Do you really think this is what God had in mind?
Because chickens are crammed by the tens of thousands into warehouses, their sensitive beaks are cut off so that they don’t hurt one another in frustration.
Dehorning is standard practice on dairy farms. Temple Grandin once called it “the most painful thing” that we do to cows in the food industry. Farmers remove cows’ horns or the tissue that will turn into horns using guillotine dehorners, sharp wires, hot irons, or caustic chemicals.
God makes some cows and pigs with testicles and others without. But we use pliers to pry the testicles off male cows and pigs or rubber bands to pinch them off. And we don’t give them any painkillers.
Pigs raised and killed for food are kept in such cramped quarters that they bite one another and their cage bars as a result of frustration and deprivation. Instead of taking them out of cages and letting them root in the dirt, bask in the sun, and romp with their families as God intended, we cut off their teeth.
Feedlots and dairy barns are filthy, fly-infested places. A cow’s tail is his or her God-given fly-swatter. Rather than clean up their act, factory farms remove cows’ tails without providing any pain relief.
Mother pigs are often kept in gestation crates while they are pregnant and farrowing crates while they are nursing their young. The crates, where they spend almost their entire lives, are so tiny that the sows can’t even turn around.
Five to 11 hens kept for egg-laying are crammed into wire cages where each hen has, on average, less living space than the dimensions of a piece of paper. The cages are often stacked on top of one another, which allows urine and feces to fall down onto birds in the lower cages. Chickens often die in their cages and are sometimes left to rot in the same space with living birds.
Cows like to forage through tall grasses in lush pastures. But because we raise and kill about 42 million cows each year in the U.S. alone, we cram them by the tens of thousands onto barren, miserable, mud- and feces-filled feedlots and feed them a highly processed diet of grains.
Perhaps at one point, animals used for food were allowed to breed naturally, but these days, we often take matters into our own hands—literally. I’m pretty sure that artificial insemination isn’t what God had in mind in Genesis.
Long gone are the days when a family raised one cow or pig and dispatched her quickly with their own hands. Now, cows, pigs, and chickens are loaded onto trucks and carted through all weather extremes on long trips to distant slaughterhouses. They are often denied food and water, even though trips may take days. Many animals are already so sick that they die during the difficult journey.
Every second in the U.S., 321 farmed land animals are killed for food. More than a thousand animals died in the time it took you to read that sentence. Slaughter never slows and never stops. This means that millions of animals are still conscious and able to feel pain when their limbs are hacked off or their skin is ripped from their bodies.
Because slaughter lines move quickly, millions of birds each year miss the blades that are supposed to cut their throats and end up in the scalding tank while they are still conscious. Because their throats have not been cut, their blood is still inside of them. When they emerge dead from the scalding tank, their flesh has turned bright red. The birds have literally been scalded to death. When you pay for chicken flesh, you also pay for the millions of “red birds” discarded by the industry each year.
Instead of viewing dominion as a license to kill, what if we took seriously the privilege of being made in the image of God by offering animals a dominion of love? Surely we can extend the endless grace that we have so freely been given to those of God’s creation whose care has been entrusted to us.