Factory Farming: Do you know what you're eating?

Cheaper means crueler.

Think about that the next time you’re browsing the meat aisles at your local supermarket.

Animals Australia are running a new campaign that aims to educate Australians on the realities of animal cruelty in this country. They say most Australians don’t know that the majority of pork, chicken and egg products they eat are actually produced in factory farms – where animals are bred in small dark cages and are almost immobilized.

They want people to know that cheap meat comes at a cost to animal welfare. And it’s consumer choice that will drive change.

Vote with your wallets, people. And take a look at this video:

Mamamia’s former news editor Rick Morton put together this cheat sheet all about factory farming in Australia. If you want the details on where your produce is coming from and how it got there, this is your place. (More information on this issue, including responses from the Farmer’s Federation to each of these claims is available here.)

Part of the advertising campaign from Voiceless to raise awareness about the realities of factory farming in Australia

Dairy calves

There’s a darker side to milk. Dairy cows are kept in a state of near-constant pregnancy, that they might produce the milk we’re used to having with our cereal. But the ‘poddy calves’ or ‘bobby calves’ are surplus to requirements and some 700,000 are destroyed each year and sold for meat. That would be the veal some of us love to order at restaurants.

The calves are taken from their mothers after a day and trucked away, sometimes going without food for a day at a time. Then they are slaughtered.

Beef Cattle

Cattle are generally raised free-to-roam on large slabs of land in Australia, but associated animal husbandry practices are not always humane. The RSPCA says fire branding (hot pokers that are pushed into the rump of the beast) is an ‘unacceptable’ form of branding but this does not mean it doesn’t happen.

Australia’s huge geography means that most welfare problems for beef cattle arise in their transport to abattoirs and conditions before and during slaughter. The animals are held in feedlots before slaughter which are far more confined and can stress cattle out if they are handled incorrectly, not fed properly or exposed to extreme heat and weather. Feedlots make up between 30 and 40% of the beef market.



Industry chickens are bred for two reasons and two reasons only. For their eggs, or for their meat.

Battery hens, the machine-line egg producers, are almost universally assured a life without sunlight or open spaces. Many are kept in cages four-apiece with less than an A4 sized piece of paper to live in, according to welfare groups. There are 11 million of these battery hens in Australia.

As many as one in six live with broken bones as their cage conditions weaken their skeletons. When their egg laying rate inevitably slows, the hens are disposed of, around the age of 18 months. Male chicks don’t even make it that far. They are gassed or otherwise ‘ground up’ when they are born.

Meat chickens are a slightly different story. There are more than 400 million in Australia, raised to stack on the meat at three times their usual growth rate and slaughtered at five weeks. The forced weight-gain often results in the animals being crippled under the strain, or breaking bones altogether.

Pigs and factory farming. This is what it looks like.


Pigs have the intelligence of a toddler many are subjected to factory farming where they are given no room to move and, you know, be pigs. Piglets have their teeth cut or filed back to ‘prevent damage’ to the sows from which they suckle. Those same sows are confined to tiny spaces for 16 weeks, unable to turn around or make themselves comfortable. When pregnant they are moved to an even smaller farrowing crate, immediately before giving birth.


Kangaroos are shot and killed in huge numbers for their meat and skins, but not always ‘humanely’ as is required by the industry code of practice. As many as four cent are not killed with a head-shot as required and there are no figures to suggest how many are maimed and survive.
What do you think? How much do you think about where your food comes from, do you care? Or is ignorance bliss?

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