Annually in the U.S., more than 41 million cows are subjected to a painfully horrific journey before they are slaughtered to meet the demands of the meat and dairy industries. (Cattle Facts).
The Cattle Range
Cows live the first year of what would be a natural lifespan of 25 years on a cattle range. Without receiving pain killers, the cows are branded with hot irons that leave third degree burns and lesions on their skin. If the animal is male, it is castrated and his horns are cut or burned off.
When the cows are old enough, they are sent to live on feedlots where they are given food with hormones, antibiotics, and excessive amounts of carbohydrates and proteins that will fatten them up before they are slaughtered or sent to dairy farms.
At the dairy farms, a female cow will be repeatedly impregnated by artificial insemination in order to keep her milk flow constant. The offspring is immediately separated from its mother. Without the mother's nutrition, the calf grows weak, cannot walk and often dies. Males are sent to the slaughter house to become veal and some of the females are cared for and later become dairy cows like their mothers. After only four or five years (Factory Farm), a dairy cow's body can no longer produce milk. It is then sent to be killed and turned into soup, companion animal food or low-grade hamburger meat because their bodies are too "spent" to be used for anything else.
The trip to the slaughter house itself is life threatening. The cows are stuffed into cargo trucks where they barely have enough room to move and are not given any food for the entire journey; which could sometimes take days. In hot weather, many cows collapse and are trampled by the others. In the cold, the cows on the edges become frozen to the sides of the truck and are later torn off by workers.
The Slaughter House
Once off the truck, cows are forced into a single file and shot between the eyes with a steel bolt gun that sends compressed air or a blank cartridge directly into the brain. If done correctly, it will stun and render them unresponsive to pain. Unfortunately, poorly trained workers often miss or miscalculate, leaving the cow to feel extreme pain. The cows are then strapped and lifted by chains attached to an overhead trolley. At the first station, one worker will slice into the throat with a long knife in order to cut the aorta and bleed the animal. Since this creates a bloody mess, the next few stations are designated to clean and later skin the carcass.
One of these stations is designed to clean off the caked on droppings the animals obtained from having spent the majority of their lives lying in their own manure. Many steps are taken to make sure that the manure doesn't infect the meat. The next stations are difficult to bear, especially if you consider that some cows are still conscious. Names such as the "belly ripper" send a shiver down the spine. This stage is a slice through the stomachs. The "tail ripper" then pulls the tail off so violently that it slashes open their rectums. After all of this, whatever is left of what was once a cow, can still be alive when the "first legger" removes their hind legs and severs their feet. These steps are considered standard operating procedure in the meat industry.