IDA Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions about In Defense of Animals, this web site and animal rights issues




What is In Defense of Animals?

Founded in 1983 by veterinarian Elliot M. Katz, In Defense of Animals (IDA) is a leading international non-profit animal protection organization dedicated to ending the exploitation and abuse of animals by defending their rights, welfare and habitats. IDA is dedicated to protecting animals from suffering and educating the public about what they can do to help end animal abuse. IDA is pro-science, pro-environment, pro-animal, and pro-people; it is committed to dialogue and reason, but doesn't hesitate to take action when necessary to save animals from mistreatment, torture and killing.

IDA has more than 85,000 members worldwide and a dedicated staff with diverse experience in science, medicine, politics, language, technology, education, community organizing, and public relations. Now more than ever, IDA is a force for desperately needed change.

Across the nation and around the world, we have been there for animals in need. From rescuing and giving sanctuary to the severely abused and abandoned animals in rural Mississippi; to providing a forest sanctuary to the chimpanzee victims of the bush meat trade in Cameroon, Africa; to spaying and neutering thousands street animals in Mumbai, India, as well as providing them food, ambulance service and veterinary care, IDA has been there for our animal friends. From our Guardian campaign designed to change how society perceives and treats animal companions, to fighting puppy mills and Korean dog and cat meat trades; to protecting our nation's wild horses; to our campaigns against the vivisection, fur and entertainment industries; to our campaign on behalf of captive elephants, IDA continues to be a major voice and force for our animal friends.

Who founded IDA and how did the organization get started?

In early 1983, veterinarian Elliot Katz, a recent transplant to the Bay Area, was contacted by an animal-advocacy organization seeking his help to rectify purportedly abusive and scandalous conditions on the UC Berkeley campus animal laboratories. What Dr. Katz discovered was worse than he could have ever imagined. It was a veterinarian's nightmare. Animals living in grossly overcrowded and filthy facilities were suffering and dying by the hundreds from heatstroke, complications following surgery, gangrene, bacterial meningoencephalitis and viral epidemics. Campus veterinarians were unable to perform their jobs, and in some instances, were even locked out of laboratories where animals in need were sick and dying.

Determined to improve conditions for the animals and the veterinarians at the university, Dr. Katz brought together a group of concerned citizens whose sole intent was to bring legal action against the USDA and the university. The group, initially called Californians for Responsible Research, filed a law suit against the USDA which forced the agency to issue a cease and desist order against UC Berkeley.

The university was ultimately fined $12,000 for violating the Animal Welfare Act. Californians for Responsible Research, later to become In Defense of Animals, succeeded in bringing some semblance of responsibility to the animal research department at UC Berkeley.

Under Dr. Katz' direction, In Defense of Animals has expanded its mission and has grown to be one of the nation's foremost animal advocacy organizations, with 80,000 members, dedicated to ending abuse of animals by defending their rights, welfare and habitat.

What kind of animals does the group defend?

IDA works to stop cruelty, abuse and exploitation wherever it exists. We protect and defend any animal in need, wild or domestic. Dogs, cats, farm animals, bison, wild horses, deer, elephants, chimpanzees, mink, raccoons, rabbits, seals and many more.

How do you allow individuals to become involved in the political process?

We help to educate our members and anyone who comes to our website about animal issues and how they can get involved. We have a weekly e-newsletter, e-alerts and mailings that go out to our members encouraging them to contact decision makers and sign petitions for various animal issues. We also support grassroots activist engaging in local protests with materials, signs, flyers, e-alerts and press releases.

What legislation has IDA passed?

By educating and empowering concerned people to work with their city councils and government legislators, IDA has encouraged 17 cities, 2 counties and the state of Rode Island to incorporate the term “guardian” into their city ordinances. A growing number of people, legislators, humane societies and rescue organizations are replacing the term “animal owner” with “animal guardian” in their city ordnances and literature, recognizing that the term “owner” doesn’t reflect the human/animal bond that exists in our culture today. “Guardian” denotes a higher level of responsibility, caring and respect to our animal companions. It sends a message that they are much more than mere commodities, objects, property and things. “Guardian” accurately describes the appropriate kindness and long term care to ones animal companions, teaching children respect, compassion and kindness.

IDA was indirectly involved in the passing of the California ban on Foie Gras that goes into effect in 2012. To produce foie gras, ducks or geese have over four pounds of corn mash forced down their throats through a long metal pipe until they are on the verge of organ rupture and death. These animals suffer immensely, can barely move and often vomit and pant for breath.

We also encourage our tens of thousands of members to contact legislatures and government officials on various issues that assist in getting legislation passed.

What is one of the biggest contributions to society IDA has made?

IDA increases the level of justice and compassion to other species, therefore increasing the level of justice and compassion for our own species. IDA is encouraging the replacement of outdated animal research with new modern technology that are more accurate and more humane. IDA’s vegan campaign promotes a diet that supports health while improving the environment and reducing greenhouse gasses. From the chimpanzees of Africa to dolphins in Japan to the wild horses of the American Plains, IDA helps preserve wild animals and their habitats for the environmental benefit of the planet and for the legacy of our amazing Planet Earth for future generations to enjoy.

Is IDA an International organization?

IDA is an International organization that aids animals around the world. IDA Africa provides a forest sanctuary to the chimpanzee victims of the bush meat trade in Cameroon, Africa. IDA India spays and neuters thousands of street animals in Mumbai, India, as well as providing them food, ambulance service and veterinary care.

IDA's yearly International Day of Action for Korean Dogs and Cats draws attention to the suffering of Korean dogs killed for meat consumption. Cramped into cages and slaughtered in horrific ways, we are a voice for these animals. In fact, there is a myth that the more the animal suffers when it is killed, the more virility a man will experience when he eats the meat. This myth has perpetuated the brutal torture of countless dogs killed for their meat.

IDA is part of a coalition of International organizations dedicated to informing the world about the illegal and immoral slaughter of the intelligent and playful dolphin. Threw the promotion of the film The Cove and other coalition work, we are exposing the cruel killing of thousands of dolphins in Taiji, Japan.

What is IDA's goals for the animals?

