.

 The unnaturally rapid growth puts a strain on their hearts and lungs.

 Although they are very young birds, they suffer from extreme fatigue.

 As they get older, they spend less time performing natural behaviours such as walking, pecking, scratching the litter and perching, and more time sitting and eating.

 Birds with mobility problems are less able to compete for food and water and are likely to suffer injury, malnutrition and dehydration.

 Lame birds spend between 80% and 90% of their time lying down and can go without water for days.

 It is not unusual for broiler chickens to die from heart failure before they reach slaughter weight.


MORE ABOUT SOWS

 Before she gives birth, during a time that she is highly motivated to separate from other sows and form a nest, she is moved to a barren iron cage known as a farrowing crate. Here she will give birth to up to sixteen piglets and will remain confined in this cage for 28 days.

 Five days after weaning, she will be moved to the service crates and impregnated again, and can remain there for 28 days, the conveyor-belt production system moving along relentlessly.

 About six litters later, at about 3 or 4 years of age – if she survives that long – she will be slaughtered in a C02 gassing chamber; still a young animal, but completely spent.  

 Sow stalls are illegal in Sweden and in the UK and are being phased out in a number of countries, but there is a long way to go before this cruel confinement is banned completely.

 Farrowing crates are illegal in Sweden, Norway and Switzerland. They are widely used everywhere else.


MORE ABOUT FATTENING PIGS

 Because pigs are mixed with unfamiliar pigs, there is much conflict and stress.

 Most male piglets in Europe (not in the UK or in Ireland) are castrated shortly after birth. The scrotum is cut with a scalpel and the testes are pulled out and cut off. This is often carried out without the use of an anaesthetic.

 Almost all pigs are rendered unconscious by means of suffocation in carbon dioxide gas chambers. As pigs inhale the gas, their blood carbon dioxide levels gradually increase and blood oxygen levels decrease, which eventually causes unconsciousness due to loss of brain function​.

 During stunning with carbon dioxide gas, pigs perform behaviours consistent with pain and distress, such as attempting to escape, gasping, head shaking, and high-pitched vocalisations.

 Once pigs are unconscious, they are removed from the stunning chamber and bled to death.


I am happy to discuss this issue on air, also more than willing to debate with an industry representative.

Gerry Boland


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