The most abused beings in the United States are those whom we raise and kill for food. The numbers of dead are staggering. Most are victims of the severe and almost entirely unregulated practices that Americans permit on their factory farms. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, in 2007, a total of 10.4 billion land-based animals were killed by the American food industry. These included 9.4 billion broiler chickens, 450 million laying hens, 317 million turkeys, 121 million pigs, 39 million bovines, 28 million ducks, 10 million rabbits, and 4 million sheep and goats—fifty times the number killed in biomedical research, for sport, as pests, and for all other reasons combined, carrying a value of hundreds of billions of dollars a year. The degree to which animal enslavement is embedded in our society is difficult to calculate or fathom. In commenting on human slavery, slave historian David Brion Davis wrote in the New York Times that [a]fter decades of research, historians are only now beginning to grasp the complex interdependencies of a society enmeshed in slavery. There were shifting interactions among West African enslavers, sellers and European buyers; European investors on the slaver trade, which ranged from smalltown merchants to well-known figures like the philosophers John Locke and Voltaire; wealthy Virginian and Brazilian middlemen who purchased large numbers of Africans off the ship to sell to planters; New Englanders who shipped foodstuffs, timber, shoes and clothing as supplies for slaves in the South and the West Indies; and, finally, the European and American consumers of slave-produced sugar, rum, rice, cotton, tobacco, indigo (for dyes), hemp (for rope-making) and other goods. Brutalized as they were, at least human slaves in the United States were not eaten.
Steven M. Wise,
An Argument for the Basic Legal Rights of Farmed Animals,
Mich. L. Rev. First Impressions
Available at: http://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr_fi/vol106/iss1/4