When farming is on an industrial scale every aspect of the animals' lives is controlled. They do not choose their surroundings. Or the animals they mix with. Or what they eat. Or when they eat. Or when they mate. Or, in the case of artificial insemination, whether they mate. Through the process of AI they are kept in a perpetual cycle of pregnancy and their offspring are taken from them at the earliest possible opportunity.
Because artificial insemination (AI) is more convenient and less expensive than putting dairy cows to a bull most cows are artificially inseminated. But the procedure - unless carried out with great skill and care - can cause extreme pain. For this reason student inseminators need considerable practise. At first they are very slow and their inexperience often causes severe damage, particularly to the rectum, anal sphincter and reproductive tract. So great is the likelihood of injury that the industry advises that 'novice inseminators' - for welfare reasons - practise on cows that are to be slaughtered the same day.
Although sheep farmers keep rams to inseminate their ewes naturally, artificial insemination is becoming more common as some farmers find it more convenient if all the lambs in a flock are born at the same time. And so, in a process called 'synchronization', ewes are treated with hormones (progesterone and melatonin) so they all come into season at the same time and can be inseminated on the same day. Insemination involves putting the ewes on a rack and passing the semen through a catheter (a long flexible tube) either into the cervix, or directly into the womb. Women who have had a catheter inserted directly into the womb tell of recurrent, and sometimes lasting, pain - and means it is likely that AI has the same affect on all animals inseminated this way.
Sows too, in the intensive farming industry, are often artificially inseminated by passing the semen through a catheter into the sow's vagina.. Since sows only come into season 6-7 days after the demand for their milk ceases their piglets are usually removed at 2 to 4 weeks (even though the normal weaning age is about 15 weeks).
Then there are turkey hens. Most of the new male breeds of turkey are too heavily breasted to mate naturally and 2 or 3 times a week turkey cocks are 'milked' for their semen and the semen passed through a length of tubing into the hen's vagina. Critics say these procedures are very stressful, not only because they frustrate the birds' mating instincts, but because turkeys are, by nature, sensitive and nervous.
But there are also the donors - the bulls, boars, rams and turkey cocks masturbated for their semen. Like the rams for instance that are either trained to ejaculate into an artificial vagina or masturbated by hand. A third, though less common method, is to place an electric probe into the ram's anus and press it against the prostate gland. The electric shock causes the emission of semen. Even though the law insists that a vet must perform the 'electro-ejaculation' procedure witnesses say the shock makes rams writhe in agony which is why anaesthetic is recommended for this method.
On the internet there are horrendous reports from animal welfare groups about the sexual abuse of animals. Dog rape in Turkey is one of them. The same site draws attention to the sexual abuse of horses in Denmark and the use of an orang utan as a prostitute in Borneo. All are deeply shocking. Yet the way animals are forced to reproduce in the intensive farming industry is scarcely any different.
The definition of abuse is ill-treatment, physically or sexually. All these animals, by being forcefully artificially inseminated or masturbated for their semen, have been treated in a similar ways to the dogs that were raped, the orangutan that was used as a prostitute and the horses that were sexually abused.
Cows, ewes, sows or turkeys for meat. Or dogs and horses for sexual pleasure. Is the effect on all these the animals so very different?
Follow Sue Cross on Twitter: www.twitter.com/notafactoryfarm