Dominion uses drones, hidden and handheld cameras to expose the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture, questioning the morality and validity of humankind’s dominion over the animal kingdom. While mainly focusing on animals used for food, it also explores other ways animals are exploited and abused by humans, including clothing, entertainment and research.
Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Sia, Sadie Sink and Kat Von D, and co-produced by Earthlings creator Shaun Monson. Filmed in Australia, with a global message
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Official site: https://www.dominionmovement.com/
“From beasts we scorn as soulless,
In forest, field and den,
The cry goes up to witness
The soullessness of men.”
—M. Frida Hartley
Most people consider themselves animal lovers. We recognise them not as objects but as complex beings with whom we share the planet, our lives, our homes. We take pleasure from their pleasure, we anguish over their pain celebrating their intelligence and individuality as we welcome them into our families, or revere them in their natural element. The thought of unnecessarily causing them harm or suffering, is to many, unbearable. So for those who feed, clothe or entertain us, we choose to follow a narrative that minimises or altogether eliminates their suffering. The picturesque family farm and the iconic, loving farmer. A humane and painless end, a small price happily paid for a life well lived. An arrangement of mutual benefit. Hidden by this narrative, out of sight, out of mind, they cease to be individuals, most known only as livestock, faceless units of production in a system of incomprehensible scale, exempt from the cruelty laws that protect our companion animals. Their suffering unseen and unheard. Their value determined only by their usefulness to humankind, rationalised by a belief in our own superiority and the notion that might equals right. A notion that must be questioned.
Used for food, entertainment, research
Slaughtered for food per year:
Australia: 4.9 million
United Kingdom: 11 million
United States: 118million
New Zeland: 0.6million
Canada: 21 million
China: 715 million
Narrated by Rooney Mara
In the 1960s, there were around 50,000 pig farms in Australia. Today, there are less than 1400, and yet the total number of pigs bred and slaughtered for food has increased. As of 2015, 49 farms housed 60% of the country’s total pig population. Most pigs bred for food begin life in a farrowing crate, a small pen with a central cage, designed to allow the piglets to feed from their mother, the sow, while preventing her from moving around. The frequency of stillborn or mummified piglets generally increases with each litter as the sows’ bodies become less capable of handling the large litter sizes encouraged by the industry. 10-18% of piglets who are born alive won’t make it until weaning age, succumbing to disease, starvation or dehydration, or being accidentally crushed by their trapped mothers. Included in the death toll are the runts of the litter, who are considered economically unviable and killed by staff. Those who survive the first few days are mutilated without pain relief, their tails and teeth cut to reduce cannibalism… and pieces cut from their ears, or tags punched in, as a means of identification. They are taken from their mothers at 3-5 weeks of age. Most are destined for slaughter around 5 months later. As they age, they are moved into grower pens, crowded together in their own waste. Some female pigs are kept on to replace the sows in the breeding cycle, carefully selected for their perceived ability to produce large litters.
Most pig farms utilise artificial insemination rather than natural mating, as it allows them to impregnate up to 30-40 female pigs from a single boar. Workers collect the semen by masturbating the boars, then insert it into the sows via a raised catheter known as a pork stork. Boars are still physically used to excite the females prior to insemination, but are prevented from actually mating. When confirmed pregnant, the sow is moved into one of two types of confined housing for the entirety of her 16 week gestation. Sow stalls are individual cages in which, like in the farrowing crates, sows are only able to take one or two steps forwards or backwards and are unable to turn around. While gradually being phased out by the majority of piggeries in Australia, sow stalls remain entirely legal with no penalties for keeping sows confined to them for longer than the voluntary limit of 5 days. This is similar to the apparent “ban” on sow stalls in the European Union which actually allows up to 4 weeks in them per pregnancy. When given the choice, pigs will relieve themselves far away from where they sleep and eat. The extreme confinement takes a heavy psychological toll. The alternative, group housing, sees pregnant pigs packed into small concrete pens. A lack of space and stimuli can cause the pigs to become aggressive. Those who fall into the effluent system through gaps in the flooring are left to starve or drown in the river of waste. A week before they are due to give birth, they’re moved into the farrowing crate cages, where they’ll remain for the next 4-6 weeks. Unable to exercise, the sow’s muscles will weaken to the point where she has difficulty standing up or lying down… To minimise muscle wastage, workers will force her to stand up at least once daily. She’ll develop pressure sores from the hard surfaces… Or prolapses and infections from the physical strain of repeated farrowing and poor conditions… … which can also lead to partial paralysis, preventing her from reaching the food and water at the front of her cage… … or can even lead to death in the cage. She’ll watch helplessly as her piglets fall ill and die, or get mutilated and abused by workers until they are taken away from her. She’ll endure this cycle four times over two years before she’s replaced and sent to slaughter, or killed and dumped on site.
The term “bred free range” simply means that pigs are born outside in small huts, but then spend the rest of their lives in sheds, facing the same overcrowding, health and behavioural issues as at any pig farm, whilst being knee deep in their own waste. Capable of living 10-12 years, most pigs are killed at just 5-6 months old, packed onto transportation trucks at the piggery and driven often long distances to the slaughterhouse without food, water or protection from extreme heat or cold. At the slaughterhouse they’ll wait in small concrete or metal holding pens, typically overnight, still without food and with limited or no access to water. In the morning, they are forcefully herded to the kill floor, often with an electric prodder.
