Notes from the Field: part 1

Happy summer, y’all.

You’ll notice that I started using the “read more” feature on here, so my full posts are visible after the cut below (click on “read the rest of this entry” in each post to go to the full page).

I recently pulled out a stack of binders I had packed away from my days at university. When I cleaned out my desk at the end of the program, I recycled most of the notes I had, but some course notes I kept without really knowing what I’d do with them. The reason has become a bit clearer to me now that I’ve had a few years to recover from being in that environment.

I spent some time recently looking through each page of each binder, recalling some of the lectures, professors, and field trips I took part in during the course of my schooling. These notes have been sitting in a box for ages, but now I’d like to share some of what I learned at school by posting them here. Here are some photos of key pages, in addition to descriptions of what happened at the time the notes were made, or what concepts & practices the notes are referring to.

This post covers general practices in various animal exploitation industries. There will be more posts in the near future that are specific to each industry, ie. the “production” of eggs, milk, pigs, birds, fish & cattle. This is a chance to gain some insight into not only the practices used, but the language and resources employed by animal industries. Think of it as an insider look.


“Feed economically to make a bigger profit” : An example of the kinds of things we feed to animals, many of which are items that could be directly eaten by humans, or are waste “products” of animal industry itself which get fed back to more animals.


In Canada, we have voluntary codes of practice that dictate how “food” animals are treated. Voluntary.



This refers to birds bred for rapid growth, like turkeys and “meat”-breed chickens. Our selective breeding  causes disastrous health problems and many many deaths. Note that “meat” birds are killed around 42 days old, and some succumb to ailments like the above even before that tender young age.



Again, human-caused problems are seen often in cows used for their milk and birds bred to grow large and fast.



From the start, this definition bothered me. Welfare standards often seem more like a public relations move than an actual concern for well being, though in some cases animals do benefit. Welfare standards are only put in place if they don’t compromise profitability, which is why industry finds it acceptable for animals like the chickens mentioned above to frequently die before reaching anyone’s plate. Also, caveat: I realize that people in certain parts of the world rely on animals for food. The note made in red here refers to physiological need.



In this picture, “broiler” refers to “meat” type chickens, generally White Rock and other Cornish breeds. Chicks can be shipped by mail in north america; many die en route.



As we see constantly from investigations, attempts at enforcing humane treatment of farmed animals has been a massive failure. As author Gail Eisnitz learned through working with USDA inspectors, the people responsible for enforcing humane standards were unable to do so and often fired if they spoke up about improper handling of animals in slaughterhouses. Again, the codes of practice for treatment of farmed animals are voluntary.



One glimmer of hope: animal industries are driven by consumer demand. No demand, no production. Simple.



Animal “by-products” can be fed back to farmed animals. Examples of these would be blood meal (dried blood), “poultry” litter (shit and shavings), bone meal (ground up bones), etc.



The underlying message in every lecture: the focus is on growing animals as quickly & cheaply as possible, or in the case of eggs & milk, making animals produce more of these as cheaply as possible so that people can make more money by selling them. I endured this environment for 4 years at school.


These last two photos tie into a visit I had at a university-owned research farm. This farm bred and raised chickens for their eggs and flesh, and my class was given a tour of the facility.

I will never forget the employee’s artificial insemination demo. He took a caged rooster into the hallway, where there was a small, dirty table. He “milked” the rooster – basically masturbated him – by pinning him onto his back and turning his vent area inside out. The semen was collected in a tiny tube. The employee then took the rooster back to his cage, brought out a hen from elsewhere in the building, then pinned her on the table and turned her inside out while releasing the semen from the tube into her body. He didn’t wear gloves. The birds’ wings were pinned between their own bodies and the table. They were used to create fertile eggs, which would be taken from the hens and hatched separately in another room in the building. The chicks would never know their mothers, who would normally teach them what to eat, proper social skills, how to dustbathe, and many other things about being a chicken. The adult chicks would either be killed for their flesh or trapped in the same system of exploitation inside that facility.

The same facility held dark, dusty free-run ‘aviaries’ where debeaked hens crowded a room walled with nesting boxes. It also had a room full of individual cages which housed blind roosters. I remember standing in this dim, depressing little room, observing flies land on the proud-looking roosters who pivoted on the spot inside their cages, their wings pinned to their bodies, because they were unable to take even one step inside of them, or open their wings.

Had I not had these experiences, I never would have believed such awful practices existed under canadian law. I now know better than to think our government gives much (if any) dignity or true protection to animals people classify as “food”. I know these are distressing topics to think and learn about, but I hope that sharing these notes and experiences will help bring more awareness to readers. Check back soon for more notes from the field – there will be many other posts coming.


About tino

I'm an aspiring organic farmer living in canada. I talk about farm life, things I'm learning, other relevant topics like feminism, social & environmental justice, nature, animals, vegan food, and fun.

Posted on July 26, 2014, in Note from the Field and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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