To create a more just and compassionate world were individuals of other species are respected and free from human imposed suffering.

What are your primary sources of funding?

We are very proud of the fact that IDA is totally funded by thousands of caring people because we have always refused to compromise our principles by accepting funding from corporate giants or governmental agencies that exploit and abuse our fellow beings.

And how much of your initial profit goes directly to your campaigns?

Of the money that we take in, 85% goes to the programs and campaigns, 11% goes to fundraising and 4% goes to general operations.

Are there roles for volunteers within the organization?

Yes, IDA has an active volunteer program. We have volunteers that come into the headquarters in San Rafael, helping us with everything from putting labels on mailings to organizing files to other projects. We also have field volunteers all over the country in almost every state. There are volunteer writers and researchers that help us with press releases, letters to the editors, grant writing and research projects. We have volunteers that help with administrative work, data entry, our website and social networking. We also have dedicated people that leaflet, protest, organize fundraisers and events and tirelessly work to educate the public about our campaigns, helping to improve the lives of animals.

How often does IDA hold public events?

We have seven International Days of Action each year, with 50 to 100 cities across the world participating with protests, leafletings, tables and other educational outreach. We organize a day for the seals hunted in Canada for their fur in March and World Week for Animals in Laboratories in April. We have an International Day of Action for elephants in June and in July for dogs and cats in Korea killed for human consumption. We have our World Go Vegan Week in October, Day for Dolphins in September and Fur Free Friday in November.

IDA also has ongoing campaigns throughout the year. We support activist targeting local animal abusers in their area with literature, posters, e-alerts, and press releases for their protests. Some examples of these campaigns are foie gras, puppy mills, dog fighting and others.

How heavily is IDA involved in California?

Our International Headquarters is in San Rafael, CA. and we have a strong presence in the Bay Area sponsoring local events, presenting tables at events and coordinating protests, outreach actions and fundraisers. We also have an active team in Southern California as well, holding weekly protests and events for puppy mills, fur, vivisection and various other issues.

How big is your organization in terms of staff and members?

We have approximately 35 staff members. Ten work in the San Rafael, CA. headquarters, five in the Portland, OR. office and the others work from home in other states. We have over 84,000 members worldwide.

How can I become involved with this organization?

There are many ways you can join IDA and work for animals. Here are just a few:

  • To start, if you haven't done so already, make sure you're signed up at IDA's Action Center to receive IDA eNews and local alerts that are specific to your area. Also, to learn more about day-by-day, city-by-city events, visit IDA's Action Calendar frequently. This is a great way for you to network with others in your community who share you concerns.
  • Order leaflets, cards, stickers, flyers or posters that alert others to the abuse of animals. Leave them in heavily trafficked areas - on the subway, in the doctor's waiting room, in the cafeteria - anywhere someone will be likely to pick one up and learn more. Pass them out in high traffic areas like school campuses. You can also include them with your outgoing mail to educate recipients.
  • Volunteer with IDA. We have volunteers all over the world that assist us with writing, editing and proofreading projects, web and internet assistance, administrative and technical support and more. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact:
  • Be a Volunteer Activist. IDA has seven International Days of Action a year and other ongoing campaigns that need assistance from grassroots activists. Organize a protest, leafleting, educational table, fundraiser or other event in support of our campaigns. We will provide materials to help make your event a success. If you are interested in being a volunteer activist, please contact:
  • Write letters to the editor of your local paper. IDA has a Letters to the Editor Team that is kept alerted to opportunities to comment on local and national animal issues. If you are interested in being on the Letters to the Editor Team, contact
  • Help us to monitor zoos, pet stores and other places in your area where frequent animal abuse takes place.
  • Collect old towels and blankets to donate to animal shelters and rescues.
  • Create a display in your local public library or your school. Most libraries will allow local citizens free space where you can display leaflets, posters, books about animal abuse. We can provide you with materials. Use your imagination!
  • Hold a vegan bake sale, collect money from recycling aluminum cans, or hold a yard sale to support IDA's efforts.

Perhaps most importantly, stay in touch with IDA and make sure that you're registered to receive our weekly eNews and Action Alerts. Be sure your profile and subscription management are up to date at

What can I do to promote Animal Rights?

There are two different areas where you can make a difference for animals. One is personal. You can show others by example that you do not contribute to animals suffering. And the other is outreach and education.

Personal- The most effective thing you can do every day for animals is to go vegan. By not eating, wearing or using animal products, you not only are boycotting the overcrowding, mutilation and slaughter of animals, you are an example to others that you don’t contribute to their suffering. You can order a Vegan Starter Guide from us with helpful information on why being vegan is so important to help animals. Buying only products that are not tested on animals and not supporting events that exploit animals is another way. Don’t patronize zoos, circuses, rodeos or other forms of animal exploitation.

Outreach- There are many ways that anyone can help spread the message of compassion and justice for animals. This can be done by talking to your friends and family, leafleting, tabling with educational materials, writing letters to the editor of your local paper, and contacting elected officials and companies with your concerns about specific issues. Donating to animal rights organizations provides financial support for those who are working to end animal abuse, so organizing fundraiser is another great way to help. Visit to learn more about how you can help.

Contact IDA for specific ideas about what you can do in your area. We will be glad to put you in our activist database and help you connect with activists near you. We will also help you plan and promote demonstrations for Fur Free Friday, World Week for Animals in Laboratories and more. E-mail to get started.


What is the meaning of "animal rights"?

The animal rights philosophy and movement is founded on compassion for animals and the right of all beings to live free from exploitation. Animals, like humans, experience pain and pleasure. Whatever happens to an animal – whether she is confined or free, neglected or nurtured – means a world of difference to her, even if it matters to no one else. Recognizing this, animal rights advocates maintain that animals exist not for our use but for themselves, and that we do not have the right to intentionally exploit, hurt and kill animals simply because we are able.


What is IDA's Guardian Campaign?

IDA created the Guardian Campaign in 1999 as a nationwide platform to reflect growing public support for a redefined public standard of relating to animals. Since then, over 40 cities across the U.S. and Canada and the entire state of Rhode Island now use the term 'guardian' in their animal-related ordinances.

