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Celebrate Earth Day through positive action

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, April 22, 2005

Earth Day is a time when we examine our impact on the planet and make personal resolutions to help make the environment cleaner and improve the treatment of animals. What many of us have yet to discover is that one of the most important actions we can take for the planet has to do with our food choices.

Most animals raised today for food are forced to live inside huge warehouses known as factory farms. Almost 98 percent of egg-laying hens are restricted to overcrowded cages too tiny for them to spread their wings. They’re often starved for up to two weeks to shock their bodies into another egg-laying cycle. These birds are never able to partake in natural behavior, breathe fresh air or even go outside.

Those chickens raised for meat are selectively bred and given loads of antibiotics to reach market weight as quickly as possible. This process takes only 45 days, nearly twice as fast as it did in the 1950s. Forced rapid growth is responsible for an immense amount of suffering, including heart problems and painful leg disorders. These chickens, like their egg-laying counterparts, never escape the stench of their own feces nor do they step foot outside.

Pigs are also intensively confined in factory farms. Mother pigs are held in crates too narrow for them to turn around or move to change direction, while their piglets have their tails cut off and are castrated, both without painkillers.

Right here at the Notre Dame, students can help animals raised for food by urging dining services not only to offer more vegetarian meals, but to stop purchasing the most abusive animal products. It’s hard to imagine a better way to celebrate Earth Day.

Josh Balk

Outreach Coordinator

The Humane Society of the United States

April 21