Here’s one more example of how human health and animal welfare are inseparable: On October 7, the USDA announced that 278 people across 18 states have contracted salmonella from eating chicken from a certain West Coast poultry processor. Reports indicate that about 42% of the people infected have been hospitalized—about double the normal rate of hospitalization for Salmonella infections—because this strain of salmonella is resistant to several commonly prescribed antibiotics.
In a recent U.S. News & World Report story, Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, explained how this life-threatening outbreak is linked to the common industry practice of feeding chickens low doses of antibiotics to compensate for the sickening conditions on factory farms:
"It's not an accident that this particular strain is resistant," he said. "I suspect it's resistant because of the overuse of antibiotics among farm animals."
Chicken live in squalor, Siegel said: "Ninety-five percent of chickens are grown in such horrific conditions that they're standing in poop and they end up infected with salmonella. If one chicken gets it, they all get it."
On top of poor living conditions on farms, most modern chickens are bred to grow so fat, so fast, that many collapse under their own weight and spend much of their lives lying in their own waste, with open sores and wounds.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Chickens deserve better, and so do we. The ASPCA is urging the chicken industry to switch to slower-growing breeds raised in better conditions. Learn more and take action at TruthAboutChicken.org.
This weekend, legendary environmental writer and activist Wendell Berry leaves his Kentucky farm for an inspiring conversation, and rare TV interview, with veteran journalist Bill Moyers on Moyers & Company. In an excerpt from that conversation below, Berry talks about how humans live at the expense of other creatures, making it our responsibility to treat those animals “with the minimum of violence.”
“It’s always great to see an esteemed figure like Wendell Berry sticking up for farm animals and so eloquently drawing that vital connection between respecting animals, our environment and ourselves,” says ASPCA Farm Animal Welfare Campaign Director Suzanne McMillan.
September is National Chicken Month, so it’s especially fitting that this month the ASPCA launched a national campaign to improve the lives of the nearly 9 billion chickens raised and slaughtered every year for meat. The Truth About Chicken is a big initiative for a big problem.
As the graph below shows, since 1920 the average weight of a meat chicken has risen while the time it takes to reach “slaughter weight” has shrunk. This is no accident. In the name of producing as much cheap white breast meat as possible, modern chickens have been bred for unnaturally fast and disproportionate weight gain.
The average age and the average live weight of chickens at slaughter since 1920.
On factory farms, where 99% of them live, chickens are packed into windowless sheds by the tens of thousands where in just over six weeks, they explode from tiny chicks into top-heavy, sumo-sized six-pound birds. That's almost a pound of weight gain a week!
The weight strains the birds’ bones and organs, which haven't had enough time to develop, causing all kinds of breakdown: broken bones, torn tendons, difficulty breathing, heart attacks and birds who collapse under their own weight. Overburdened but still youngsters, these chickens lie in their own waste for much of their lives, causing burns and open sores on their chests and feet. These wounds allow in Salmonella, campylobacter and other pathogens that can make consumers sick.
As farmer Will Harris states, “We have successfully bred most of the chicken out of the chicken. A chicken in 1940, raised for 14 weeks to maturity, could fly. A chicken in 2010, raised for 6 weeks to maturity, struggles to walk.”
We’re fighting for better lives for chickens and we need your help. Tell the industry that you won’t stand for this kind of cruelty in the name of profit. Take action at TruthAboutChicken.org today!
The ASPCA is excited to announce the launch of a new farm animal campaign focusing on the plight of chickens raised for meat (often called “broiler” chickens). Roughly 8.5 billion chickens are raised in the U.S. annually, most on squalid factory farms where there is no government oversight of their treatment.
The issue is not just the treatment of chickens, though: it’s that modern chickens are selectively bred to grow so large, so fast, that they struggle to simply move or stand.
Today’s chickens are bred to have such massive and disproportionate bodies that they often collapse and spend most of their lives lying helplessly in their own waste. Many have open wounds, which act as gateways to infections that can be passed on to people. Don't be fooled: Most chickens who wind up on American dinner plates bear no resemblance to the healthy-looking, active birds you may have been led to expect.
The ASPCA is calling on the chicken industry to do better—but to make sure they’re paying attention, we need to show them that people like you care about how chickens are raised, too.
By insisting on slower-growing chickens and better conditions, we can reduce suffering and raise healthier birds who may be less likely to spread dangerous infections like salmonella. But to get the chicken industry to move in the right direction, they need to see that people like you are paying attention—and counting on the industry to do what’s right for chickens and consumers.
Nearly a decade ago the State of California took a bold stand to ban the production and sale of foie gras, a luxury food item produced by shoving pipes down birds’ throats several times a day to force-feed them until their livers become fatty and diseased.
Major retailers including Safeway, Target and Costco refuse to sell foie gras and, according to one poll, nearly three-quarters of Americans want to see it banned nationwide. But as the implementation date of the California ban neared, it was not surprising that some groups rose up to challenge the law, taking their case all the way to federal court.
Thankfully, this week we were greeted with the news that theFederal Appeals Court decided unanimously to uphold the lower court’s support of the foie gras ban. The three- judge panel recognized that California’s ban was not unconstitutional, as foie gras producers claim. This decision is a big win for the victimized birds and for animal advocates.
After the ruling, foie gras producers defiantly insisted that “nobody is being harmed by foie gras” and announced they will continue their fight to end the ban. But for the time being, California’s ban on foie gras remains happily and firmly in place.