The most common method of stunning and killing pigs in Australia, used at all major pig abattoirs and touted as the most “humane” and efficient option, is the carbon dioxide gas chamber. A system of rotating cages lowers the fully-conscious pigs two or three at a time into the heavily concentrated gas, which begins to burn their eyes, nostrils, sinuses, throat and lungs while suffocating them. Lower concentrations of carbon dioxide would cause less pain and stress, but would take much longer to render the pigs unconscious, making it economically unviable. Sows are sent into the chamber gondolas one at a time. Because of their size, the gas is less effective, with some emerging partly conscious, in which case they may also be electrically stunned afterwards. Tipped out the other side of the chamber, the pigs’ throats are cut and they are bled out. Electrical stunning, used at smaller slaughterhouses, has a much higher chance of failure. Incorrect amperage, positioning of the stunner, or length of time applied, or failing to cut the throat quickly enough, can lead to the pig being merely paralysed and unable to move while still capable of feeling pain, or regaining consciousness while bleeding out. Blinking and rhythmic breathing are strong indicators of consciousness. One by one, they are picked off in front of each other.
Captive bolt pistols are another option used by smaller slaughterhouses. The penetrative variety fire a rod through the skull of the animal to permanently damage their brain, preventing them from regaining consciousness, while non-penetrative bolt pistols deliver blunt force trauma much like a hammer. Effective stunning requires the gun to be angled and positioned at the correct part of the head, which is often difficult if the head is not restrained. Having witnessed their litter mates being killed before them, or being able to smell the blood on the floor, they are reluctant to enter the knockbox. The bolt gun is even less effective on larger pigs, like sows. For them, a rifle may be used as an alternative. In this case, accuracy is even more difficult.
After they’ve been bled out, pigs are dropped into tanks of scalding water in order to soften their skin and remove bristles and hair. Those who haven’t been stunned and killed properly finally die by drowning.
The waste products – the skins, bones, hoofs, guts and fat – are trucked to the rendering plant to be turned into lard for use in food, soaps, lubricants and biofuel, or into other products like gelatine.
Wild pigs were introduced to Australia with the First Fleet, and now occupy around 40 percent of the country, mainly in Queensland and New South Wales. The practice of “pig dogging” involves hunters releasing aggressively trained dogs to track, chase and maul live pigs, keeping them pinned down until the hunters are able to catch up and finish them off with a knife. Despite wild pigs being declared a pest animal, it’s not uncommon for hunters to release young piglets into national parks so that they can return later to hunt them.
Used for food
Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix
For egg-laying hens, life begins at the hatchery. Eggs collected from the parent birds are stored, incubated and hatched over 31 days. The male and female chicks are sorted onto separate conveyor belts. Here at Australia’s largest hatchery, they’ve been genetically modified to make the males a different colour than the females, allowing for quick sorting. Unable to ever produce eggs themselves and a completely different breed to the chickens used for meat, the male chicks are considered waste products, as are any females perceived to be deformed or weak. They are sorted onto a separate conveyor belt from the healthy females in their first day of life, and sent into an industrial blender called a macerator. This practice is legal and referred to as humane by the RSPCA. Smaller hatcheries may use carbon dioxide gas or simply suffocate the chicks in plastic bags. All commercial egg farms – caged, barn laid, free range, organic, RSPCA-approved – involve the killing of male chicks, to a total of roughly 12 million per year in Australia.
Meanwhile, the healthy females continue on to painful debeaking machines. Hens are debeaked to minimise the harm they can do to each other in the confinement of egg farms. The chicks are then stacked in trays and trucked to pullet rearing farms, where they’ll remain for 4 months until they begin laying eggs. A small number of males will be spared the macerator in order to serve with a selection of hens as parent birds, laying and fertilising the eggs for the hatchery. The other hens are sent out to egg farms across the country.
Around two-thirds of the 18 million layer hens at any given time in Australia are housed in battery cages. Each shed can contain up to 100,000 hens, with between 4 and 20 per cage, each hen afforded a space smaller than a A4 sheet of paper. They are unable to stretch their wings or express any natural behaviours such as dust bathing, perching or foraging. Due to decades of genetic manipulation and selective breeding, they lay an egg almost every day for a total of up to 330 per year, compared to the 10-15 that a wild hen would lay. As they age, the poor environment and physical stress of frequent egg-laying takes a toll on their health, indicated by the gradual loss of all of their feathers and an increasingly pale comb suggesting anaemia. Deaths inside the cages are common, and due to the size of the facilities can be easily missed for long periods of time forcing the surviving hens to live on top of the rotting carcasses. Newer cage systems collect the faeces onto conveyor belts beneath the cages, while older systems allow it to pile up underneath. Birds who manage to escape the cages are left to die in these manure pits.
At 18 months of age, after living in the cage for over a year, their egg production will have slowed significantly enough to be considered “spent”. They are “depopulated” – pulled from the cages and stuffed into crates, often resulting in bone fractures due to rough handling. They are either gassed to death and then buried or rendered, or sent to the slaughterhouse, and replaced by new 4-month old hens.
Up until 2016, there were no national standards on what can be claimed as free range eggs. Now, free range farms are capped at a maximum outdoor density of 10,000 hens per hectare – one per square metre – though they still spend most of their time packed together in large sheds. Chickens naturally form and live within a social hierarchy called a pecking order, but are only able to recognise around 100 other chickens. In sheds or paddocks with thousands of other birds, their inability to maintain this pecking order results in chaos. The weak birds are picked on with no way to escape. Disease spreads rapidly. An outbreak of avian influenza at a New South Wales free range egg farm in 2013, believed to be contracted from wild ducks, led to the culling of over 400,000 farmed hens. Many of the larger free range farms also have cage farms on the same property, with the eggs from both ending up in the same packing shed. A 2009 analysis of Egg Corporation data indicated that as many as one in six eggs sold as “free range” were laid by caged or barn hens.
