Farm Animal Cruelty Harms Humans, Animals and Industry

In polling, 94% of Americans agree that animals raised for food deserve to live free from abuse and cruelty. Yet the majority of the nearly 10 billion land-based animals, plus countless more aquatic animals, farmed for food each year in the US live in unacceptable conditions that do not align with consumers’ values. This negatively impacts the humans consuming animals, and the animals themselves.
People Impacted
$ 17B
Potential Funding
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the problem
Nature and Context

'Factory farms' are common in the US animal production industry - where an industrial facility raises large numbers of farm animals in intensive confinement where their movements are extremely inhibited. Animals are kept in cages or crates, or are crowded together in pens.

Food labels are also unhelpful in guiding consumers' purchasing decisions to more ethical products. Packages of meat, eggs and dairy often bear terms that appear to indicate meaningful animal welfare standards, but only a fraction of them do. This confusion prevents consumers from voting with their wallets for better treatment of farm animals and negatively impacts the farmers who truly are raising animals using higher-welfare methods. For example, 'Natural' does not impact animal welfare in any way, and there is no legal definition of 'Free-Range' for use on eggs, pork, beef or dairy.

Animals are not the only ones suffering because of these unnatural, inhumane conditions. Consumers, rural communities, farmers, workers and the environment are being hurt by the intensive farming systems employed on factory farms.

the impact
Negative Effects

The maltreatment of animals in the animal production industry is also harmful to human health. Farms that are not properly maintained can be breeding grounds for Salmonella, E. coli and other pathogens that can be passed to humans through meat, dairy and eggs, as well as through person-to-person contact. To combat unsanitary conditions, animals are fed large doses of antibiotics—but bacteria is constantly adapting and evolving. Misuse, overuse and dependence on antibiotics in our food system creates the potential for dangerous, drug-resistant strains of bacteria to develop and spread among people and animals.

Factory farms also cause air and water pollution that can negatively affect the quality of life of nearby residents, including an inability to enjoy outdoor spaces, dangerous drinking water and a rapid decline in home values. Factory farms are primarily located in rural areas, and studies have shown that their health and environmental impacts can be disproportionately felt by poorer communities and people of color.

Forms of animal suffering in factory farms include:

  • Cages and overcrowding.

  • Physical alterations like teeth-clipping or tail-docking, performed without anesthetic

  • Indoor confinement with poor air quality and unnatural light patterns

  • Inability to engage in important natural behaviors, like laying eggs in nests or roosting at night

  • Breeding for fast growth or high yields of meat, milk and eggs that compromises animal health and welfare

  • Illnesses and injuries left unnoticed or untreated, often due to an unmanageable ratio of animals to workers

  • Reliance on antibiotics to compensate for stressful and unsanitary conditions

  • Rough or abusive handling by workers, often due to a lack of training, frustration at poor working conditions, unreasonable demands by superiors or poor design of facilities

Data Sources

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals -

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