One Weekend: Two More Reasons To Drop Animal Products

21/02/2017 15:57 GMT | Updated 21/02/2018 10:12 GMT

This weekend, the UK has been outraged by a shocking act of animal cruelty: up to 1,800 day-old chicks were found dumped in a field. The incident has made the headlines, and this inexcusable act has been widely condemned. People are absolutely right to be upset. Who wouldn't be moved by seeing the vulnerable little creatures chirping helplessly, terrified but utterly powerless to help themselves?

But perhaps even more disturbing is that shocking acts of cruelty are inflicted on countless chicks every day. These victims are equally helpless and vulnerable, but they do not make the news. There is no RSPCA investigation, since what they suffer is perfectly legal. Male chicks are seen by the egg industry as unwanted by-products. Since they cannot lay eggs, and are not considered to be the right breed for meat, they are simply gassed to death.

Many people who were upset by the abandoned chicks would probably be horrified to think that buying eggs is funding equally shocking cruelty. And the killing of male chicks isn't the only disturbing aspect of the egg industry. I have written before about the many forms of suffering it causes, so won't repeat myself here, but suffice to say that it is an industry with many dark secrets.

And it's not the only one. Another story this weekend focused on troubling revelations about the slaughter industry. An investigation by the Observer and Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that one in four slaughterhouses are failing to implement basic hygiene measures to prevent contaminated meat being sold to consumers. The incidents reported are enough to churn the stomach of even the most enthusiastic meat-eater, such as carcasses touching dirty floors, or meat being sprayed with water that could contain faecal matter. And even when procedures are followed properly, the steps taken to prevent bacterial infection hardly seem very reassuring. Areas of the carcass that are covered in faeces, for instance, are simply cut off. It's no wonder that 500 people die from food poisoning each year.

The slaughter industry is no stranger to scandal. From horsemeat, to campylobacter, to these latest revelations about hygiene failings. And that's before even addressing the breaches of animal welfare laws. Animal Aid has now filmed inside 11 randomly chosen UK slaughterhouses, and found evidence of lawbreaking in 10 of them. This has included animals being beaten, kicked and deliberately burnt with cigarettes. In our latest investigation, released last month, a water buffalo was left alone and terrified in a restraint box. It was heartbreaking to watch his desperate attempts to escape by jumping out of the box. Of course he couldn't, and he suffered the same brutal fate as all animals who are sent to slaughter.

And it's not just Animal Aid's exposés that have revealed shocking cruelty in slaughterhouses. In 2016, reports released to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism revealed that there were more than 4,000 severe breaches of animal welfare regulations in UK slaughterhouses over two years. And in December, an article in the Times reported a series of shocking incidents at a slaughterhouse in Suffolk, which resulted in 81 chickens being put into a scalding tank while still alive.

I should apologise that this blog hasn't been more upbeat. From the gassing of chicks, to stomach-turning slaughterhouse practices, to the sheer terror that animals face on death row, there's been little to feel good about. But I am going to end on a more positive note. Whichever aspect troubles you most, whether it's the suffering of vulnerable animals, or the health hazards posed by meat, there's a simple solution to it all. By going vegan, you can take positive action to help end the suffering of animals, safeguard your own health, and have a positive impact on the environment. While it may seem like a big change, going vegan has never been easier. Everything you need is readily available in supermarkets and health food shops, and even major restaurants are now offering vegan options. And we're here to help! Why not order one of our free Go Vegan packs today, which has all the information you need to start living cruelty-free?

The problems with farming and slaughtering animals are complex and disturbing. But there is one simple, positive solution - and you can be part of it by going vegan.