As with caged farms, free range hens are sent to slaughter from just 18 months of age, far short of their 10 year natural lifespan. At the slaughterhouse, the hens are shackled upside-down on a moving line. They are lowered into a bath of electrified water to stun them prior to their throats being cut by an automated blade, but if they lift their heads, they can miss the stun bath, facing the blade fully conscious and ultimately drowning in scalding water further down the process. The slaughtered hens largely end up in lower-grade chicken meat products such as mince, or rendered into poultry meal for use in pet food or to be fed back to farmed animals.
BROILER (MEAT) CHICKENS
Used for food
Slaughtered for food per year:
Australia: 0.6 billion
United Kingdom: 1 billion
United States: 8.9 billion
New Zealand: 0.1 billion
Canada: 0.6 billion
China: 9.5 billion
Narrated by Chris Delforce
Chickens bred for meat, known as broilers, are a larger breed than egg layers, designed through human intervention to grow rapidly to massive sizes. Their short life begins at a broiler hatchery. While both the males and females are used by this industry, these hatcheries also use macerators… or gas chambers, for weak or deformed birds who aren’t expected to make it to slaughter weight.
The surviving day-old chicks are trucked to broiler grow-out farms.
As of 2016, there were 530 broiler farms in Australia, together housing at any given time a total population of around 90 million birds. Each shed holds forty-to-sixty thousand. Within their first week of life, a mortality rate of 4-6% is normal, equating to 1600 to 3600 dead chicks per shed, roughly 200-500 daily. The majority of these will have been found dead by workers, others who seem weak or injured will be killed or tossed out alive.
As they grow, they quickly fill out the available space in the shed, living amongst a buildup of their own faeces. The mortality rate slows, but deaths are still a regular occurrence. Not far from the sheds, the bodies are piled up and composted. Selective breeding, lack of exercise due to overcrowding, artificial lighting and the heavy use of antibiotics which enhance feed absorption, have resulted in modern broiler chickens reaching a slaughter-ready weight of 3 kilograms in just 35 days, a dramatic increase from a natural peak of 2kg in 96 days. Their bodies have great difficulty handling this extreme physical pressure, making skeletal, cardiac and metabolic disorders common. Of those who make it to the slaughterhouse, 90% have a detectable abnormal gait. The sheds are not cleaned for the entire 5 to 7 week cycle, causing a high concentration of ammonia which can irritate and burn their skin and impede their respiratory system. Chickens sold under the RSPCA approved label are given a single perch running down the middle of the shed, but otherwise the conditions and process are identical.
Depopulation occurs in low light conditions in the middle of the night, when the birds are calmest and unable to see what’s happening. They are typically caught by hand by contract teams and jammed into plastic crates, the crates then forklifted onto trucks for transport to the slaughterhouse. Like layer hens, they are hung roughly by their legs onto the automated shackle line… then dipped into the electric stun bath, with any birds who lift their heads proceeding fully conscious before having their throats cut open by a rotating blade. A worker stands by with a knife for any birds who miss the first blade.
Used for food
Slaughtered for food per year:
Australia: 4.5 million
United Kingdom: 15.4 million
United States: 243 million
New Zealand: 0.2 million
Canada: 21 million
China: 0.2 million
Narrated by Kat Von D
Farmed turkeys have been selectively bred to grow so large that they cannot naturally mate, so the turkey industry relies on artificial insemination, shown here at a free range farm in Victoria though considered standard practice at the small number of Australian turkey hatcheries. Highly inquisitive birds, they are raised in much the same way as broilers, with 10-14000 per shed equating to six turkeys per square metre. Genetic alterations and artificial lighting to maximise feeding, contribute to a growth rate double that of their wild counterparts. They rapidly reach a weight their legs cannot support. Living in their own waste, wounds can quickly become infected. The frequency of deaths increases with age to an average rate of 3-5% for females near the end of their 12 week lifespan in the sheds, and 10-12% for males near the end of their 16 week lifespan. The dead birds are collected and dumped like rubbish. The rest are trucked to the slaughterhouse, where they are punched, kicked and beaten while being shackled upside-down onto the slaughter line. Smaller slaughterhouses may use individual killing cones.
4 to 5 million are killed every year in Australia, most of which is purchased and consumed around Christmas. For the rest of the year, or even for years at a time, they are frozen.
As with broiler chickens, macerators are still used in duck hatcheries for the weak or deformed ducklings who aren’t expected to survive the grow-out. Duck farming shares many similarities with broiler and turkey farming. Trucked from the hatchery on their first day of life, the ducklings are grown at an accelerated rate over just 7 weeks, housed with thousands of others in rarely-cleaned sheds where disease and fatalities are common. Ducks are aquatic animals, so they naturally have weak leg and thigh joints as they don’t normally need to hold their body weight for extended periods of time. Where surface water is available, ducks will float for long periods, reducing pressure on their muscular and skeletal system. However, when surface water is denied, as in most Australian farms including those labelled as free range, ducks must hold their entire body weight on their legs for up to 7 weeks – often much longer for ducks kept for breeding – resulting in lameness, dislocated joints and broken bones. Selective breeding aimed at growing ducks faster and heavier, coupled with the insufficient bone formation of their juvenile skeletal system, adds even more pressure on their already weak leg and thigh joints. Without water for even dipping their heads, ducks are unable to keep their eyes, nostrils and feathers clean, worsening the risk of disease or blindness. Living in their own waste and the resulting high levels of ammonia can cause painful burns on their feet and exacerbate wounds and injuries. These poor environmental conditions and overcrowding commonly lead to neurological disease where incoordination, and head and neck tremors, are followed by paralysis, convulsions, coma and death. When sick or injured ducks are found by workers, they are killed by having their necks broken.
After 49 days, they’re collected into crates and forklifted onto trucks to be sent to the slaughterhouse. Many don’t survive the trip. Just like chickens and turkeys, ducks are hung by their feet onto the slaughter line. The typical electric stun bath, once again, is not always effective, with many birds having their throats cut open while conscious and eventually dying from blood loss or by drowning in the scalding tank.