The term "guardian" is intended as a language update that can supplement and strengthen, not replace, other animal welfare and protection efforts. For example, many professionals have chosen to use the term "animal guardian" to enhance existing humane education, character education and juvenile restitution programs. Animal shelters, schools, child and animal welfare organizations, local governments and community groups have also endorsed the term "guardian" as an inexpensive, enduring educational tool that can help promote adoption and spay/neuter programs by communicating the value of animal care and protection to the community as a whole.

Why is the term "guardian" preferable to the term "owner"?

The word "owner" implies that animals are commodities or things, rather than sentient beings with interests and needs of their own. Use of the word "owner" conveys the message that animals are pieces of property, like a car or a computer, with which people can do whatever they choose. Recognizing people as guardians acknowledges their responsibility to care for and protect the animals with whom they share their lives.

Using the term "guardian" is more relevant to the mutually rewarding relationship between people and the animals they love. The ultimate benefit to using the term "guardian" is that people will begin to treat animal companions as living, feeling beings as opposed to mere objects or possessions. Ideally, all people will choose to be their animal's guardian and treat them accordingly.

How do the legal responsibilities of animal "guardians" differ from those of "owners"?

The new category of "guardian" encompasses exactly the same legal rights, responsibilities and liabilities as an "owner." The difference is that the concept of being a "guardian" (as opposed to an "owner") communicates the duties and responsibilities that are implicit in taking care of someone. Guardians treat animal companions as individuals with specific physical, behavioral, psychological and emotional needs, and are committed to meeting these needs for the animals' entire lifetime. An essential aspect of responsible guardianship is adopting or rescuing animals - never buying or selling them.

What other responsibilities does a "guardian" have?

In addition to love and care, guardians have a duty to ensure that their adopted family member is spayed or neutered. Astonishingly, two unaltered animals and their brood can produce 20,000 offspring in just two years! In order to reduce the number of homeless dogs and cats, it is essential for guardians to spay and neuter their animal companions.

Do you have any additional advice on being a guardian?

Love and respect your companions as true members of your family. Your reward will be unconditional love and companionship, and your example will inspire others to think and act as respectfully and compassionately as you do!


What's wrong with buying and selling animals?

The tragic result of people buying animals is that, even while dogs and cats are purposely bred for profit, millions of unwanted animals are put to death in our nation's 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 should therefore always adopt or rescue animals to reduce animal homelessness.

What is a puppy mill?

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 transport 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 stick 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 across the country.

The puppy mill industry continues to produce 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, please adopt one from an animal shelter or rescue group instead of buying a puppy from a pet store. Visit to see a listing of animals available for adoption in your area.


What is the difference between being vegan and being vegetarian?

Vegans choose not to eat any food that comes from animals, including meat, fish, dairy products, eggs, honey and animal byproducts such as gelatin. Many vegans also avoid wearing leather, fur, down, wool or silk, and only purchase products (such as cosmetics or household cleansers) from companies that do not test on animals.

Vegetarians have chosen to eliminate meat products (including beef, poultry, veal, fish and other meats) from their diets. Some vegetarians also avoid other animal products, such as dairy products or eggs. Many people start out as vegetarians before becoming vegan.

What are the reasons to be vegan?

Many people are vegan for ethical reasons – they don't wish to contribute to the suffering of animals. Every year in the U.S., about 10 billion land animals and 15 to 20 billion sea creatures are killed for food. The vast majority of pigs, cows, chickens, and turkeys sold in the U.S. are raised on factory farms, where they are used like pieces of living machinery to produce meat, milk and eggs. Like us, these animals feel pain and don't want to die. Because people don't need to eat animal products to live healthily, most vegans believe it is unethical to take animals' lives needlessly and against their will.

Vegan diets are also very healthy, and are mostly low in fat and cholesterol yet high in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Plant foods are also naturally cholesterol-free, whereas meat, dairy and eggs have extremely high cholesterol content. Cholesterol buildup in the arteries is the main cause of cardiovascular disease, the number one killer in the U.S., taking more lives than the five next most common causes of death combined.* Scientific research also links over-consumption of animal products with other common (and deadly) ailments, such as cancer, diabetes and obesity. Visit for more information on the health benefits of veganism.

A vegan diet uses far fewer resources (e.g., water, land, petroleum, etc.) than a meat-based diet. Factory farms also pollute the air, land and water in our communities, endangering people and destroying habitats for wildlife. To learn more about the environmental impact of industrial animal agriculture, visit

In addition, veganism can help alleviate hunger and malnutrition around the world. At any given time, there are about 20 billion farmed animals on the planet, which is more than three times the total human population. These animals eat many times the amount of food consumed by the world's human population, yet they can't produce nearly enough meat, milk and eggs to feed everyone. If people ate the plants now fed to animals, there would be more than enough food to eliminate world hunger.

What is a factory farm?

About 98% of the meat, milk and eggs sold in the U.S. 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 machine."

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 don't 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 don't 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.

Animals raised on factory farms live and die in fear, terror and helplessness. By going vegan, you can help end their suffering by refusing to support practices that hurt animals. To learn more about factory farms, visit Also watch Undercover TV to see investigative video footage from inside factory farms.

How does eating dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese and ice cream) harm cows?

Like all mammals, cows only produce milk after giving birth to feed their babies. In order to keep them lactating year-round, farmers artificially inseminate dairy cows and force them to give birth every year, which is not their natural behavior. A cow's gestation period is the same as that of a human mother, and each cow is expected to produce milk during seven of her pregnancy's nine months. With genetic manipulation and mechanized production, modern dairy cows produce 100 pounds of milk a day – ten times more than they would naturally produce. While cows can live well into their twenties, they are slaughtered for hamburger when their milk production declines, which usually occurs well before their fifth birthday.

To prevent baby cows on factory farms from drinking "our" milk, they are taken from their mothers within 24 hours of birth. While female calves are raised to eventually replace their mothers as milk producers, most male calves born to dairy cows are raised for veal. These baby cows are chained by the neck inside crates measuring just two feet wide so their muscles won't develop and their flesh will remain tender. When they grow large enough to turn a profit for the producer, these babies are sent to slaughter.

How does eating eggs harm chickens?

