Frequently Asked Questions
A Downer is an animal that is too sick or injured to
walk. "Downers" are often treated inhumanely, being prodded or dragged
to trucks for the journey to the slaughterhouse and again from the
truck to the slaughterhouse floor. "Downers," though often sick and
infected animals, are sold for human consumption.
About 98% of the meat, milk and eggs sold in America comes from
animals raised on factory farms, also known as Concentrated Animal
Feeding Operations (CAFOs). Factory farming has been developed over
the course of the last half-century to maximize production and profit
by crowding the greatest number of animals together into the smallest
possible space. Animals on factory farms are treated not as living
creatures, but as economic units in a mechanized production
system. Illustrating this, one hog industry journal advises, "The
breeding sow should be thought of, and treated as, a valuable piece of
machinery whose function is to pump out baby pigs like a sausage
Some factory farms are like warehouses with cages stacked several
levels high, while others cram animals together by the thousands into
a single large area. Without exception, factory farms are designed to
limit animals movement, both to conserve space and so animals dont
expend calories and lose weight. Severe overcrowding compounded with
poor sanitation causes intense stress and spreads disease. The only
way to keep animals alive under such filthy and unnatural conditions
is to feed them massive amounts of antibiotics. They are also given
hormones and genetically bred for rapid growth so that they can be
slaughtered at a very young age, living out only a fraction of their
natural life spans.
The majority of chickens, pigs, cows and other animals on factory
farms dont have grass to walk on, hay to lie in or even access to the
outdoors – ever. Most spend their entire lives confined indoors and
only see sunlight when they are driven to a slaughterhouse.
Puppy mills are facilities licensed by the United States Department of
Agriculture (USDA) that mass-produce puppies for pet stores throughout
the country and emerging foreign markets. Puppies are subjected to
horrific conditions from birth and during transportation from breeder, to
broker, to pet stores hundreds of miles from where their lives
began. The breeding "stock" suffers a constant misery living in small
hutch-style cages with wire floors. The dogs fecal matter drops to
the ground below where waste accumulates, providing a haven for flies
and other vermin. The puppies soft fur often becomes soiled with
fecal matter that stuck to the cage floor.
At eight weeks of age, puppies are "harvested" and cleaned up for the
trip to the broker. Some perish during shipping, while others are
rejected by the broker and held for breeding stock or sold to research
laboratories. The rest are sold in pet stores, through local papers and the Internet.
The puppy mill industry produces dogs for profit while thousands of
unwanted animals of all ages and breeds are euthanized in shelters
every day. If you want to bring a dog into your life, consider
adopting one from an animal shelter or rescue group. Visit Petfinder.com
to see a listing of animals available for adoption in your area.
While zoos can help conserve certain endangered species, they are
still profit-making enterprises that too often put their own
commercial self-interest ahead of animal welfare. A prime example of
this is elephants held in captivity and put on exhibit in zoos.
Zoos cannot provide the vast acreage necessary to accommodate
elephants complex physical, psychological and social needs. As the
worlds largest land mammal, elephants are designed for almost
constant movement, and wild elephant herds easily travel over thirty
miles a day on soft soil and varied terrains. Elephants in zoos, by
contrast, spend their entire lives standing on concrete or hard
compacted dirt in tiny enclosures. As a result, they suffer extremely
painful arthritic and degenerative joint disorders and recurrent foot
infections that are often fatal. Zoos typically feed elephants a daily
diet of painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to mask
captivity-related ailments that result from their cramped conditions.
Neurotic behaviors are also common consequences of severe confinement,
and can take the form of rocking or swaying, head nodding, and other
repetitive motions. Sadly, many zoos still rely on force and dominance
to manage elephants, such as chaining for prolonged periods and the
use of "bullhooks" and electrical hotshots. Elephants skin appears
tough, but in reality it is sensitive enough to feel the bite from a
tiny insect. Handlers often embed the sharp point of the bullhook in
the soft tissue behind the ears, inside the ear or mouth, in and
around the anus, and in tender spots under the chin and around the
feet to "manage" elephants behavior.
Captivity also causes the premature shut down of most female
elephants reproductive systems, leaving them unable to breed. Even
when baby elephants are born in captivity, new elephant mothers in
zoos are ill equipped to nurture infants, lacking the complex social
network that sustains elephants in the wild, causing many of these
newborns to die.