As of 2018, three states in Australia have banned the recreational shooting of wild ducks on cruelty grounds, but in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the practice remains legal during an open season each year. The population of waterbirds in Victoria has been steadily declining, in 2017 hitting the lowest numbers in 34 years, yet the hunt continues under justification of increased business in the rural communities surrounding the wetlands, and the general enjoyment and satisfaction felt by the hunters. Computer simulation estimates and the observations of rescuers on the wetlands indicate that duck shooters leave at least as many birds wounded and uncaptured as they kill and capture, amounting to many thousands of ducks left to suffer or die from untreated injuries. Additionally, the bodies of many legally protected species such as the rare and endangered Freckled Duck have been retrieved from the wetlands during hunting season, with shooters either failing to identify the species before firing, or just firing anyway.
Around 80% of the world’s down and feathers used for items like jackets, sleeping bags and bedding come from China, where the live plucking of ducks and geese remains a common practice. This involves painfully ripping the feathers out of the birds’ skin, leaving open and bloody wounds, a process repeated multiple times before they are finally slaughtered. Even suppliers claiming certification under the Responsible Down Standard have been found engaging in live plucking. Ultimately, it isn’t possible to know whether particular down products in Australia or elsewhere come from these farms.
Used for food, entertainment, clothing, pharmaceuticals
Slaughtered for food per year:
Australia: 8.7 million
United Kingdom: 2.7 million
United States: 31 million
New Zealand: 4.7 million
Canada: 3 million
China: 49 million
Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix
Like humans, cows are strongly maternal beings who form close bonds with their young, and must give birth in order to produce milk. On dairy farms, they are forcefully impregnated every year to keep this milk flowing, usually by artificial insemination rather than natural mating, which requires workers to insert their arm into the cow’s anus to hold her cervix in place while injecting her with semen collected from a bull. Their calves are taken away mere hours after being born so that the milk intended for them can be collected and sold for human consumption. Over the days following separation, the mothers bellow day and night, searching for their calves. They’re known to grieve for days or even weeks. The male calves, called bobby calves, are considered useless to the dairy industry because they’ll never be able to produce milk. They are kept isolated for five days before being herded onto a truck, and sent to the slaughterhouse. They can be withheld food for the last 30 hours of their lives. Starved, confused and desperate for affection, they cry for their mothers from the holding pens of the slaughterhouse where they’ll be killed the following morning. Those who avoid the stunner or who are improperly stunned are killed while conscious. Around 700,000 male calves are slaughtered as waste products of the dairy industry every year in Australia alone. A small number of male calves are grown out for longer, up to 20 weeks, to be slaughtered for veal.
The female calves are also kept isolated, fed on powdered milk replacer, eventually to join the cycle after being impregnated themselves. 2-3 times per day, the lactating cows are herded into the milking shed and hooked up to industrial milking machines. In natural conditions, they can live up to 20 years. On dairy farms they last only 4 to 8 years, some – known as downers – succumbing to the pressure of continuous impregnation and producing up to 10 times more milk than they naturally would, the rest sent to slaughter when their milk production begins to slow down or they become too injured to continue. Artificial insemination is preferred to natural mating in the beef industry also. Calves raised for beef are subjected to a variety of painful surgical procedures without anaesthesia, including disbudding or dehorning… ear tagging… castration, either with a blade, or by a practice called ringing, where an elastic band is tightly clamped around the base of the testicles, restricting blood blow until eventually they rot and fall off. … and branding with a hot iron. Those who get sick typically lack veterinary care and deteriorate quickly. Drugs including antibiotics, growth hormones, vitamins and supplements, and progesterone for maintaining pregnancy are injected… or inserted vaginally… or orally. These and other regular routines like sorting or checking for pregnancy see the cattle forcefully herded through the yard system into a restraint box called a crush for individual attention.
Around 40% of Australia’s total beef supply and 80% of beef sold in major domestic supermarkets comes from cattle who have spent the last 10-15% of their lives packed into barren feedlots, where they are fattened up with grain before slaughter at 18 months of age. They’re forced into the knockbox, from which they will desperately try to escape. The captive bolt gun is the most common method of stunning cows, but the smaller guns especially are often ineffective against such large animals, causing only pain and limited mobility, but not unconsciousness. A rifle is a less common alternative. In addition to witnessing the animals before them being stunned, killed, and sometimes even the processing, in most cases they are also forced to hear their fate from the next room.
For cows slaughtered while pregnant, the blood from their unborn calves, known as fetal calf serum or fetal bovine serum, is of great value to the pharmaceutical industry, fetching around $600 per litre.
The hides of cows and bobby calves are sent to tanneries to be turned into leather, the majority of which is then exported overseas. There is a common misconception that leather is a by-product of the meat industry intended to reduce waste. It is far more accurate to say that it is a co-product, sometimes more economically valuable than meat to the point where more and more animals are being killed for their skin rather than for their flesh. Cheap leather for use in shoes, handbags and other accessories is also imported to Australia, the United States and Europe from developing countries like India and Bangladesh. As cows are considered sacred by the Hindu religion, their slaughter is illegal in 24 of India’s 29 states. To be legally slaughtered for leather, they must first be transported hundreds or thousands of kilometres to one of the five exempt states or across the border to Bangladesh. Depending on the route and the number of animals – sometimes in the thousands – much of this transport can occur on foot. In preparation, many have shoes nailed into their feet and ropes threaded tightly through their noses. Exhausted, starving and thirsty, many collapse along the way, compelled to stand by having their nose ropes pulled or their tails broken… being beaten with sticks, or having chilli pepper rubbed into their eyes. For the rest of the journey, they are crowded into and out of trucks, their horns piercing and gouging each other and their bones often breaking. Those who make it to the slaughterhouse are killed in front of each other without prior stunning, some even skinned alive. The hides are soaked in toxic chemicals known to cause cancer or chronic skin diseases, often by children.
