The free range issue is one that saddens me deeply, because the people who buy products that are supposedly “free range” are doing so in hopes of helping to reduce the amount they support the meat industries’ horrific practices. They believe that they are making the ethical and humane choice by choosing a product that was raised in a nice environment and killed humanely. Unfortunately, this isnot the case.
The requirements for being able to call a product “free range”, are few, vague and loosely enforced.
USDA standards for “free range” chickens and turkeys are that they are given time outdoors before they are sent to slaughter. This does not specify the amount of time spent outdoors, nor if the bird is inside a cage barely bigger than himself. There is no guarantee that any of them will get to leave their enclosed space. There are also no regulations about the quality of the environment they live in, or how many chickens or turkeys can be stuffed into an enclosed area at the same time.
Chickens used to make “free range” eggs don’t get off any easier. The production of eggs creates a surplus of male chickens that are useless to the factory farms because they can’t produce eggs and they are a different breed than the kind of chickens used for meat, so they are most often thrown in the trash shortly after they are born, suffocating to death. Although, sometimes they are ground up alive instead. As hard as it is to hear, every time you buy eggs, “free range” or otherwise, you are contributing to the deaths of these countless baby chicks.
Chickens and turkeys aren’t the only animals who suffer from the “Free Range” scam. The USDA ambiguously requires that “free range” cows, pigs and sheep must eat grass and live on a range. The term “range” is defined loosely and has no size or quality requirements. Neither does the grass. They are all subject to castration, branding, dehorning, tail-docking, tooth-grinding and other forms of mutilation.
According to the Official U.S. Department of Agriculture/Food Safety and Inspection Service, to prove that they are following the requirements of holding “free range” animals, the USDA relies largely “upon producer testimonials to support the accuracy of these claims.” (aka the honor code.) So the people who make more money when animals are abused are put in charge of policing themselves on the safety and care of their livestock. Conflict of interest? Definitely is for the animals, but not for the ones who stand to profit from it.
“Free range” chickens are usually debeaked shortly after being born.(Same goes for caged ones.) The debeaking process is a terrifying and painful one. Their beaks are cut off by a hot metal blade, making it difficult for them to eat and clean themselves and mutilating them forever. Factory farms and the corporations who receive financial gain from this process would have you believe that debeaking is a painless procedure that is very similar to trimming your nails. This is a complete lie, as chickens have many nerves in their beaks, and they mostly use their beaks to feel things, like we do with our fingers. Not only does this process of mutilation cause them extensive pain, makes it difficult for them to eat and understand the world around them, but it also makes it impossible for chickens to act on their instincts. Chickens are very social and sensitive creatures. They might seem like mindless birds, but they actually have very complex hierarchies within their social circles.(Also known as a ‘pecking order’). Not having beaks does not allow them to socialize or live the way they feel they need to. So, if it is so awful, why is the process of debeaking so common? Chickens in factory farms are exposed to the most extreme conditions possible and are starved and tortured constantly and forced to live in an environment that is so disgusting, it isn’t uncommon for them to stand in manure infested with maggots all day, only being allowed to have those maggots for food. This would cause any living being to go a little crazy, and they do. So, in order to keep the hens from fighting and killing each other before they are fattened properly to be slaughtered, they are debeaked.
I’m sure you already guessed this, but animals in slaughterhouses don’t get groomed. Ever. They don’t live in a clean environment. It is very common for animals’ nails to grow around the bottoms of their cages during their life, securing them painfully to the tiny cage barely bigger than a sheet of paper. I would put up some pictures to really illustrate to you all the hideousness of these practices, but I know that most people don’t wish to be bombarded with those kinds of disturbing images without seeking them out, so here is a link to a video I watched in high school that solidified my dedication to Veganism. It is a twelve minute video called Meet Your Meat, narrated by Alec Baldwin, a known animal rights activist. This video is EXPLICIT. It tells the whole story behind the suffering of animals living in factory farms, it is very hard to watch, but important to see:
If you are not able to watch the entire video, that is understandable, but I do hope some of you that saw it, even part of it, were haunted by the images and will remember the important message of truth, that there is a way that we can stop this suffering. We are the problem, but we can be the solution.