In the UK alone we slaughter around one billion land animals every year for meat, dairy and eggs.
There are around 11,000 pig farms in the UK. Around 1,400 of these units house more than 1,000 pigs and hold around 85% of the total pig population in the UK.
P I G S
There is no legal definition or formal standards for free-range pigs, which means retailers can label pork products as free-range without having to adhere to any standards or guidelines.
Only 3% of UK pigs spend their entire lives outdoors.
Pigs have been proven to be as intelligent and emotionally complex as dogs.
The vast majority of the pork products sold in the UK come from factory farms.
Most pigs are officially entitled to less than one square metre of space each and the majority of sows (female breeding pigs) are kept in farrowing crates. Farrowing crates were made illegal in several countries across Europe, but are still standard farming practice here in the UK.
Farrowing crates are so small that the sows cannot turn around in them. The mother pigs are kept in these crates for up to 5 weeks at a time, every time they give birth.
The majority of sows in the UK are artificially inseminated in order to ensure they are kept continuously pregnant.
The cycle of forced impregnation and confinement is repeated over and over again for about 3 - 5 years or until the sow is too exhausted to carry on. At this point she is then slaughtered for low-grade meat such as pies, pasties and sausage meat.
A. Mitchell, "Animal FAQs: An Encyclopedia of Animal Abuse”, 2002, pg. 133
Wild piglets remain with their mothers for around 12 - 14 weeks, but in UK farms piglets are taken from their mothers after only 3 - 4 weeks. At this point they begin the process of being given incredibly powerful antibiotic drugs.
S. Edwards, ‘Pigs’, in J. Webster (ed.) Management and Welfare of Farm Animals: The UFAW Handbook (5th edn.), West Sussex,
Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, pg. 252-29
Around half of all antibiotics sold in the UK are used on farmed animals with 60% of these being used on pigs.
Farmers inflict mutilations on piglets by amputating their tails and clipping their teeth, all of which is done without anaesthetic or painkillers.
If piglets are not growing fast enough or are sick and injured they are seen as unprofitable to the industry so are killed. This is done in the most cost effective manner, meaning that often piglets are slammed against walls, concrete floors or bludgeoned with metal poles.
One of the methods of slaughter for pigs in the UK is the gas chamber, where groups of pigs are herded into metal cages which are then dropped into a chamber that is filled with carbon dioxide. Once inside the chamber, the pigs scream and thrash, fighting for their lives for up to 30 seconds. This method of slaughter is used for UK supermarkets including Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s, Lidl and Waitrose.
When the pigs reach slaughter age at around 6 months, they are transported in cramped and over-crowded trucks with no water or food - regardless of the weather.
1/3 of pigs in the UK are killed in gas chambers.
The other certified humane method of pig slaughter in the UK is electrical stunning with the aim to render the animals unconscious before they have their throats slit, however stunning is often poorly executed by rushed slaughterhouse workers which results in an estimated 1.8 million pigs regaining consciousness on the production line each year and being fully conscious as they die from blood loss.
U K F A C T S
C O W S
For a cow to produce milk she must first give birth to a calf. This means dairy cows are impregnated every year in order to keep a continuous milk supply.
Impregnating dairy cows is done through artificial insemination, a process in which semen is first obtained from a bull before being injected inside the uterus of the female dairy cow. The farmer does this by inserting his arm inside the cow’s anus and holding the cervix in place before sliding a needle through the cervix and injecting the semen inside of her.
Calves would naturally feed from their mothers for around 9 months to a year, but dairy calves are taken away from their mothers normally within 24 - 72 hours of birth, in order for the farmer to ensure as much milk as possible can be acquired from the mother.
Separation of mother and child is an incredibly traumatic experience - and both will cry out for days.
Female calves are separated from their mothers and are kept in solitary confinement. Legally, calves are only meant to be kept in confinement crates for 8 weeks, however it has been documented that on UK farms the calves are kept in confinement for as long as 6 months.
Dairy cows have been modified to produce up to 10 times more milk than they would naturally.
30 % of UK dairy cows have mastitis, a bacterial infection of the udder.
Dairy cows are sent to slaughter after around 4 - 6 years, or when they are too weak to continue producing milk. Their natural lifespan is around 25 years.
150,000 dairy cows are slaughtered whilst still pregnant in the UK each year.
Male calves are of no use to the dairy industry and generally less suitable for beef production. This means that every year around 90,000 male dairy calves are shot soon after birth and discarded as a by-product.
Male calves that are not shot will instead be raised for veal either in the UK or in Europe, meaning that the calves have to endure, long, traumatic journeys as they’re either exported out of the country to their deaths or to slaughterhouses here in the UK.
Most calves raised in the UK have to endure painful mutilations such as castration and disbudding. Disbudding is a procedure where a calf is restrained and has a hot iron rod forced onto their horn buds in order to prevent their horns from growing.
Calves that are suitable to be raised for beef will be sold at livestock markets, an extremely stressful environment where the calves are auctioned off and then taken to cattle farms.
Over 50% of dairy cows suffer from crippling lameness and pressure sores - and some cows are forced to wear chains called hobbles for months at a time. These devices are used on mother cows who have suffered pelvic damage during calving, a frequently documented problem for dairy cows who have been selectively bred to ensure maximum milk production.
UK farmers have been documented kicking mother cows and beating and throwing new-born calves.
Around 50% of UK beef comes from dairy cows whilst the remainder comes from cattle reared for beef.
In almost all cattle farms the cows are kept in housing for at least some part of the year and in many cases cows are raised in intensive farms where they are denied access to the outside for their entire lives.