Most female chickens raised to lay eggs on factory farms live their entire lives in wire cages stacked upon one another. They are packed several to a cage so that each hen has only a space about the size of a standard sheet of paper, not even enough room to lift her wings. Chickens raised in battery cages often lose most of their feathers rubbing against the wire walls. Debeaking – in which part of the chickens' sensitive beaks are seared off with a hot blade to prevent them from pecking their cagemates to death in the overcrowded cages – is a common practice on factory farms.

Battery hens—those raised for eggs—are genetically bred so that each produces approximately 300 eggs per year – about 10 times as much as they naturally would. Yet these devoted mothers never get to raise a single chick. Upon hatching, male and female chicks are separated out. The females are raised in incubators to replace their mothers, and the males are quickly disposed of because they cannot lay eggs and wouldn't grow big enough to be raised for meat. They are usually left in garbage bags to suffocate or get ground up alive to make fertilizer.

When hens become "unproductive," they are either "force molted" (i.e., starved for two weeks so that they lose up to one-third of their body weight) in order to shock them into another laying cycle or sent to slaughter. Hens can live well into their twenties, yet they usually become "spent" and are slaughtered at around two years of age.

Why do they de-beak chickens?

When you crowd these birds into tiny cages, they start pecking each other. If you crowded humans in an elevator for a year, they’d start killing each other too. Instead of giving them more space to alleviate their agitation, they cut off their beaks with a hot solder blade. It has been proven scientifically that the beak is a very sensitive part of the chicken’s body and de-beaking can cause life-long pain and decreased ability to eat, drink and preen.

What about free range and organic chicken and eggs?

Unfortunately, "free range" and "organic" means very little. These comforting labels appease the consumer’s emotions and makes them feel that their chicken was happy, but in reality, there is little difference from standard animal farming. Most of these free-range, organic farms have the same horrible practices as conventional producers. The birds are de-beak, don’t have access to the outside and are slaughtered in the same slaughterhouses that all animals are. They also still come from the same hatcheries. The hatcheries are a hidden horror of the egg industry. At the hatcheries, the male chicks are not of the same breed to be raised profitably for meat, so they are sexed (to see if it is a male or female) and the females go to the egg industry, and the males are thrown away. Hundreds of thousands of baby male chicks, right after they have pecked out of their shells, will be put on conveyor belts and dropped right into grinders- alive. Or they will take all these baby chicks, the sweetest, most innocent beings in the world- and they will put them all in plastic bags and just throw them away in dumpsters where they suffocate and die smothering their brothers. It's horrible. Even the free-range, organic eggs- those chickens came from the same hatcheries.

What about eating fish?

Scientific studies confirm that fish have a complex nervous system and can feel physical pain.** Like mammals, fish feel pain as part of a biological survival mechanism: pain alerts fish to danger so that they can avoid it. Fish immediately begin to suffocate when pulled from the water into our atmosphere, and the sudden pressure change can rupture their swim bladder.

Industrial fishing is also environmentally devastating. Commercial fisheries locate schools of fish using satellite-tracking equipment, and cover miles of ocean with gigantic nets that trap everything in their path, killing millions of animals that are not even saleable, such as sea turtles, dolphins and sea lions. These indiscriminate clear-cutting methods have led to chronic overfishing, which has depleted fish stocks and made intensive aquaculture (breeding fish on "farms") increasingly common. Raised in overcrowded caged enclosures, farmed fish live in water infested with bacteria that form a surplus of excrement. When the fish are ready for market, they are dumped into large mesh cages where they suffocate to death.

Animals aren't intelligent, so isn't it all right to eat them?

It is a common misconception that because animals can't do everything humans can (e.g., speak French, understand physics or build cars) they are not intelligent. However, recent scientific studies demonstrate that farmed animals are at least as smart as dogs and cats, and that they can think, reason and comprehend complex intellectual concepts. They also experience emotions and have a strong need for nurturing relationships. For example:

- Research shows that pigs are smarter than dogs and that their intellectual abilities exceed those of the average three-year-old human child. Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing, and pigs have more than 20 vocalizations to communicate everything from hunger to courtship intentions.

- Dr. Chris Evans, head of the animal behavior lab at Macquarie University in Australia, says that chickens are as smart as mammals and even some primates. Research demonstrates chickens' understanding that recently hidden objects have not disappeared, an intellectual capacity lacking in human infants. Hens are dedicated mothers who turn their eggs up to five times an hour. They also cluck to their chicks, who chirp back from inside their shells.

- Research shows that cows have the ability to solve problems and that they enjoy intellectual challenges. Studies done at Cambridge University showed that cows experienced a "eureka" moment upon discovering a solution to a problem. Their brainwaves and heart rate increased, and some even jumped in the air. Though cows can recognize more than 100 other individual members of their herd, they commonly develop close bonds with only a few others. Cows even shed tears when someone close to them passes away.

- Based on a review of over 500 research papers, biologists reported in the August 2003 issue of Fish & Fisheries that fish are highly intelligent and socially sophisticated: they can recognize individual shoal mates, learn from each other, employ long-term memory, and even use tools. Fish have particularly complex spatial memories that enable them to navigate vast areas of ocean using cues such as polarized light, sounds, smells and visual landmarks.

Recent discoveries about the emotional experiences and intellectual capabilities of farmed animals confirm that we share much more in common with them than most people had previously realized. Naturally, this new knowledge raises important concerns about whether killing and eating farmed animals is ethically justifiable. To learn more about the lives of farmed animals, visit

Animals eat other animals in nature, so isn't it natural for humans to eat animals, as well?

Most animals that eat meat in nature do so because they must in order to survive. Animals known as obligate, or true, carnivores (like lions, sharks and polar bears) have sharp teeth and powerful jaws with which to kill and eat their prey raw, including entrails, organs, fur and all. Their digestive systems (e.g., short intestinal tracts and powerful stomach acids) enable them to process raw animal flesh. Other animals, known as omnivores, eat a combination of animals and plants.

