While meat consumption has increased greatly, the number of meat producers has significantly reduced. We now eat ten times more chicken than in 1960,1 but the number of chicken farms in Australia has plummeted and two corporations now produce the majority of our poultry.2 Similarly, between 1970 and 2002 the number of pig producers in Australia declined by 94%, while total pig meat production grew by 130%.3
Today, very few animals roam freely on traditional farms. Most animals produced for food in Australia suffer behind the closed doors of large industrial facilities known as factory farms. They are treated like commodities in a production line and their pain and distress is disregarded in the pursuit of profit.
Factory farming causes the most suffering to the largest number of animals in Australia – more than 500 million every year. They have no voice, cannot defend themselves and are legally classified as 'property'.
These emotionally complex, intelligent beings may never see the sun, feel the earth under their feet, nurture their young, build a nest, roost, forage for food or socialise as nature intended.
Instead they are confined in cages (in the case of laying hens, boars and pregnant pigs) or packed together in such large numbers they struggle to find space to move or reach their food. Baby animals are mutilated without pain relief – the tails, teeth and genitalia of piglets4 and the beaks of chicks are brutally clipped,5 as well as the horns,6 tails,7 and testicles8 of calves – because it's practical, cheap and lawful to do so.
Factory farming corporations engage in legalised cruelty in the name of higher profit and cheaper meat and eggs. Their activities are legitimised by State and Federal Departments of Primary Industry, which operate with a stark conflict of interest; they are responsible for promoting the interests of animals but also the interests of very vocal and powerful agribusiness. As long as these government bodies oversee both animal protection and industry, meaningful reform will be very difficult to achieve.
These industries operate with very little transparency, but there is hope. As consumers learn the truth behind their food, the call for change is growing louder. Consumer research has shown that 83% of Australians support or strongly support laws to ensure food animals have access to the outdoors, companions, natural materials and enough space to carry out their instinctive behaviour.9
- Read more about the factory farming of pigs, meat chickens and battery hens.
- Explore behind the closed doors of a factory farm.
- 1. Australian Chicken Meat Federation, Industry Facts and Figures, <http://www.chicken.org.au/page.php?id=4>
- 2. Baiada Poultry Pty Limited and Inghams Enterprises Pty Limited have a combined market share of 69% See IBISWorld 2011, Industry Report C2112 Poultry Processing in Australia, p. 4. Note that in March 2013, US private equity firm, TPG Capital (previously known as Texas Pacific), purchased Ingham’s Enterprises Pty Limited which was estimated to be worth AU$880 million. See Chris Jenkins, “Bob Ingham sells to TPG for $880m”, Business Review Weekly http://www.brw.com.au/p/business/bob_ingham_sells_to_tpg_for_HZA5aljydlE.
- 3. Productivity Commission 2005, Australian Pigmeat Industry, Report no. 35, Melbourne, p 9. <http://www.pc.gov.au/inquiry/pigmeat/finalreport/pigmeat.pdf>
- 4. Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals - Pigs (revised) (2007) (‘the Pig Code’), section 4.1 and Appendix 3
- 5. Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals- Domestic Poultry, (4th Edition) (2002) (‘the Poultry Code’), section 5.
- 6. Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals- Cattle, (2th Edition) (2002) (‘the Cattle Code’), section 5.8
- 7. Ibid, section 5.6
- 8. Ibid, section 5.4
- 9. This consumer survey of 1000 randomly selected Australians was commissioned by Voiceless and conducted by Pure Profile in September 2011