Most people know that to get meat an animal must be killed. And most of us assume that these animals live relatively happy lives and are killed quickly and painlessly. We might imagine that they live their lives roaming in lush green pastures, protected from suffering and abuse. However, the reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

The truth is, most farmed animals in Australia and New Zealand—as well as the rest of the world—are raised in “factory farms,”large warehouses where animals bred for food  are confined in crowded cages and restrictive pens. They live their lives indoors and often times the first time they see sunlight is on their way to a slaughterhouse. Most of the time, they are mutilated without anaesthetics and their living conditions are so bad that hundreds of millions of animals worldwide never even make it to slaughter. Instead, they literally suffer to death due to deformities, disease, starvation, and aggression from other animals trapped in the same stressful, crowded conditions. [1]

Photo: Aussie Farms

The video below shows exactly what life is like for the animals raised for meat, dairy, and eggs in Australia and New Zealand. All footage is from Australian factory farms and slaughterhouses, except for the beak trimming of the baby chicks and the male chicks being macerated.


‘Thousand Eyes’ – Australian animal agriculture from Aussie Farms on Vimeo.

No individual involved in the scenes displayed in this video has been prosecuted for animal cruelty, largely because these are mostly industry-standard, legal practices.

“Many Australians continue to be shocked to learn that millions of farmed animals are not afforded even the most basic legal protection granted to other sentient creatures we share this world with.”

The Hon Michael Kirby, former justice of the High Court of Australia

Chickens Raised For Meat

Every year in Australia more than 500 million broiler hens (chickens raised for meat) suffer in factory farms [2]. In New Zealand 90 million chickens are killed per year for meat and the overwhelming majority are raised in factory farms. [3]

Photo: Aussie Farms

In these farms, tens of thousands of birds are crammed into windowless sheds where they are forced to live in their own faeces. Their ability to express natural behaviours—such as perching, foraging, running, and flying—are completely denied. The ammonia is so concentrated that it burns their eyes, skin, and lungs.

Photo: Aussie Farms

Broiler hens have been selectively bred to grow much faster than they would naturally. Their unnaturally large body size  can lead to skeletal, heart, and lung problems, as well as difficulty walking. Some birds are unable to walk at all. Normally, it would take a chicken 96 days to reach 2kgs. When selectively bred,  chickens can reach this weight in just 35 days. [4] Because of this unnatural rapid growth, many birds die because they’re unable to lift their own weight to reach food or water.

Photo: Aussie Farms

Both free range and factory farms use the same birds, meaning free range hens also have the same problems with being bred to grow too fast for their bodies to cope. And of course all chickens, whether factory farmed or free range, are killed at the same slaughterhouses when they are only 6 weeks old.

Egg Laying Hens

Most egg laying hens in Australia and New Zealand spend their lives crammed into tiny battery cages (except in ACT where battery cages have been banned). In battery farms, each hen can have less space than an A4 sheet of paper. [5] These hens are unable to flap their wings or express any of their natural behaviours—such as perching, foraging, running, and flying. Tens of thousands of these caged birds are crammed into noisy, windowless sheds, which smell of faeces and ammonia. The sloping wire floors of the cage cause many hens to experience chronic pain from the development of lesions and other foot problems.

Photo: Aussie Farms

Although battery cages are being phased out in New Zealand, the law won’t come into effect until 2022, when standard battery cages will be replaced by colony cages. In colony cages, each hen has a mere 750 square centimetres of space, which is only slightly more than a battery cage.

Photo: Farmwatch (NZ)

Colony cages contain a ‘nest box’ (an area defined by hanging plastic flaps with no bedding material), a rubber mat (to shorten claws), and perches for the hens to roost on (which are too low to be perceived as safe by the hens). None of these “enrichments” even come close to allowing a hen to express all her natural behaviours. And with up to 60 birds crammed in a cage, there is not enough space for most hens to use these enrichments anyway. [6]

Photo: Farmwatch (NZ)

To prevent losses from hens pecking each other, their beaks are partially amputated without any anaesthetics (except in ACT where beak trimming has been banned). Bird’s beaks are filled with nerves, and after being cut they suffer severe pain for weeks. [7]

Because male chickens don’t lay eggs, they are considered a waste product in the egg industry and are either macerated (ground up alive) or gassed within only hours of being alive. This is true across all commercial egg laying systems, including free range.

Photo: Eggs Exposed (Aussie Farms and Animal Liberation NSW)

Whilst chickens can naturally live to be ten years old, most layer hens in Australia and New Zealand are sent to slaughter when their egg production declines at only one or two years old. This means that layer hens live only a fraction of their natural lifespan. This is true in all egg production systems, including free range.