Our closest genetic cousin, the chimpanzee, eats small amounts of meat (1% - 4% of total diet) when it is available, but can live healthily without it. The typical human eats far more than this amount of meat as a proportion of total diet. Overall per capita meat consumption has risen in industrialized countries with the development and spread of factory farming. The abuses that take place on factory farms and the enormous amounts of meat that most people eat are both completely at odds with what people normally consider "natural." Furthermore, no animal in nature is known to consume the milk of another species. Likewise, it is unnatural for humans to consume food made from the milk of cows, goats, sheep or any other animal. About 75% of the world's population is estimated to be lactose-intolerant, which is common among people of Asian, South American and African descent.

As children, our "natural" response to seeing a dead animal is revulsion, and most children who find out that meat comes from dead animals are horrified. In general, animal flesh is only palatable to humans when it is cooked, and eating raw meat poses serious (and sometimes fatal) health risks. Only through long-term cultural reinforcement (from other people, schooling and the media) do we learn to "outgrow" our initial disgust with the idea of eating dead animal flesh and develop a taste for it.

Finally, humans have the ability to reason about ethical concerns and to refrain from needlessly harming or killing other living, sentient creatures for food. People can make this choice without jeopardizing their own survival because we don't need to eat animal flesh to be healthy and live naturally.

What would happen to all the farmed animals if people stopped eating them?

Some meat eaters express concern that if people stopped eating meat, all the farmed animals would die of starvation or be set loose in the wild to destroy natural habitats. However, the economics of supply and demand make this scenario extremely unlikely.

Each individual who goes vegan both reduces the overall consumer demand for animal products and leaves the meat, dairy and egg industries less money to raise and slaughter animals. Industries must respond to consumer demand in order to remain profitable, so fewer and fewer animals will be raised for food as the demand for meat, dairy and eggs gradually diminishes.

In addition, since the 1980s, sanctuaries have been established around the world for farmed animals. Many of the animals at these sanctuaries were rescued from factory farms and now greet visitors as ambassadors for their species. As people's concern for farmed animals grows, sanctuaries will have greater support and more resources to facilitate their recovery from factory farm abuse. For more information and to find a farmed animal sanctuary near you, visit

Don't plants feel pain, too?

Unlike animals and humans, plants do not appear to have pain receptors, neurons or other types of physiological structures that would enable them to experience pain. In fact, plants do not even have a brain, which in animals is the organ that "interprets" pain coming from the senses. Given our present scientific understanding, it seems unlikely that plants feel pain. If they do, it may be a very different kind of "pain" from that which humans and animals feel.

However, even if it were proven that plants felt pain, a vegan diet would still cause much less suffering to both plants and animals. The animals used to make meat, dairy and eggs eat many times the amount of plant matter of the entire human population, yet converting plants into animal flesh uses resources inefficiently, so they don't produce nearly enough food to feed everyone. In addition, millions of acres of forest are cleared to grow food to feed farmed animals, but we wouldn't need to grow so many crops if people ate the plants themselves. Anyone who is truly concerned that plants feel pain should go vegan to reduce the number of plants they indirectly consume by eating animal products.

Do vegans get enough protein?

Yes. Many vegan foods are high in protein, including soy products, nuts, beans, legumes, grains and even many vegetables. You do not need to combine these foods in any special way to get "complete" protein, and you can easily get all essential amino acids from plant based foods. You will not suffer from a protein deficiency so long as you eat enough calories from a variety of sources.

People in affluent societies generally eat too much meat and therefore too much protein. Research shows that excessive protein consumption contributes to kidney disease, cancer and osteoporosis. For more information, visit

Is a vegan diet healthy for children?

Yes. Research shows that a vegan diet can support children at any stage of life, and that vegan children are generally healthier than those who eat meat. In the final edition of his classic book Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, world-renowned pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote, "Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats … are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer." *** Visit to learn about raising vegan kids.

What is IDA's position on feeding animal companions a vegan diet?

Feeding our animal companions the same products that we are boycotting for ethical reasons is a significant dilemma for vegans. Fortunately, nutritionally complete vegan cat and dog foods are available. Many dogs and cats have lived healthy, long lives on a purely vegan diet.

Some people express concern that veganism is unnatural for dogs and cats. However, there is really nothing natural about feeding them genetically engineered, factory-farmed animals and unsavory byproducts scraped from the slaughterhouse floor. Some commercial cat and dog foods actually contain meat from animals who were euthanized in shelters, their bodies rendered with deadly chemicals still in their bloodstreams and flea collars still on.

Visit to learn more about the practical and ethical considerations of feeding dogs and cats a vegan diet, and to purchase healthy, cruelty-free, nutritionally complete food for your animal friends.


What is vivisection?

Vivisection is the practice of performing experiments on living animals. The term is used to refer to several categories of scientific or medical procedures performed on animals, including drug or chemical testing, biomedical research and raising and killing animals for parts (such are heart valves) or organs.

What happens to animals used in product testing?

Animals used in product testing have nail polish, toilet bowl cleaner and other products shoved down their throats, in their eyes, and forcibly applied to their bare, shaved skin. A common and particularly painful procedure is the Lethal Dose 50 (LD-50), in which a product is fed to a large number of animals until it kills 50% of them. Another is the Draize Eye and Skin Irritancy Test, in which products are poured into animals' eyes and onto their abraded skin to determine the substance's level of toxicity.

Is product testing on animals required by law?

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires that companies conduct tests to determine the safety of pharmaceuticals, but consumer products like household cleansers and cosmetics do not need to be tested on animals. In fact, more than 550 consumer product companies no longer test on animals.

Do different species of animals respond the same way as humans do to drugs and chemicals?

No. Because species differ anatomically, physiologically, metabolically and psychologically from one another, each species responds to chemicals and drugs differently. Chemicals that are toxic to some species aren't toxic to others, and no species is an infallible model or predictor for another. As a result, many products that have proven to be harmful to humans did not harm the non-human animals on whom they were tested. Conversely, the use of important medicines has been delayed because of harmful effects on animals that did not occur in humans. The amount of any chemical that, when consumed or applied topically, is toxic or harmful varies greatly from species to species, invalidating results applied between different species. The inability to effectively translate results from animal to human studies is one of the major scientific arguments against testing on non-human animals.

If we don't conduct research on animals, how can we ensure that drugs and consumer products are safe for human use?