Most cows are slaughtered by first being stunned with a captive bolt pistol before then being hung upside down and having their throat slit. It is estimated that between 5 - 10% of cattle are not stunned effectively and will have to endure the experience of being shot repeatedly in the head or having their throat cut and their blood drained whilst still fully conscious.
B I R D S
Every year in the UK we slaughter around 950 million birds for food consumption, including chickens, ducks and turkeys.
90% of chicken production in the UK is in intensive windowless sheds which house 20 - 50,000 chickens each.
Due to selective breeding and genetic modification chickens reach slaughter age in just 41 days, in essence meaning they are chicks in an obese adult body.
95% of duck flesh and around 90% of turkey flesh comes from intensive indoor farming.
Due to the incredibly fast rates of growth, the bird's young bones are unable to support them, breaking under the weight and strain of their disfigured bodies - resulting in painful lameness which prevents them from eating, drinking or even standing up. Many die from dehydration or starvation because they are unable to access food and water points.
Organ failure is extremely common, with millions of birds dying from heart and lung failure before they even reach the age of slaughter.
Due to the filthy conditions and the fact their bedding is never changed, the ground inside the sheds quickly becomes covered in faeces, creating the perfect environment for disease riddled bacteria to grow. This leads to the chickens, ducks and turkeys getting foot rot and hock burns, where the bird’s sensitive skin has been scorched by the ammonia-rich faeces covering the shed floors.
When the birds have reached slaughter age they are transported to their deaths. Teams of catchers work at high speeds to load up huge transport lorries, violently grabbing the birds and flinging them into crates. Due to the heavy handed and fast paced operation, many of the animals have their legs and wings broken, their skulls crushed and their hips dislocated, resulting in the birds being forced to endure relentless pain on their journey to slaughter.
The birds are transported to slaughter in tiny crates, with no access to food or water, creating an extremely stressful environment. Millions of birds die each year on the journey from shed to slaughterhouse due to extreme weather conditions, injuries, organ failure and trauma.
Poultry slaughter involves shackling birds by their feet and hanging them upside down, before carrying them to an electric water bath where they suffer a painful electric shock thats purpose is to render them unconscious. Many birds do not get stunned as they don’t make contact with the water and some regain consciousness before they reach the neck cutter, meaning that they are fully conscious as their throats are sliced open.
After the bird’s have had their throats slit they are then moved to the scalding tank, where their feathers are loosened prior to being plucked. An estimated 8.4 million birds are still alive at this stage and are boiled alive in the scalding tank.
E G G S
Female chicks are debeaked and then later transported to the laying farms just before they start laying eggs - where they then spend their entire lives.
Male chicks are useless to the egg industry, so are killed immediately after birth. It is estimated that up to 40 million day old male chicks are killed each year in the UK by being either gassed or thrown into a macerator - this practice occurs in all egg farming systems, including organic.
Egg laying hens would naturally only lay around 10 - 20 eggs a year, however hens bred for egg production have been selectively bred to lay around 300 a year. In the UK over 10 billion eggs are produced each year, with around 51% of those eggs produced by hens kept in cages.
Battery cages were banned across the EU in 2012, however the use of enriched cages is still allowed. Enriched cages entitle each hen to approximately a postcard size more in space than the outlawed battery cages, an insignificant amount that
still doesn’t allow the birds space to stretch out their wings.
A free-range egg farmer can legally house 16,000 birds in one building, meaning that they can house 9 birds per square metre of space. This means that many free-range hens live out their entire lives in what is essentially an intensive, overcrowded indoor farming unit.
Hens on free-range farms routinely have their beaks removed without anaesthesia to minimise aggressive pecking and cannibalism, a behaviour caused by extreme confinement.
Beak trimming is illegal in many European countries due to the pain it inflicts, however it is still standard industry practice in the UK.
Laying eggs results in a huge loss of calcium, therefore egg laying hens suffer from high rates of osteoporosis - and it is reported that more than 45% of hens break a bone at some point during their lives.
Due to the fact that egg laying hens are kept under stressful conditions and are prone to getting parasites such as lice and red mites, nearly all of the birds lose a significant amount of their feathers, which increases the likelihood of them becoming injured and developing infections.
When hens are around 72 weeks old or their egg production declines they are transported to the slaughterhouse where they are killed for their flesh. Over 40 million spent layer hens are killed each year in the UK, either by being gassed to death or by being shackled by their legs before being dragged through an electrified water bath and having their throats slit.
Every year around 4 million newborn lambs die within a few days of birth, mainly because of malnutrition, disease or exposure to cold weather.
There are several different mutilations carried out on lambs. The males are castrated using elastration, a technique that involves a thick rubber band being placed around the base of the infant’s scrotum, obstructing the blood supply and causing atrophy. This method causes severe pain to the lambs who are provided no pain relief during the process. Lambs also have their tails docked using the same method.
Baby goats, who are raised for their flesh and milk are also subjected to the same mutilations as lambs, including being ear tagged and disbudded.
Diseases are rampant on sheep farms, with mastitis and severe lameness widespread. Whilst footroot, a bacterial infection, is present in over 97% of flocks in the UK.
Around 1.4 million sheep and goats are killed without being stunned each year in the UK using halal practices. Many people in the UK oppose this form of slaughter, yet purchase halal meat unknowingly, since it is sold in most major outlets, including supermarkets and takeaways, without always being labelled as halal.
In stun slaughterhouses across the UK, sheep are most commonly stunned using electrical prongs to render them unconscious - however it is estimated that as many as 4 million sheep may be conscious each year whilst they are having their throats slit. Meaning that in regards to killing practices, there is no real difference between halal and non-halal slaughter.
D I S C L A I M E R
The filmmakers do not agree with the views or philosophy of all of the organisations used as factual resources.