Animal Farming and Its Exploitation of Female Bodies
Fifty years ago this week, the landmark decision of Roe v. Wade guaranteed a woman’s option to have an abortion in the first trimester under the constitutional right to privacy. In June of 2022, the Supreme Court overturned this ruling, allowing individual states to decide for each woman to what extent abortion should be legal, if at all. With these rights in the spotlight, we expose how the lack of any animal reproductive rights is the secret ingredient in meat, eggs, and dairy.
Industrialized animal agriculture is entirely dependent on the exploitation of female animals. Cows, sows, hens, ducks, and turkeys, among others, are subjected to unimaginable cruelties to meet the demand for dairy, eggs, and flesh.
The dairy industry does a great job of hiding the reality that cows are repeatedly and forcibly impregnated to produce milk. Cows are lined up and secured in what is strikingly referred to as a “rape rack” and subjected to human hands being inserted into their rectums and instruments inserted into their vaginas. Calves are taken away from their mothers almost immediately after birth so the milk they produce to nourish their young can be consumed by humans instead. These mothers cry out for their missing babies, but are not given the opportunity to be the caring mothers they would otherwise universally become. Male calves are destined for slaughter, while the females may replace their moms as living, breathing milk machines, before being killed well before their natural lifespan would be over. It is also common for dairy cows to be pregnant at slaughter, and their aborted babies are then used for a type of high priced leather.
Pigs are also sadly not spared from this horrific cycle of abuse. The pork industry relies heavily on sows who are often impregnated by invasive artificial means before being confined to gestation crates. At 2 feet wide by 7 feet long while they are pregnant, and marginally bigger “farrowing crates” while they are nursing their young, these cages torture pigs mentally and physically. When the babies are big enough, after just a few weeks, they are taken and raised for their flesh, while their mothers are re-impregnated and forced to do it all over again. Imagine being pregnant almost your entire life, and enduring cycle after cycle of your babies being taken away right after you bond with them, only to endure fates that are unspeakable.
Egg-laying hens suffer the same fate, spending their short existence in battery cages or giant industrial sheds without heat or air conditioning. Often they cannot even spread their wings and are forced to stand on mesh wiring and breathe the harsh ammonia from their waste. In such large numbers, the hens’ pecking order is impossible for them to determine, so pecking is prevented by severing the birds’ sensitive beaks without anesthesia as is standard practice. When eggs are allowed to hatch, the male chicks are unneeded and commonly ground up alive, suffocated or crushed to death in trash bags, or electrocuted. If any of these things happened to just one dog, people would be outraged and they would call for justice. Yet, this happens to over 7 billion sentient baby chickens every year worldwide. Like other farmed animals, hens are forced to endure a lifetime of forced reproduction only to have many of their babies ground up alive.
After these animals have fulfilled their “purpose” of serving humans, they are considered “spent” and sent to their violent and bloody deaths at the slaughterhouses themselves, ensuring that every stage of their existence is controlled for the benefit of human greed and consumption. When we avoid eating eggs or milk, we reject this system of slavery and sexual exploitation. Let us not forget the unfortunate animals currently living in horrendous conditions out-of-sight, producing milk and eggs that will be consumed without a thought in about a week into the future.
These thoughtless atrocities committed against female bodies are unspeakable and unbelievably unjust. As our nation explores and debates reproductive healthcare and abortion, please consider the animals too. Imagine one day living in a compassionate world where females of all species can have babies only if and when wanted, while feeling safe and bodily empowered to live lives free of exploitation and trauma.