The current animal-based approach to research does not ensure that drugs and consumer products are safe for humans. Despite the fact that testing on animals typically yields results that are relevant only to the species used in tests, researchers often conclude that a product is safe for use by humans. This not only results in unsafe products reaching the market and harming people's health, it also results in potentially lifesaving drugs never being made available because tests showed them to be harmful to animals. Using reliable non-animal-based methodologies, such as cell cultures and clinical trials with humans, is the best way to ensure human safety.

Are there laws in place to ensure that animals used in research are treated humanely?

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the only federal law in the U.S. that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition, transport, and by dealers. It is enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which conducts periodic inspections to ensure that minimal requirements are being met. Notably, the AWA does not cover rats, mice, birds or cold-blooded animals, even while these species comprise more than 95% of the animals used in research.

The AWA mandates only that animals in laboratories be provided with food, living space and veterinary attention in buildings that are clean, properly lighted, ventilated and temperature controlled. It does not explicitly restrict cruel and inhumane procedures. AWA regulations require that Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees (IACUCs) oversee animal research, but these bodies are composed mostly of animal researchers who have a biased interest in approving and sustaining inhumane protocols. In many documented cases, IACUCs have failed to suspend research activities that were in violation of animal welfare regulations.
Don't we need to experiment on animals in order to cure human diseases?

Experimenting on animals is an extremely unreliable, ineffective, and inefficient approach to curing human diseases. Research on animals is based on the assumption that the data gathered from animals will be predictive of human reactions. In other words, it assumes that humans will respond to a procedure or drug in a real-life setting similarly to the way animals responded in experiments. This assumption has been proven false time and time again. For example, whereas penicillin is one of the most useful prescription drugs for humans, it kills guinea pigs and hamsters and has no effect at all on rabbits. Had Alexander Fleming—the scientist credited with the discovery of penicillin—conducted research on guinea pigs or hamsters, their misleading results would likely have prevented this life-saving drug from being administered to sick human beings. Examples like this abound in the annals of medical research. Billions of dollars are wasted and millions of animals are tortured when they are infected with HIV, cancer or other diseases only to find that they don't respond to the disease or the proposed cure in the same way that humans do.

What are some of the humane non-animal methodologies that are being used to make advances in biomedical research?

Many important medical advancements have been achieved using non-animal-based methodologies, such as in vitro (test tube) research, epidemiological studies (to determine causal factors of diseases in human populations), autopsies and cadaver research, genetic research, clinical research, post-marketing drug surveillance (whereby the effects and side effects of medications are closely monitored and reported to the FDA), mathematical and computer models, and technological breakthroughs (such as X-rays, MRI scanners, microscopes, lasers, pacemakers, etc.).

Why do some scientists continue to conduct animal research if it is not effective?

The animal research infrastructure currently in place is extremely powerful and well funded, and many industries profit from it. Pharmaceutical companies, universities, hospitals, animal breeders, and equipment manufacturers all lobby Congress and devise misleading public relations campaigns to convince politicians, the media and the public that animal experimentation is beneficial to human health and necessary for medical progress. Doctors and scientists are entrenched in animal research; it pays their salaries, gives them tenure and earns them respect within their field of research. Those who benefit from vivisection are therefore quick to ostracize and punish those who challenge its usefulness or ethics.

Why do some scientists defend vivisection?

As Dr. Werner Hartinger explained, "There are, in fact, only two categories of doctors and scientists who are not opposed to vivisection: those who don't know enough about it, and those who make money from it."

As for the scientists "who don't know enough about it," senior researchers trained only in vivisection usually emphasize it to the exclusion of other methods. Out of habit and self-justification, they forcefully initiate students into the belief system that vivisection is the most valid form of scientific inquiry, requiring them to conduct dissection and vivisection to graduate. Students indoctrinated into the system then pass the same outdated focus on animal research to their students when they become senior researchers themselves, having perhaps never questioned whether their research is truly relevant to curing human disease. Many scientists work exclusively in laboratories experimenting on animals and never concern themselves with the practical application of their data to humans. Many other researchers may privately question the value of animal research but avoid speaking out against it for fear of risking their career, professional prestige and financial security.

Regarding "those who make money from it," animal research tends to be extremely profitable for those who conduct it. Millions of dollars in research grants are given to those who publish articles in the most prestigious academic journals, which are often more likely to accept animal research studies for publication than clinical studies using human subjects, despite the fact that research on animals does not advance medical understanding of human disease. Publishing leads to research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other sources, providing universities with funds to conduct more research which enables them to help corporations get lucrative products on the market more quickly than competitors.

History shows that industries tend to avoid admitting that what they do may be harmful to others. For example, tobacco executives spent years denying that cigarette smoking causes cancer in humans despite overwhelming evidence that people were dying from it. Those who make money from the billion-dollar animal research industry – whether individual researchers or giant companies – have a strong incentive to protect their financial interests. Unfortunately, the motivating factor behind their actions is making money rather than improving human health or the welfare of animals.

Who funds vivisection?

By far, the largest financial supporter of animal research is the taxpayer-funded National Institutes of Health (NIH), which awards over $8 billion in grants for animal experiments every year. Corporations that conduct experiments on animals are able to do so with the profits they make from selling their products. Donations to charities that conduct experiments on animals, such as the March of Dimes and the American Heart Association, also fund cruel and useless experiments on animals that waste precious time and money. Some foundations and other well-meaning non-profit organizations allocate millions for animal research motivated by a false belief that animal research is necessary to curing human diseases.

What can I do to help end useless animal research?

There are many ways you can help prevent animals from having to suffer and die in pointless experiments and promote research that will actually improve the treatment of human diseases:

- Avoid donating money to organizations that fund vivisection. Instead, support health charities that support humane non-animal-based forms of research (visit for a comprehensive list).
- Buy cruelty-free products that are not tested on animals (visit for a list of companies that do and do not test on animals).
- Write to charities that fund animal experiments and explain how ineffective it is and inform them that you will only donate to those organizations that do not fund vivisection.
- Write letters to companies that still test their products on animals urging them to adopt non-animal-based methodologies for ensuring the safety of their products, and inform them that you will boycott their products until they do so.
- Urge your Congressional representatives support legislation encouraging the use of non-animal-based technologies.
- Inform your friends, family, editors of your local papers and others about the cruelty and inefficiency of animal experimentation.
- Contact for more ways you can help.
- Visit the following websites to learn more about the scientific arguments against vivisection.
- - Americans for Medical Advancement
- - Medical Research Modernization Committee
- - Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- - Campaign for Responsible Transplantation

Dissection in the classroom

Dissection is an outdated practice that is cruel, costly, requires toxic chemicals, often involves poaching and stealing animals, and is not necessary to successfully learn biology, physiology or anatomy.