With all the stress and illness elephants suffer in zoos, it is no
surprise that their average lifespan is only about half that of wild
elephants. Elephants in the wild can live to be seventy years or
older, whereas elephants in U.S. zoos die on average at thirty-four
Like the animals used in circuses, dolphins, orcas and seal lions in
marine parks are forced to perform demeaning and unnatural acts for
the entertainment of humans. All captive dolphins are forcibly
abducted from their families at sea. The entire pod is pulled up using
a giant net, and the animals are dumped onto the ships deck. Many are
injured or die from shock before being tossed back into the
water. When the most attractive specimens are sold to marine parks,
the tightly knit social structure of the pod is permanently damaged.
Once in the marine park, dolphins – who in their natural habitat swim
about 40 miles a day and can dive to depths of more than a quarter of
a mile – spend the rest of their lives in a concrete pool. Trainers
get dolphins to perform the abnormal behaviors that are the basis for
their tricks by depriving them of food. Dolphins learn that they will
only be fed when they do what the trainer wants, even though jumping
through hoops and "walking" on their tails is completely unnatural to
Marine parks masquerade as institutions of learning and conservation,
but this is merely a front for their commercial entertainment
business. People learn nothing about dolphins, orcas and sea lions
from watching them perform ridiculous acts. Marine parks are in fact
prisons for these animals who are exploited for profit.
Cockfighting is illegal in all but two states in the U.S., and is
punishable as a felony offense in 31 states. Though it is normal for
roosters to challenge one another over food, mates or territory, these
disputes rarely end in serious injury. Those who train roosters for
cockfighting exploit this natural trait by isolating and tormenting
individual birds, using terror tactics to turn them into killers. The
natural spurs of the roosters are sawed off and replaced by razor
sharp steel blades or curved implements called gaffs measuring from
one to three inches long. During the fight, from which neither rooster
can escape, the birds peck and maim one another with their beaks and
weapons. The long, sharp gaffs stab deep into the flesh often
requiring handlers to physically pull the animals apart. As a result
of competing in this "sport," gamecocks typically suffer from broken
bones, ruptured eyes and punctured lungs. Such injuries are most often
fatal, and usually one of the birds doesnt make it out of the ring
alive: sometimes even the "winner" dies soon after the fight ends.
Dog fighting is illegal in the U.S. and a felony in almost every
state. Dogs used in fights are bred and trained to be violent through
torment and regular beatings. Trainers often use stolen animal
companions or stray animals as "bait" to train their dogs to be
killers. Fights typically take place in a small enclosed area and may
last anywhere from minutes to hours. Spectators bet thousands of
dollars on the outcome, making these illegal events potentially
lucrative for those who raise fighting dogs. Dogs forced to fight one
another suffer severe injuries such as wounds from biting and broken
bones, and often die when the fight is over or shortly thereafter.
Unfortunately, Humane Education Network is not able to help directly with pet or wild animal emergencies. Our primary focus is providing information to influence legislation that ensures the humane treatment of animals.
Please contact your or animal rescue group.
Humane societies are usually listed in your Yellow Pages telephone
directory under Humane Societies or Animal Shelter &
Support Services. To use Google to search for humane societies in your area, enter your Zip code and click Search below:
A no kill shelter will not euthanize animals surrendered by their
"owners" except when medically necessary to relieve the animals
suffering. Every effort is made to find a new home for the animal with
a family or at an animal sanctuary. Shelters can become no-kill with
proper planning. Visit the No Kill Solutions web site for further information.
Trap, Neuter and Return (TNR) is the nonlethal population control plan
in which entire colonies of cats are humanely (and painlessly)
trapped, spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and have one ear notched or
tipped by veterinarians. Kittens and cats that are tame enough to be
adopted are sterilized, and then placed in good homes. Adult cats are
returned to their colony to live out their lives where they are fed
and their health monitored by volunteers.
Search Petfinder.com or visit your local
The tragic result of people buying animals is that, even while dogs
and cats are purposely breed for profit, millions of unwanted animals
are put to death in our nations shelters every year. Every time a
"purebred" puppy or kitten is purchased from a breeder or pet store,
an animal in a shelter loses a potential home. In many instances,
people who purchase a puppy or a kitten no longer want the animal once
he or she has grown, so many of these adult dogs and cats also wind up
in shelters and are often euthanized for lack of homes. Guardians
we suggest should therefore always adopt rescued animals to reduce animal
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