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                                     A DRIVE THROUGH THE COUNTRYSIDE TODAY IS REMARKABLE                                nothing can prevent the chicken
                                     by how few farm animals are to be seen. Horses are probably the most numer-        from performing this physiological
                                     ous animals, followed by some beef and dairy cattle. But where are all the pigs    function.” According to Duncan, a
                                     and poultry?                                                                       major welfare problem is that every
                                         Contrast this to supermarket meat and dairy cases loaded with pork chops,      hen gets extremely frustrated for 1-
                                     turkeys, chicken breasts, and eggs. Where are the hens, for example, that lay      1? hours every time it wants to lay an
                                     all these eggs? They are certainly not running about the barnyard as our           egg (seven days out of eight). “They
                                     grandparents remember. In fact, most of the eggs that are eaten in Canada          look for a secluded place where they
                                     (about 90%) come from hens that are kept in battery cages in barns with an         can build a nest, and they can’t find
                                     artificially controlled environment designed for maximum egg production            that in a cage,” he says. But there are
                                     with low regard to the hens’ natural needs and drives. Dim electric lights pro-    lots of other ways in which their
                                     vide an artificially long ‘day’ to stimulate greater egg production while simul-   welfare is reduced. Duncan lists
                                     taneously helping reduce aggression. Noisy exhaust fans struggle day and           over-crowded cages, frustration from
                                     night to remove the dust and ammonia created by the thousands upon thou-           not being able to peck and scratch in
                                     sands of birds crowded into the cages.                                             the soil, frustration from not being
                                         The cages themselves are tiny, stacked up in three, four, or five tiers, and   able to dust-bathe, sore feet from
                                     commonly with four to six hens in each cage so that each bird has an area          constantly slipping on the sloping
                                     smaller than a page of this magazine. Hens balance, with feet designed for         wire cage floors, and even osteoporo-
                                     solid ground, on wire mesh cage bottoms that are sloped so that the eggs roll      sis (weak bones that are easily broken
                                     away to be collected automatically.                                                during transportation) from lack of
                                          How has this happened: farmyard to factory in 50 years? “Believe it or not,   exercise. The chickens spend their
                                     the original reason was for welfare” says Dr. Ian Duncan, a leading animal         entire lives unable to open and
                                     welfare scientist and the BC SPCA’s special advisor on farm animal welfare.        stretch their wings, preen their
                                     “In the first half of the 20th century, infectious diseases were the scourge of    feathers or experience any natural
                                     the poultry industry. Wherever poultry were kept, the land became ‘fowl sick’      daylight. “Cheap eggs come at a
                                     and mortality rates of 20-30% were common. Someone had the great idea of           terrible cost,” says Duncan, “and
                                     separating the hen from its droppings by caging the bird – and the cycle of        that cost is paid for in suffering by
                                     disease was immediately broken. It was soon realized that what at first seemed     the hens.”
                                     like an expensive solution (all these metal cages!) could be completely                For the average consumer, there is
                                     automated and suddenly eggs could be produced very cheaply indeed.”                little or no knowledge of how farm
                                         But if hens are healthier today than they used to be and if they are laying    animals are raised before appearing in
                                     lots of eggs (amazingly a modern hen lays nearly 320 eggs a year!) then what is    shrink-wrapped packages in the
                                     the problem? “Many egg producers point to high egg output as an indicator          grocery store. The following pages
                                     that the hens must be receiving adequate welfare, however, today’s egg laying      give some insight into just what goes
                                     hens are genetically programmed to produce nearly an egg a day and virtually       on behind the barn doors. w
6   AnimalSense • Fall/Winter 2007                                                                                                    Fall/Winter 2007 • AnimalSense   7
                                                                                                                                                               k PIGS
                                                                                                                                                                  More than 150,000 pigs are raised in
                                                                                                                                                                  B.C. each year, and the vast majority of