Nine states (California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia) give students the option of choosing alternatives to dissecting sentient beings. Unfortunately, the remaining 41 states fail to recognize a students' right to deny dissection for ethical and efficacy reasons.

Of 468 14- and 15- year-old students surveyed, 38 percent object to any animal or animal byproduct being used for dissection, 73 percent believe it is wrong to breed animals for dissection, and 84 percent felt that alternatives to animal experimentation should be available.

Now that we live in the age of unparalleled technology, alternatives to dissection are readily available in computer formats and are proven to be even more effective in defining the anatomy and physiology of animals used in dissection.


How do circuses harm animals?

The lions, tigers, elephants, monkeys and other animals used in circuses do not naturally perform for the entertainment of people, so they are forced against their will. Numerous exposés and the testimony of many former circus employees confirm that trainers routinely use violence, brutality and intimidation to get animals to perform demeaning acts that are common in circuses. The whips, chains, sharp hooks, electric prods, muzzles and choke collars employed in behind-the-scenes training sessions (and sometimes openly during performances) are the standard tools trainers use to inflict pain and force obedience from helpless animals. Animals used in circuses also suffer from severe confinement and isolation when traveling from city to city stuffed into small cages. These conditions prevent animals from engaging in their most basic natural behaviors, causing severe physical and psychological stress and sometimes even death.

Animals in circuses suffer a lifetime of domination and abuse to provide audiences with a few fleeting moments of "entertainment." You can help end this injustice by enjoying only circuses that don't use animals, and by encouraging your family and friends to do the same.

How do zoos harm animals?

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 simply cannot provide the vast acreage necessary to accommodate elephants' complex physical, psychological and social needs. As the world's 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 years old.

Fortunately, there are two elephant sanctuaries in the U.S. that offer a humane alternative to confinement in zoos. Both The Elephant Sanctuary (TES) in Hohenwald, Tenn. and the Performing Animal Welfare Society sanctuary in San Andreas, Calif. have thousands of acres for elephants to roam in a naturalistic setting that resembles their true habitats in Asia and Africa. To learn more about IDA's efforts to send elephants from zoos to sanctuaries where they can live in a more naturalistic setting, visit

What is wrong with attending marine parks?

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 ship's 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 these animals.

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.


How are rodeos harmful to animals?

Every year, thousands of animals are injured, maimed and killed in rodeos. Promoters deliberately portray the horses and bulls used in rodeos as wild beasts so that the cowboys will seem brave and daring. However, the fact is that the majority of the animals used in rodeos—broncos, bulls, steer, and calves—are not naturally aggressive. Their wild and combative behavior in rodeos is artificially induced by painful or irritating provocation. In order to agitate the broncos to make them buck, handlers poke them with electric prods and often slap or kick them, then tighten a leather strap in the sensitive area below the animal's rib cage. This creates severe agitation and, paired with spurring, causes the animals to buck wildly, often beyond their ability, leading to severe injuries and sometimes death.

Regular rodeo events include chasing baby calves on horseback and lassoing them around the neck, jumping from horses on top of steers and twisting their heads to force them into the dirt, and riding "bucking broncos" who are actually domesticated horses leaping frantically in the air only because of the severe discomfort that is being deliberately inflicted on them. Given the aggressive nature of these events, many animals used in rodeos suffer serious injuries, such as torn ligaments, broken bones, shattered horns, internal hemorrhaging, severed spinal cords and crushed tracheas.

What happens to dogs used for racing?

Though greyhound racing is now illegal in all but fifteen states, more than 30,000 greyhound puppies are bred every year to meet the industry's demand for racing dogs. However, only about half of these dogs actually race; the rest are used as breeding stock, sold to laboratories as research subjects or simply euthanized because they are not fast enough to compete. Many greyhounds who spend their lives racing also meet the same fate when their speed declines.

Though born, bred and trained to run, greyhounds spend most of their lives – between eighteen and twenty-two hours a day – in cages, during which they are also kept muzzled. Because of their low body fat and thin coats, greyhounds are extremely sensitive to temperature. Yet they are forced to race in all weather extremes, ranging from sweltering heat to freezing cold. This vulnerability makes greyhounds even more susceptible to tissue injuries and bone fractures, which are common during races. Countless dogs have suffered spinal injuries, seizures and death from cardiac arrest during races.

Several thousand rabbits, guinea pigs and cats are used every year as live bait to train racing dogs. Even though the dog racing industry officially denounces the practice, some trainers teach dogs to chase and attack bait animals tied to horizontal poles. This training method makes dogs more apt to pursue the inanimate lures used during races because they think they are chasing a living animal. In addition, dogs that don't display a "killer instinct" are placed in cages with rabbits and deliberately starved until hunger drives them to kill and eat their cagemates. In this way, some trainers awaken bloodlust in racing greyhounds, a breed that is gentle and non-violent by nature.

What happens to animals (such as roosters and dogs) used for fighting?

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 doesn't 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.


What happens to animals used to make fur garments?

The fur industry kills over 40 million animals a year. The majority of fur-bearing animals are raised on fur mills in wire cages stacked in long rows raised several feet above the ground. Large mills hold up to 100,000 "livestock." About 80% of fur is imported from China, where animal welfare laws don't exist and dogs and cats are also killed for fur. Animals like mink, chinchilla, raccoon, lynx and fox are wild and need to live outdoors. Trapped in cages, they are denied their most basic natural behaviors. After a lifetime of confinement, fur-bearing animals are killed in ways that are designed to preserve their valuable pelts from damage. Farmers commonly break their necks or insert an electrified rod in their anus or vagina, literally frying them from the inside out.