In Australia and New Zealand, factory farmed pigs are confined in three different ways: sow stalls, farrowing crates, and fattening pens.

Whilst sow stalls have already been banned in New Zealand and ACT due to the immense amount of suffering they cause, they are still commonplace across most of Australia. A sow stall is a small metal cratebarely bigger than the sow herself that sows are confined in during the beginning of their pregnancies. The crates are so small that the sow can’t even turn around, yet alone exercise. Australian Pork Limited has stated it will be phasing out sow stalls in 2017, but this isn’t actually a ban. It is just a reduction of the amount of time sows will spend in the stalls. [8]

Photo: Aussie Farms

At the end of their pregnancies, sows are moved to another tiny metal crate called a farrowing crate. This is where they will be confined when they give birth to their babies and for several weeks afterward. This is legal and commonplace in both Australia and New Zealand, with 67 percent of New Zealand pig farmers currently using farrowing crates [9].

Photo: Aussie Farms

Like sow stalls, farrowing crates are so small that the sows can’t turn around. With no bedding provided, sows will scrape their nose on the concrete ground in an attempt to build a nest for her piglets. The confinement and inability to properly mother their young causes a lot of stress for the mother pigs. Some repeatedly bite the bars of their cage until their teeth shatter. Others get depressed and lie on the filthy floor without moving. All of them suffer immensely.

Photo: Farmwatch (NZ)

After only four weeks, the sow’s piglets will be moved into fattening pens. Here they will spend the rest of their lives crammed into dark, overcrowded pens. The stress of living in such horrible conditions cause pigs to attack each other and bite each other’s tails. Instead of solving this problem by giving them more room, farmers cut their tails off without any anaesthetics. Pigs also have their ears clipped, teeth cut, and testicles cut off without any pain relief. Sick or injured, piglets are killed by blunt trauma to the head. [10]

Photo: Farmwatch (NZ)

Even on “free range” farms the conditions are often not much better. Animal Liberation Victoria has investigated several free range farms approved by the RSPCA and found filthy living conditions, pigs with severe injuries and illnesses, corpses in various stages of decay, and pigs cannibalising the bodies of other dead pigs.

And of course, whether free range or factory farmed, all pigs are killed in the same slaughterhouses when they are only five months old.

Dairy Cows

Like all mammals, cows must give birth to keep producing the milk that is meant for her baby calf. Because humans want to drink this milk, the calf is separated from their mother within 24 hours of giving birth. This causes severe distress to both the mother and her baby. Calves who are separated from their mothers show “significant increases in walking, butting, urinating, and vocalizing,” all of which are symptoms of severe psychological stress [11]. During calving season on dairy farms, it is common to hear the sad bellows of mothers calling for their missing babies. They often cry for days or weeks after they are taken.

Photo: Farmwatch (NZ)

While the dairy cow is kept in a constant cycle of pregnancy and lactation, her baby’s lives will be determined by their sex. Some female calves are kept as herd replacements whilst the rest (as well as almost all male calves) are considered waste products and are killed before they are even a week old. These calves are known as bobby calves and their short lives are filled with suffering.

Photo: Farmwatch (NZ)

From as young as four days old, they are loaded onto trucks and sent to slaughterhouses. Because they are transported so young, many arrive at the slaughterhouse extremely weak, unable to walk, lying down or seriously injured. [12]

Photo: Farmwatch (NZ)

The video below shows undercover footage of the abuse suffered by just some of the two million bobby calves that are killed in New Zealand every year. [13] Hundreds of thousands more are killed every year in Australia.


The dark side of the NZ Dairy Industry from Farmwatch on Vimeo.

Cows can naturally live to be up to 25 years old. On dairy farms they are killed when their milk production decreases—usually when they are five to seven years old.


Before animals are slaughtered they must be transported to the slaughterhouse. Before they are loaded onto the trucks, they may have their food and water cut off for up to one or two days, to reduce the amount of urine and excrement left in the trucks. They are subject to cramped conditions and extreme temperatures on their way to the slaughterhouse.Many suffer and die from dehydration, heat stroke, or heart failure. It is estimated that every year in Australia, between 1.5 and 2 million chickens die during transport to the slaughterhouse. [14]

Photo: Animal Liberation Victoria


The animals that survive the farms and transport are killed in slaughterhouses.

They can often smell, hear, and see the slaughter of the animals in front of them. As the animals struggle to escape, they are often abused by frustrated workers who are under constant pressure to keep the slaughter process moving as quickly as possible.