The fundamental concept of rodeos is the physical control and domination of weaker, more vulnerable beings. Calves, steers and bulls are physically provoked for the entertainment of spectators in some 240 rodeo events held across Australia every year. Normally quite docile animals, they endure tail twisting, electric prodding and other physical abuse behind the scenes, as well as the use of metal spurs and straps tightened around their abdomens, to make them “buck” and appear wild. With intensity and risk integral factors for an entertaining show, injuries are inevitable. Calf and steer roping involves the lassoing of terrified animals as they try to run away, violently jerking them to a halt, and commonly resulting in bruising, broken limbs, horns and even necks, ligament tearing, internal haemorrhaging and subcutaneous tissue damage.
Used for food, clothing
Slaughtered for food per year:
Australia: 29.7 million
United Kingdom: 14.5 million
United States: 2.3 million
New Zealand: 24.7 million
Canada: 0.6 million
China: 144 million
Narrated by Rooney Mara
‘Winter lambing’ is the practice of impregnating sheep so that they give birth in winter months, meaning their lambs are weaned in spring when pastures are most fertile. While this allows the lambs to grow more quickly, it results in 10-15 million newborn lambs – roughly one in every four – dying within 48 hours of birth from exposure to the harsh cold. For sheep farmers, this is still preferable to the higher feed costs of lambing in warmer months. The Merino breed, accounting for around 80% of the wool produced in Australia, have been selectively bred to have wrinkled skin resulting in excessive amounts of wool while making them much more prone to flystrike. To reduce soiling and the risk of flystrike for the lambs who make it to summer, their tails are docked or cut off entirely, and they are often mulesed at the same time, which involves cutting off the skin around their buttocks and the base of their tail with metal shears. If the lambs are younger than 6 months, it is legal to do this without any pain relief. Sheep shearers are paid by the number of sheep shorn, not by the hour, so speed is prioritised over precision, and there is no requirement for formal training or accreditation. After a few years, when they can no longer produce enough wool to be considered profitable, the sheep are sent to slaughter and sold as mutton, while lambs raised for meat are killed between 4 and 12 months of age, far short of a natural lifespan of 12-14 years. 19 million of the 32 million sheep killed each year in Australia go through saleyards, an intermediary between farms and slaughterhouses or private buyers, where animals also including cattle, calves, horses, poultry and pigs, are auctioned off. Heat stress, dehydration, exhaustion, or pre-existing conditions are common causes of deaths at saleyards. Most of the sheep are bought by slaughterhouses for their meat. No animal at a slaughterhouse walks willingly to their death. Again electrical stunning proves regularly ineffective, causing only pain and terrifying the animals even further in their final moments. Bolt gun stunning is no better. Regardless of how effective stunning may appear, it’s impossible to know with certainty whether an animal has been rendered completely unconscious and insensible to pain, or is merely paralysed and unable to move, while still feeling everything. In their fear and desperation, some manage to briefly escape, directly confronted with the bodies of those before them, before being forced back into the race, knowing that they’ll be next. Goats are farmed for dairy in much the same way as cows, repeatedly impregnated to ensure a continuous supply of milk. A niche industry in Australia with only around 65 farms, goats’ milk is marketed as a more easily digestible alternative suitable for people with allergies to cows’ milk. Worldwide, more people drink the milk of goats than any other animal. The male kids, unable to ever produce milk, are generally considered waste products and killed on farm shortly after birth while the female kids are grown to become milk producers themselves, though some farms will raise and sell their excess goats for meat. The lactating mothers are milked twice daily for up to ten years before slaughter, at their peak producing 4 litres of milk per day to be sold fresh or turned into cheese, butter, ice-cream, yoghurt and soap. Australia is the largest exporter of goat meat in the world, the majority of it going to the United States. Only 10% comes from goats bred and farmed for meat, the rest from rangeland goats, a wild breed originating from escaped domestic goats brought to Australia by European settlers. These free-roaming goats are captured and transported to feedlots known as goat depots, where they are fattened prior to slaughter. Pregnant animals being sent to slaughter is not uncommon, and inevitably, some will give birth on the transport trucks or in the holding pens shortly before they are herded to the kill floor, their babies left behind to die from starvation or exposure, calling out for their dead mothers.