Inside the Farm
                                                                                                                                                                  them are housed in closed barns, unlike
                                                                                                                                                                  the open-sided barns in which most dairy
                                                                                                                                                                  cattle are kept.
                                                                                                                                                                     Inside these barns you will find
                                                                                                                                                                  pregnant sows in pens and stalls made
A TOUR OF MODERN INDUSTRIAL AGRICULTURE                                                                                                                           of concrete and steel. Sow stalls, which
                                                                                                                                                                  confine these animals individually with-
                                                                                                                                                                  out bedding throughout their pregnancy,
                                    MODERN FARMING                                                                                                                are by far the most common system for
                                    Many farm practices bear little resemblance to the                                                                            housing these highly intelligent and
                                                                                                                                                                  emotional animals.
                                    pastoral image most of us have in mind when picking                                                                              Piglets, once
                                    out eggs or milk at the grocery store. Many of the                                    weaned from their mother, are kept in concrete group
                                                                                                                          pens without bedding or any other environmental
                                    efficient and cost-effective management systems that                                  enrichment. These animals are highly motivated to
                                    have become standard practice unfortunately have                                      chew and, without any other material available, will
                                                                                                                          chew on one another’s tails. In order to prevent this
                                    serious consequences for animal welfare.
                                                                                                                          undesirable outcome, farmers typically amputate
                                      Take our tour around a conventional farm to see some                                piglets’ tails. Male piglets are also castrated for meat
                                    of the harsh realities behind modern methods used to                                  quality purposes. Generally, neither of these surgical
                                                                                                                          procedures are performed with the use of an anaesthetic
                                    raise farm animals.                                                                   or analgesic.

More than two million hens are
raised for egg production on
farms in B.C. each year, and the    MEAT CHICKENS j                                                                       DAIRY CATTLE h                                                           BEEF CATTLE g
vast majority of them are kept in   More than 90 million chickens are raised for meat in B.C. each year (23               Approximately                                                            Roughly 500,000 beef cattle are
barren wire cages, known as bat-    per person). These chickens are a completely different breed than the                 100,000 dairy cattle                                                     raised on B.C. ranches and farms.
tery cages. Each cage generally     hens used to lay eggs – they have been selectively bred to grow to adult              live on B.C.’s dairy                                                     Unlike most other farm animals,
houses four birds, allowing each    size by the time they are merely eight weeks old. While this accelerated              farms. Some farms are                                                    beef cattle enjoy the freedom of
hen only 450 square centime-        growth is achieved without the use of hormones or genetic modification,               able to provide access                                                   being raised on open rangeland
tres of space – about the size of   as some believe, the consequences for animal welfare are dramatic.                    to pasture to many of                                                    for the majority of their lives.
one page of this magazine.             Broiler chickens are generally raised in near-continuous light (a factor           their animals during                                                        Welfare concerns with these
   These birds have no ability to   that speeds their growth) and are crowded at high densities (550 square               the summer months,                                                       animals arise when the young
behave naturally – to roost on a                                                        centimetres per bird)             but most dairy cattle                                                    cattle are weaned and prepared to
perch, to build a nest for their                                                        in order to maximize              will spend the majority                                                  be sent off the ranch for
eggs, to ruffle their feathers in                                                       profitability.                    of their lives inside                                                    fattening and slaughter. At this
the dirt or even to stretch their                                                          These living                   large open-sided                                                         time, all animals are branded and
wings.                                                                                  conditions increase               barns.                                                                   dehorned, and the males are
   Due in part to the lack of                                                           the incidence of leg                 B.C.’s dairy cattle have freedom of movement in sizable pens          castrated – all typically without
exercise they can engage in,                                                            disorders, heart failure          and sleep in bed stalls padded with sand or sawdust. These “free-        the use of anaesthetics or
their bones become weak, and                                                            and painful skin                  stall” barns sharply contrast the “tie-stall” barns (in which cows       analgesics for pain relief.
many break their wings and legs                                                         conditions, and                   are tethered in their own bed stall), which are used to house the           Most B.C. cattle are then
when pulled from their cages at                                                         prevent the birds from            majority of dairy cattle in some other provinces.                        transported to Alberta or
the end of their laying cycle.                                                          resting adequately.                  Concrete floors and bed stalls can cause sores on the cows’ legs      Saskatchewan to feedlots where
Studies have found that as many                                                         Broilers also fare                and hooves, but researchers are designing new barn systems that          they will be fed grain diets to
as 20 per cent of caged hens                                                            poorly during                     may decrease these problems.                                             maximize weight gain prior to
suffer from broken bones after                                                          transport due to                     Some of the greatest welfare concerns in the dairy industry           slaughter. Problems faced by
being removed from their cages                                                          crowded conditions                relate to painful procedures performed on calves. All dairy calves       these animals through this
and transported – this equates                                                          and inadequate                    are dehorned at a young age, typically using a hot iron or a             process are varied, and include
to more than 400,000 hens who                                                           ventilation on trucks –           chemical paste. While dehorning is important for protecting the          transport stress, difficulties
suffer needlessly due to these                                                          two million die annually          cows and farm workers from injury, few farmers take steps to             adjusting to new herd-mates and a
injuries each year in B.C.                                                              in Canada in transit.             numb the pain by applying an anaesthetic or analgesic.                   radically different diet. I
                                                                                     Fall/Winter 2005 • AnimalSense   3                                                                                         Fall/Winter 2005 • AnimalSense   3

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