Millions of coyote, raccoon, bobcats and other animals are caught in the wild using spring traps with metal teeth that smash bone and crush muscle. Animals can linger in excruciating pain for days without food or water before a trapper kills them. About one quarter of trapped animals escape by chewing their own limbs off (only to be killed by predators). Many "trash" animals also die in traps, including companion dogs and cats and non-target wildlife (some of which are endangered).

The fur trade kills animals not out of necessity (for example to keep people warm: synthetic materials are warmer and much cheaper), but for money and fashion – to make $10,000 mink coats, fur collars and frivolous fashion accessories. Visit to find out how you can get involved in the effort to stem the sale of fur.

How do buying clothes, shoes and other items made from leather harm animals?

The leather industry generates a significant profit for those who raise and slaughter animals for food. In fact, without the revenue from leather, prices for meat and dairy would skyrocket. Much leather is derived primarily from dairy cows who no longer produce significant amounts of milk and veal cows slated for slaughter. These animals spend their entire lives in cruel confinement before being crammed into train cars bound for the slaughterhouse. Livestock handlers often neglect to provide adequate water and food for animals during these trips, and many cows die before reaching the slaughterhouse. Pigs, horses, sheep, lambs, goats, and even dogs and cats are also killed to make leather.

Ironically, much of the world’s leather comes from animals who are raised and slaughtered in India, even though cows have been held sacred for millennia in this predominantly Hindu nation. Recent undercover investigations of the Indian leather industry have exposed gross violations of basic animal protection laws on a routine basis. During transport to slaughterhouses, cows are packed so tightly together in trucks that they often suffer serious injuries from being crushed or gouged with one another's horns, with many dying on the long journey. All too often, when cows arrive at the abattoir, their throats are slit while they remain fully conscious, their bovine companions looking on all the while in horror. Investigators even witnessed some cows skinned and dismembered while still showing visible signs of life.

Many non-leather clothing items and accessories are now available. You can easily avoid purchasing products made with leather by buying items made with synthetic or plant-based materials instead. Visit for websites where you can shop for these items.

How does buying clothes made from wool harm animals?

Merino sheep are used to make wool because they have wrinkled skin that produces more wool per animal (because they have more skin area than sheep with smooth skin). These animals have been selectively bred to produce skin with the most wrinkles possible to maximize wool production. Unfortunately for the sheep, their urine and feces collect in the folds of their skin, where blowflies lay their eggs. As soon as they are born, the larvae begin to literally eat the sheep alive (and can kill an untreated animal in just a few days). As a preventative measure, sheep farmers use a knife to cut out the skin around the groin and remove the wrinkles from the area. The sheep typically show signs of experiencing intense pain while the wound heals.

Other cruel procedures forced on sheep raised for wool include grinding their teeth down to expose the nerves, tail docking and, for males, castration. All of these operations are done without administering any anesthetic to the animals beforehand or pain relief medications afterward.


What can I do to promote Animal Rights?

There are two different areas where you can make a difference for animals. One is personal. You can show others by example that you do not contribute to animals suffering. And the other is outreach and education.

Personal- The most effective thing you can do every day for animals is to go vegan. By not eating, wearing or using animal products, you not only are boycotting the overcrowding, mutilation and slaughter of animals, you are an example to others that you don’t contribute to their suffering. You can order a Vegan Starter Guide from us with helpful information on why being vegan is so important to help animals. Buying only products that are not tested on animals and not supporting events that exploit animals is another way. Don't patronize zoos, circuses, rodeos or other forms of animal exploitation.

Outreach- There are many ways that anyone can help spread the message of compassion and justice for animals. This can be done by talking to your friends and family, leafleting, tabling with educational materials, writing letters to the editor of your local paper, and contacting elected officials and companies with your concerns about specific issues. Donating to animal rights organizations provides financial support for those who are working to end animal abuse, so organizing fundraiser is another great way to help. Visit to learn more about how you can help.

Contact IDA for specific ideas about what you can do in your area. We will be glad to put you in our activist database and help you connect with activists near you. We will also help you plan and promote demonstrations for Fur Free Friday, World Week for Animals in Laboratories and more. E-mail to get started.

How can I help farmed animals?

The best thing you can do for animals in your everyday life is to go vegan, or at least begin reducing your consumption of animal products. As a vegan, you automatically withdraw your support from industries that profit from animal suffering and death. Factory farms will supply animal products cheaply for as long as people pay for them. Fortunately, the number of vegans has grown in recent years, and more people are starting to question the ethics of eating animals.

For all the progress the vegan and animal rights movements have made, there remains a very long way to go towards winning respect for animals. In order for a vegan future to be possible, people who care about animals must take organized action today. It is crucial that vegans engage in outreach and other types of activism to educate people about animal abuse on factory farms. There are many things you can do to help animals, from subscribing to IDA's writer's group to handing out leaflets at fairs or festivals. Please visit for more ideas, or contact IDA's National Campaign Coordinator Melissa Gonzalez at

I'm interested in a career in animal rights. Do you have any suggestions?

It takes a very dedicated person to make a career in animal rights, but it can be a very rewarding job when you do make a difference. There is so much suffering and pain to help alleviate that animals need all the help they can get from all sorts of people. Lawyers are needed to fight in court to protect animals and uphold the rights of the people who advocate for them. Humane educators are needed to help younger generations understand the animals' plight. Activists and organizers are needed on the front lines to demonstrate against injustices and raise awareness of how badly our society mistreats animals. No matter what your skills or interests, they can be used to help animals. Visit to see current job openings at IDA.


* American Heart Association. Heart and Stroke Statistical Update: 2004 Update. Dallas: American Heart Association.
** Rose, J. The Neurobehavioral Nature of Fishes and the Question of Awareness and Pain. Reviews in Fisheries Science, 101-38 (2003).
*** Benjamin Spock, M.D., and Steven J. Parker, M.D., Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, 1996 (New York: Pocket Books), p. 333.


If you have an animal rights question that wasn't addressed on this page, please email your questions to and we'll consider adding it. We also encourage you to please take the time to fill out our feedback form to let us know what you think of our web site.


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