Do Cows and Pigs Have Happy Lives on Farms?


This was a question I had long ago.

I felt bad that animals had to die for my food, but I felt I could justify it if they lived happy lives until they were killed.

That led to a lot of research, and I’m going to give you a quick summary of it all here.

There Are 2 Types of Farms

Just like some people grow up in better homes than others, some farms are better than others as well.

But since we’re talking about billions of animals, we’ll have to look at broad categories.

In particular, there are 2 types of farms:

  • Small/Independent farms – Often family run, with a smaller number of animals per farm. Much higher standard of animal welfare (usually).
  • Factory farms – Raises huge amounts of animals in the most “efficient” ways possible. Terrible living conditions for animals, I’ll go over them shortly.

Animals on family farms are typically what we would consider “happy,” at least until they’re slaughtered.

But there’s a problem: Unless you’re specifically buying straight from a farm or a specialty butcher shop, your meat comes from factory farms.

Anything in big supermarkets are from factory farms (there are some exceptions at stores like Whole Foods).

All estimates seen put 99%+ of farmed animals coming from factory farms. Data from Sentience Institute supports this:

We estimate that 99% of US farmed animals are living in factory farms at present. By species, we estimate that 70.4% of cows, 98.3% of pigs, 99.8% of turkeys, 98.2% of chickens raised for eggs, and over 99.9% of chickens raised for meat are raised in factory farms.

Essentially all chicken comes from factory farms. It’s not quite as bad for cows.

These animals do not have happy lives at all. Period.

If you want meat from animals treated “humanely”, you’ll need to go out of your way to get it. This often involves buying in bulk directly from a farm. It’s a pain, but if you think animals living better lives is worth a bit of an inconvenience, then do it.

Why Are Animals Unhappy On Factory Farms?

I’ve declared a few times that animals are treated terribly on factory farms, but it’s good if you know why they’re so bad.

Here’s a brief list of the worst issues:

  • Poor treatment – Animals are often beat, tied up, etc., in order to get them to comply.
  • Lack of space – Animals are crammed together and have little space to move around in. Even in “free range” conditions, it’s not much better.
  • Gruesome practices – Animals are submitted to painful procedures with no anesthesia (e.g., pigs have their sensitive tails cut off). Other practices like chick culling are still the standard.
  • Antibiotic and hormone abuse – Animals are pumped full or hormones (which you later eat) to get them to grow quicker. Antibiotic abuse is contributing to antibiotic resistance, which could cause serious risks to human health.

There’s more wrong with factory farms, but I feel like you have a good picture of what they look like.

At this point, you need to see what they look like.

If you search on Youtube for “factory farms”, you’ll find a near endless supply of videos showing cruel treatment to animals.

It’s hard to watch, but if you ever eat animal products that come from factory farms, you should at least watch and accept what animals have gone through for you.

Here’s one example of a video (Warning: Disturbing) taken on a factory farm.


Once I researched these sorts of things and watched a few videos, I couldn’t eat meat from animals raised on factory farms.

This was years before I went vegan. I found a butcher shop who sourced meat from farms run by Mennonites. It was more expensive and out of the way, but the only option I saw.

If learning about this is bugging you as well, I strongly urge you to consider reducing how much meat you eat, and just considering going vegan. It’s definitely a valid reason to go vegan.

It’s much easier than it used to be with products like Beyond Meat, and you’ll spare a lot of animals suffering.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to going vegan if you want to get a sense of what the transition would be like.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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