Used for food, scientific research
Slaughtered for food per year:
157,200,000 tonnes worldwide
Narrated by Chris Delforce
Salmon is the most popularly eaten fish in Australia, with almost 40,000 tonnes consumed every year. They are farmed offshore in underwater cages, primarily in bays on the south and west coasts of Tasmania due to the cooler waters. Each cage can hold up to 60,000 fish, transferred from the inland hatchery at 12-18 months of age. As they grow, their space within the cages decreases until they are packed tightly together. A 2017 study on farmed salmon in Australia, Norway, Chile, Scotland and Canada found that about half of the fish in these farms are deaf as a result of accelerated growth rates deforming their sound receptors. The world-heritage Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s west coast is home to the largest concentration of fish farms in the country, with the salmon industry’s three key players – Tassal, Huon and Petuna – all owning several farms comprising up to 2 dozen cages. In the one year period to September 2016, over 21,000 tonnes of uneaten fish food and untold amounts of excrement ended up in the harbour. Such high levels of pollution lead to dangerously low levels of oxygen in the water and greater risks of disease, contributing to large numbers of deaths within the farms. Numerous mass mortality incidents from 2015 to 2018 have been attributed to a mixture of suffocation from low oxygen, human error, and disease. The largest of the three companies, Tassal, boasts an accepted survival rate of 83% across all their farms. After 15-18 months in these ocean cages, when they’ve reached about 7kg each, the salmon are sucked up through a bore tube into the harvest vessel where they are either immediately killed or transported alive in tanks to the onshore processing facility. Barramundi are farmed in all states of Australia except Tasmania. In the colder southern states, they are raised with thousands of others in small indoor tanks. While in the northern states, they’re raised either in offshore sea cages similar to salmon farms or in outdoor pond systems, used also for trout. The supposed humane method of harvesting and killing farmed fish is to suck them into icy water to freeze them to death. Far from humane, it is a slow and painful death, sometimes taking half an hour to kill. Fish killed for sashimi, a Japanese delicacy favouring freshness, are stabbed in the head before having their jugular vein cut open and then are put back into the ice slurry to bleed out. Stores and restaurants displaying live fish allow customers intent on freshness to choose which individuals they would like killed. Three quarters of the seafood consumed in Australia is imported from other countries, of which the most significant species are prawns, salmon and tuna. Commercial fishing trawlers drag large nets through the water behind them, indiscriminately capturing all species in their wake. Around 85% of the world’s fish stocks are now being fished to full capacity or are overfished. At the current rate, it is anticipated that our oceans will be void of fish by 2048.
Used for food, clothing, experimentation, pets
Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix
The rabbit farming industry in Australia is a struggling one. Highly contagious diseases introduced to eradicate wild rabbits, carried by insects, can quickly wipe out entire farms, while others struggle to compete with the cheaper price of wild rabbits trapped and killed by hunters. Farmed meat rabbits spend their entire lives in wire cages suspended above the floor, unable to exhibit any natural behaviours like digging, hiding or jumping. A build-up of faeces on the floor beneath them creates high levels of ammonia. Female rabbits kept for breeding can be forced to live in these conditions for up to 56 weeks while they produce 7 litters. Most of the rabbits, capable of living for 8-12 years, are killed at 12 weeks old. 3 to 4 thousand rabbits are used for scientific research and testing each year in Australia, many of them coming from this facility in Victoria. Most fur products sold in Australia are imported from overseas, much of that harvested from rabbits. In 2015, clothing brand Akubra shut down their Australian operations and began importing rabbit fur from Europe. Australia also imports fur from China, the world’s largest fur exporter. Of ten rabbit fur farms visited by an undercover investigator, half engaged in the practice of plucking the fur from live rabbits, a process repeated every 3 months, between which the rabbits live in wire cages. Plucking results in longer, more profitable hair compared to shearing or clipping. As rabbits age, they grow less fur, and ultimately are hung up and skinned for a final harvesting, sometimes while still alive. 12 rabbits are killed to make the felt for just one Akubra hat. Worldwide, over one billion rabbits are killed for their fur every year.
Used for clothing, cosmetics
Narrated by Rooney Mara
Minks are a common source of fur for clothing, accessories and even eyelash extensions. As there are no mink farms in Australia, their fur is imported from overseas. In the wild, they would individually occupy up to 2500 acres of wetland habitat. Despite generations of being bred for fur, these naturally inquisitive and solitary animals have been found to suffer greatly in captivity, cramped in small wire cages where chronic boredom and stress lead to frantic pacing and self-mutilation. Minks used for breeding are kept in these cages for four to five years, giving birth to a litter each year of 3 or 4 surviving kittens, who are slaughtered and skinned at 6 months old. Gas chambers or enclosed boxes filled with engine exhaust are common ways of killing the minks, but are not always lethal, resulting in some waking up while being skinned. Anal electrocution or simply breaking their necks are common alternatives.
Used for clothing, entertainment
Narrated by Kat Von D
After minks, foxes are the second most commonly farmed animal for fur, facing many of the same problems. Chinese fur farmers claim that their margins are so slim, they can’t afford to kill foxes with anything but the most brutally efficient of methods, with many foxes being skinned alive to save time and effort. Introduced to Australia by British settlers for their traditional sport of fox hunting and later to control the spread of introduced rabbits, foxes are now classified as pests across the country, with numbers estimated at over 7 million. The hunting and shooting of foxes on personally-owned land is legal in all states. Often consumed accidentally by native wildlife or companion animals like dogs, the most common method of reducing numbers is the use of 1080 poison baits. 1080 is colourless, odourless and tasteless, causing slow, agonising deaths to all its victims. While Australia, the EU and the US have banned the import of dog and cat fur, investigations show that Chinese dog and cat fur is frequently mislabelled as fox, rabbit or mink. Each year in China, around 2 million dogs and cats are bred, stolen from homes, or taken from the street, squeezed into wire cages and sometimes transported for days without food or water, to be hanged, bled, beaten or strangled to death or even skinned alive. Around 450,000 puppies are sold in Australia each year. Around 85% come from unregistered breeders, but with minimal oversight in place, even the registered breeders may operate puppy factories, churning out both pure and mixed-breed puppies for sale in pet stores or online. In these factories it can be entirely legal to keep a mother dog confined to a barren concrete cell in a shed for 23 hours a day, continually reimpregnated. They are denied love and companionship, treated instead as breeding machines. These cute puppies, sold for thousands of dollars, often suffer from diseases or other health conditions, or behavioural difficulties, as a result of the conditions they were exposed to in the farm and generations of selective breeding. “Hi, how are you” “Yeah, good. Will you be getting more of the golden retrievers in?” “Ah, yes, golden retrievers if I’m not mistaken will be this coming Saturday” “This coming Saturday? Ah okay” “And… where do they come from? Are they from a…” “We have our own breeder” “Are they a puppy farm?” “Obviously no.” “Oh they’re so beautiful!” “And it’s a good breeder?” “Yeah, definitely, they’re registered” “So it’s not like… I’ve been hearing bad things about puppy farms… It’s not a puppy farm?” “Obviously no.” “Puppy farms you will get puppies really sick” “Sick puppies.” Meanwhile, an estimated 200-250,000 surrendered or stray dogs and cats are euthanised each year in shelters and pounds across the country, the vast majority of them healthy but unwanted.