Animals are killed by having their throats cut open to be bled out. Before this happens, they are meant to be stunned in one of three ways, either with a captive bolt pistol (common for cows), an electric current (common for pigs, sheep, and chickens) or an asphyxiate gas (common for pigs and chickens). [15]

But due to the high demand for meat, slaughterhouses must kill huge numbers of animals every day, resulting in a rushed environment where ineffective stunning can easily occur. Animals that aren’t properly stunned may have their throats slit while fully conscious or end up drowning alive in a tank of boiling water.

Photo: SAFE and Farmwatch (NZ)

Undercover investigations across Australia and New Zealand have repeatedly found animals being severely abused in slaughterhouses. Some examples include calves being punched, kicked, thrown, sworn at, and prodded. Pigs scream and thrash around for air as they are suffocated in gas chambers.  Workers bash chickens as they are removed from cages. Animals who try to escape are often times beaten with sledgehammers.

You can see footage of these investigations on the Aussie Farms website and in the videos in the Overview and Dairy Cows sections.


“There is evidence from some species of fish, cephalopods and decapod crustaceans of substantial perceptual ability, pain and adrenal systems, emotional responses, long- and short-term memory, complex cognition, individual differences, deception, tool use, and social learning.”

Donald M. Broom, PhD, University of Cambridge Professor of Animal Welfare, Diseases of Aquatic Organisms, Vol. 75, No. 2, 2007

It surprises many people to learn that half of all fish eaten by humans do not come from the wild. [16] Instead, they are raised in crowded enclosures where stress, crowding, and filthy water leads to aggression, disease, and death.

The conditions are so bad that up to one in four fish have stunted growth and float lifelessly on the surface of the water. These fish are known as “drop outs” and show behaviours and brain chemistry similar to those of people who are depressed or very stressed. [17]

“I would not go so far as to say they are committing suicide, but physiologically speaking, they are on the edge of what they can tolerate, and since they remain in this environment, they end up dying because of their condition.”

Marco Vindas, Royal Society of Open Science

Photo: Animals Australia

Fish who are pulled out of the water suffocate as their gills collapse. It can take up to ten minutes before they die. When they are dragged up from deep in the ocean, their eyes bulge and their stomachs turn inside out from the change in pressure.

In the world’s marine fisheries, 87 percent of fish stocks are already fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. [18] A UN Chronicle article on overfishing warns that “oceans are cleared at twice the rate of forests” and “the dramatic increase of destructive fishing techniques destroys marine mammals and entire ecosystems.” [19] It’s estimated that each year hundreds of thousands of dolphins, seals, and other marine mammals die in fishing nets worldwide. [20]

What You Can Do

The good news is that you can help stop this cruelty by replacing animal products with delicious, cruelty-free vegan food. Every time you sit down to eat you can choose compassion over cruelty and help make the world a better place for animals, one meal at a time.


  2. In 2014/15, 611.7 million chickens were slaughtered for their meat. The Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc estimates up to 16% of those birds were raised in free range or organic systems. This means 513,828,000 million chickens were raised intensively on factory farms during this period. See Australian Chicken Meat Federation Inc, ‘Growing Meat Chickens’ and ‘Industry Facts and Figures’, <>.
  5. The permitted stocking densities differ in each State and Territory, and depending on the weight of the hens and the number of hens crammed into one cage. In NSW, for example, if the average weight of the hen in the cage is less than 2.4 kilograms, she will be permitted a space of around 550 cm2: Regulation 10(5)(a), Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Regulation 2012 (NSW). An A4 sheet of paper, with sides of 21.0 cm x 29.7 cm, has an area of 623.7 cm2.
  7. G. John Benson, DVM, MS, and Bernard E. Rollin, PhD, eds., The Well-Being of Farm Animals: Challenges and Solutions (Blackwell Publishing, 2004).
  11. “A note on behavioral responses to brief cow-calf separation and reunion in cattle” Journal of veterinary behavior, (2007): 10-14
  12. Stafford, K.J., “The physical state and plasma biochemical profile of young calves on arrival at a slaughter plant,” New Zealand veterinary journal 49.4 (2001): 142-149
  16. FAO Aquaculture Newsletter, No. 45, August 2010.
  17. Royal Society Open Science, Brain serotonergic activation in growth-stunted farmed salmon: adaption versus pathology, Marco A. Vindas, Ida B. Johansen, Ole Folkedal, Erik Höglund, Marnix Gorissen, Gert Flik, Tore S. Kristiansen, Øyvind Øverli, 25 May 2016
  18. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2012 (Rome, 2012).
  19. Udy Bell, “Overfishing,” UN Chronicle, 2004; 41(2): 17.
  20. Andrew J. Read et al., “Bycatch of Marine Mammals in U.S. and Global Fisheries,” Conserv Biol, 2006 Feb; 20(1): 163–69.