Small children and young animals are endearing and enjoy a special place in our society. Whoever injures a child or a young animal may count on an outburst of collective indignation. Punishment for crimes against these groups is severe. Still, a suspicious aroma hangs about this collective indignation; this is the stench of double morals.
Many young animals are in the meadows in Springtime, but all playfulness, so characteristic of young animals, seems to have disappeared. This is not so strange, when one considers that the majority of calves has already endured much hardship. They have been stripped of their horns, often in a cruel manner. These horns are inconvenient to the farmer, which is why they have to be removed. Sometimes calves are even born without horns, the product of genetic manipulation of their parents by which the natural development of the horns is extracted from the genes. However, the majority of calves are born as the creator or nature intended: with horns, or rather the beginning of horns.
There are two ways in which a farmer can remove horns from a calf: the painful way and the less painful way. The less painful (and more expensive) method is to have the horns burned away under general anesthetic by a Vetinerary surgeon. The farmer can also do this himself, but then without anesthetic. For this purpose, suppliers have developed a sort of soldering iron that fits exactly on the two knobs on the calf’s head from which eventually horns should emerge. This method smells a bit, but that is just a little discomfort for the farmer. In many cases the calf loses consciousness from the searing pain when the scorching soldering iron is applied to the first knob on her head. “Fine”, the farmer reckons, “the second one will not be felt, and so an anesthetic is not needed”.
Although this form of do-it-yourself anesthetic is prohibited, it is carried out on a large scale, and not only in The Netherlands. Controls by the General Inspection Services are laughable, as farmers are informed in advance via notices in trade magazines exactly when they will be carried out! And if this is not enough, veterinaries are also mobilized to warn farmers in advance. The only difference here is that unannounced controls are also carried out periodically.
The newest form of animal mutilation is “tail docking”. A normal cow has a long tail with a brush on the end of it, which is useful for chasing annoying flies off her body, or to give the farmer a clip about the ears! In the time that cows were milked manually, this easily cost the farmer 15 minutes per cow. The cow was not always pleased with all that tugging on her teats and made that clear: a quick flip of her tail to the farmer and he knew how the land lay. The farmer had an animal friendly solution to this “problem”: before he started milking, he tied the cow’s tail to the nearest beam and when milking had finished, the cow got her tail back. That has all changed nowadays.
Modern productive cows spend most of their lives in a shed where the floor is covered in dung. A cow just does not stand all the time; she often lies down so that her natural fly swatter is soon covered in dung. When she uses her tail to chase flies off her body, she sprays herself in dung. This annoys the farmer, as he is forced to thoroughly clean the udder when it comes to milking time. The solution to this inconvenience comes from the United States and is becoming rapidly popular in Europe: off with that tail!
Docking a cow’s tail is an easy matter. In the middle of the tail a tight elastic band or a piece of string is bound. The blood circulation to this part of the body is thus cut off and then it is just a matter of patience. After about 6 weeks, that part of the cow, which is such an inconvenience to the farmer, falls off all by itself.
In pig farming something similar takes place, although this does not concern removal of horns or tails. Male piglets are born with testicles, which the farmer wants removed. With two swift nicks of a razor sharp blade, the group of piglets is castrated in no time.
Poultry is naturally endowed with razor sharp beaks. This is useful for keeping the feathers free of lice and for picking seeds from the earth and from the grass. In modern poultry runs there is no earth, let alone grass, just concrete. The birds are cooped up on top of each other and they use their beaks to protect their already limited territory. But pecking with their beaks can no longer do any harm; the farmer has already blunted the beaks in an early stage with a soldering iron or tongs. There are more than a hundred million chickens in The Netherlands, mutilated, each one.
The greatest mutilation of Dutch livestock – apart from a hundred million chickens, more than five million cows and 25 million pigs – is invisible, however. We have deprived that part of the animal kingdom of its reproduction mechanism!
Not the bull, but the artificial inseminator comes to fertilise the cow. This is a man who inserts an arm covered in a plastic glove and at body temperature into the cow’s vagina. Firstly he feels around in the cervix with his hand to determine whether the cow is ready for ovulation. If this is the case, a straw containing sperm is injected into the womb. The majority of Dutch cows have many offspring, but they have never seen a bull!
In pig farming, it is a similar story. Sows give birth to many young, but they have no idea what a male pig is.
The bull, the boar and the super cock have no idea what happens to them and why. They patiently let themselves be relieved of their sperm by the “masterpiece of creation”, man!
Normal hens need a cock for reproduction, but Dutch hens do not even know what their male counterparts look like. Cocks cannot lay eggs and are less meaty, so they are uninteresting to the farmer as fattening birds.
Most hens do not even know what a chicken looks like, as these are artificially hatched in huge incubators. Immediately afterwards the males are separated from the females and the males are thrown, live, into a shredder. When assessing the degeneration of Dutch livestock farming, these males are not even taken into account.
According to the agricultural census of 2006 there are 762 industries in The Netherlands where a total of 44,5 million chicks are kept. What is not reported here, is that these chicks are replaced every seven weeks by 44,5 million new ones, when they have been slaughtered. This occurs 7,5 times each year, so a total of 334 million chicks is gone through!!
When their beaks have been clipped, the hens are sent to poultry farms, packed in boxes. There, they are fattened for consumption over a period of six weeks in large sheds. This is done on a diet of animal fodder, the contents of which disgusts those who are aware of them.
The tasty chicken fillet - so appreciated during the barbecue on a balmy Summer evening, or in the fondue on a stormy, rainy Autumn evening - has a lifespan of less than two months. This is why it is so tasty, because it is young and tender. The filets are tender and juicy because the birds have been reared in stalls where there is no freedom of movement. There are so many birds per square meter, that outbreak of disease is inevitable. To prevent this, the birds, just as pigs and cows, are put on a diet of antibiotics. As if bacteria and viruses take any notice of this, they simply return after a period of time in a variety which is immune to antibiotics.
Cows are beautiful animals but for the farmer they have a negative characteristic. When they have calved, their milk production diminishes after some time until the point at which they dry up completely. That is logical. Under normal circumstances, after a few months a calf is no longer dependent on its mother’s milk so the mother stops producing it. But the farmer has other interests: he needs to keep his waning milk factory in production as long as possible. So he forces new production, calls in the inseminator and before she know where she is, the cow becomes pregnant again. The happiest party in this situation is, of course, the farmer.
The newborn calf is not so happy! If it is a bull calf, it will be bred for meat after a few months. That is, providing the meat prices are high enough. If this is not the case, he will be dumped for destruction and his blood and bones will be processed to animal fodder. Female calves are sent away as soon as they can stand on their own feet, which is quite soon. Their destination is often vague to the farmer, but there is a good chance that he will get them back in the course of time in the form of animal fodder.
A few female calves, who look promising at birth and whose mothers are good producers and fathers even better producers, have a chance of survival. Such animals are kept as replacement of cows that are no longer productive.
However, in the meantime, they are given a treatment with the soldering iron.