Despite numerous widely publicised scandals in recent years, greyhound racing continues to be a large and powerful gambling and entertainment industry in Australia and around the world. The rapid acceleration and extreme speed at which these large dogs chase the lure around a track inevitably results in collisions, falls and injuries, the most frequent being muscle tears, ligament ruptures and tarsal fractures. Each week on Australian tracks up to 200 dogs are reported injured with an estimated 6 to 10 greyhounds either dying on track or being put down afterwards. Greyhounds have a natural lifespan of 12-14 years. Racing greyhounds begin their ‘careers’ at around 18 months of age, and finish by the time they are 4 and a half years old. In New South Wales they have a career that lasts, on average, for only 363 days. Between 13,000 and 17,000 young greyhounds are killed annually in Australia. Of the 97000 greyhounds bred in New South Wales in the 12 year period to 2016, 50-70% or more were killed because they were considered too slow or unsuitable for racing. There is a growing body of evidence showing greyhounds are frequently killed in inhumane ways, with trainers preferring the cheaper option of gunshot or bludgeoning over paying for a vet to euthanise. The dogs’ bodies may then be dumped in pits on private properties or scattered in bushland. The use of live animals as bait when training greyhounds to chase the lure, though illegal, has been found to be widespread, with a 2015 New South Wales Inquiry being told that 85 to 90 percent of trainers engage in the practice. Untold numbers of terrified piglets, rabbits, possums, chickens and kittens have been torn apart for the sake of teaching otherwise gentle, sleepy animals to run around a track.
Used for entertainment, scientific research, pharmaceuticals, food
Slaughtered for food per year:
United Kingdom: 19,872
United States: 79,193
New Zealand: 823
Narrated by Sadie Sink
Horses are not skeletally mature until around 5 years of age, but commonly their racing careers begin when they’re only 2 due to the lure of higher prize money and a quicker return on investment. This drastically increases the risk of injuries, with up to 80% suffering from shin soreness, or dorsal metacarpal disease. Post-race examinations have found a high prevalence of blood in the horses’ windpipes and lungs, along with an increasing frequency and severity of stomach ulcers as training and racing progressed. On the track, they are painfully whipped to encourage greater speeds. Race rules limit whipping in the earlier stages of the race, but in the last hundred metres when the horses are fatigued and less able to respond, there are no limits and they are often whipped relentlessly until the finish line. Jumps racing is statistically 19 times more dangerous than flat racing, with violent falls a regular occurrence. Roughly half of the horses involved in jumps races each year in Australia disappear, quietly exiting the industry in unknown circumstances, never to race or be heard from again, or killed on track, with green screens erected to obscure the view of racegoers. Nationally, 11-12,000 racing horses are newly registered each year, while roughly the same number leave the industry, largely as a result of poor performance, unsuitable temperaments or injuries. Many of these end up at knackeries, where they are killed for pet food or to feed racing greyhounds. Others end up at one of two licensed horse abattoirs that export horsemeat for human consumption. Horses are also used in rodeos.
Used for entertainment, clothing, scientific research, pharmaceuticals, food
Narrated by Kat Von D
Camels were brought to Australia in the 1800s to be used for transport, then released into the wild following the advent of automobiles. By 2008, their population was estimated at around 600,000, leading the government to establish a culling project that effectively halved their numbers, primarily by shooting them from helicopters but also by rounding them up and trucking them to slaughterhouses for export to the United States and Middle East, a practice which continues today. Having spent their entire lives roaming freely without human contact, the sudden confinement and forceful handling is completely foreign to them. An increasing number of camels caught in the wild are being diverted to camel dairies, an expanding industry that promotes itself as a healthier alternative to cow milk products and a less wasteful alternative to aerial culling.
Used for scientific research, pets
Narrated by Sadie Sink
Between 6 and 10 million animals are used for research and testing purposes in Australia every year, including 1-2 million mice. Many of these experiments involve live surgical procedures without pain relief, or exposure to toxins or diseases. Ultimately, all mice subjected to research or testing will be killed, as they cannot legally be released from the lab. Carbon dioxide gassing, or overdosing with the anaesthetic isoflurane through gas or injection, are two common ways of killing mice when they have served their purpose. These days, scientific exploration and discovery deals with nuances of human physiology, of which animals are not appropriate models. A 2015 study by The National Institutes of Health in the United States found that a staggering 95% of all drugs that are shown to be safe and effective in animal testing go on to fail in human trials. Uncritical reliance on the results of animal tests in disregard of potentially more accurate alternatives utilising human tissue and cells, cadavers, simulators and computational models, may have cost the health and lives of tens of thousands of humans… and billions of animals.
Used for scientific research, entertainment
Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix
Hundreds of macaques, marmosets and baboons are provided annually to Australian research laboratories by three government-funded breeding facilities. Hidden from public sight behind intense security, these laboratories carry out a variety of biomedical experiments on these highly intelligent animals before discarding them. Other primates are held captive in circuses, where they are released from the extreme boredom of their cage only to perform for spectators… or, in zoos. Captive lions and tigers in Australia serve the same purpose, living a life of boredom and frustration for the entertainment of paying visitors. While on the surface, exhibits showcasing these and other exotic animals may inspire wonder and excitement, few patrons observe long enough to recognise the repetitiveness of their behaviour, signs of a psychological condition common across all animals in captivity, dubbed zoochosis. In the tropical heat of Queensland, Sea World hosts Australia’s only captive polar bears. These animals are naturally adapted for freezing Arctic conditions and have been found in the wild to swim over 70km in only 24 hours with an average travel range of 3000km per year. Here, they are confined to an enclosure roughly 30 by 40 metres wide for their entire lives.
