“Two-thirds of the world’s 70 billion farm animals are farmed intensively,” says Alesia Soltanpanah, executive director of World Animal Protection, a non-profit whose vision is a world where animals live free from cruelty and suffering. “They endure unacceptable suffering, crammed by the thousands into giant sheds to provide the meat, eggs and dairy products people demand.”

Factory farming

Higher-welfare farming, which addresses the needs of livestock, is better for animals, people and the planet. Under the current system known as factory farming, animals such as cattle, pigs and poultry are confined indoors under controlled conditions.

“Factory farming is the largest source of animal cruelty and environmental pollution in the world,” says Soltanpanah, who explains three out of four of the world’s mother pigs spend their lives in steel cages, no bigger than the size of an average refrigerator.

Every year, 60 billion chickens are reared for meat. Soltanpanah says the poultry live in overcrowded sheds or cages, often without natural light and fresh air.

She also says animals on factory farms are routinely given antibiotics to promote growth and help prevent the spread of disease. According to Soltanpananah, this has caused antibiotic resistance in both animals and humans.

There’s a big environmental impact of factory farming as well.

“Animal agriculture is accountable for producing the equivalent of 7.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year, or 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions,” Soltanpanah says. “This is more than all cars, planes and other forms of transport put together.”

A call to action

World Animal Protection calls on consumers to eat less meat. When you do eat meat, choose higher-welfare meat.

Consumers can also call on businesses, including fast food restaurants and supermarkets, to source higher-welfare meat. Soltanpanah says the grocery store Kroger recently committed to “phasing out cruel gestation crates for mother pigs in response to public demand.”

Stand up for animals when voting. For example, California voters recently passed Proposition 12, which requires all mother pigs, egg-laying hens and veal calves farmed in California to have cage-free housing and more living space by 2022.