SEALS & DOLPHINS
Used for entertainment
Narrated by Sia
Seal shows are a popular attraction at zoos, with seals taught to perform tricks for food in front of a large audience. “And that’s a guarantee that your seafood comes from a fishery that helps protect fish stocks, jobs, and the environment.” Off stage, they languish in small pens like any other zoo animal, swimming constantly in repetitive circles or crying out in distress. In the wild, dolphins are known to travel up to 65km – 40 miles – a day, and are constantly on the move – foraging for food, playing and fighting within their pods. They share with humans and great apes alone the trait of self-awareness, with evidence of intuition and empathy. There is no captive situation that can provide for all the behavioural needs of these highly intelligent, cognitively complex animals. Around 80% of Sea World Australia’s dolphins have been bred in captivity and can never be released, their entire lives spent performing daily for the reward of food. Achieving the right level of hunger prior to shows is a crucial consideration for a good performance, in what is arguably the park’s most popular attraction. With over $133 million in admission fees annually, less than 1 percent is spent on their heavily promoted research, rescue and rehabilitation initiatives. Australia’s federal government ruled in 1985 that no more dolphinariums be established, and that existing ones should be phased out, after receiving evidence that cetaceans in captivity suffer from stress, behavioural abnormalities, breeding problems, high mortality rates and shorter lifespans, even though at initial glance they may seem content with their conditions. Today, just two facilities remain, able to continue operating because of a loophole that allowed them to keep and display animals born in captivity, including those bred from rescued wild dolphins who themselves are required to be rehabilitated and released. This practice of rescuing, breeding and releasing allows these parks to keep the gene pool strong to ensure their shows can continue and their gates can remain open. While Australian dolphin parks are unable to capture and import healthy wild dolphins, this remains a reality of the animal entertainment industry elsewhere in the world, with the coastal Japanese town of Taiji a common point of capture. Every year from September to March, thousands of dolphins and other small cetaceans are herded into a quiet cove at Taiji and brutally slaughtered by local fishermen, who see them either as a source of income or as pests. Dolphin trainers have been observed assisting fishermen in herding the dolphins, picking out a select few to be spared from the slaughter and instead transported to aquariums and dolphin parks around the world.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
―Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi
If the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated… what does that say about Australia? What does it say about New Zealand? The United States? Canada? Mexico? The United Kingdom? Israel? Spain? What does it say about us, as a species? In our entire recorded history, 619 million humans have been killed by war. We kill the same number of animals every 3 days, and this isn’t even including fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes.
But before we kill them, we have to breed them… Confine and exploit them, for food… entertainment… clothing… and research. Their entire lives, from birth to death, are controlled by industries who care only for profit. An empire… of suffering… and blood. Paid for by consumers who are told that their treatment was ethical. Free range, local, organic. That their deaths were humane, that cruelty to animals doesn’t happen here in our country, and if it does, our government, our authorities, will find it and stamp it out. And us, as consumers, have little reason to think otherwise, because to eat and use animals is normal, we’ve done it forever. Because the products for sale on supermarket shelves are so far removed from the individuals who once existed, some only briefly, some for years without reprieve. Individuals who share with us and our companion animals we love so dearly, our capacity to feel love. Happiness. Grief and mourning. Who share with us, our capacity to suffer. Our desire to live, to be free, to be seen not as objects, not for our utility to others, but for who we are as individuals. Beings in our own right, not units of production. Not stock. He, she, and they, not “it”. The truth is, there is no humane way to kill someone who wants to live. It is not a question of treatment, or better ways of doing the wrong thing. Bigger cages, smaller stocking densities, or less painful gas. We tell ourselves that they have lived good lives, and in the end, they don’t know what’s coming and don’t feel a thing. But they do. In their final hours, minutes and seconds, there is always fear, there is always pain. The smells of blood. The screaming of other members of their species, with whom they have shared their lives. Never a willingness or desire to die, but rather, a desperation to live, a frantic fight to their last breath. And never are they shown mercy or kindness, instead mocked, laughed at, kicked, beaten, tossed like ragdolls, or sent into a mincer because they were born the wrong sex.
We take their children. We take their freedom. We take their lives, sending them healthy and whole into a slaughterhouse to come out as packaged pieces on the other side, and we tell ourselves that somehow, along the way, something humane and ethical happened.
And in the process, we harm ourselves. “The World Health Organisation publishing a report this morning on the dangers of processed and red meat…” We destroy our environment, emitting through animal agriculture more greenhouse gases than any other industry, tearing down our forests and slaughtering our native animals to make room for farms. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion humans, and yet one in nine humans – 795 million – suffer from chronic undernourishment, and 844 million lack clean water while 1000 litres are used to produce 1 litre of milk and 15,000 litres for one kilogram of beef.
And yet we continue to justify animal agriculture by claiming that it’s normal, necessary and natural. That the animal kingdom, or certain species within it, are inferior to ourselves, because they lack our specific type of intelligence, because they’re weaker and cannot defend themselves. We believe that, in our apparent superiority, we have earned the right to exercise power, authority and dominion over those we perceive to be inferior, for our own short-sighted ends. It is a justification that has been used before. By the white man, to enslave the black, or to take their land and their children. By the Nazis, to murder the Jews. By men, to silence and oppress women. Are we doomed to repeat history over and over? Does this superiority complex, this pure selfishness, define who we are as a species? Or are we capable of something more?