Christmas is a time to spread joy, spend time with your loved ones and show kindness and compassion right? Then why is it a nightmare for so many animals? Listen, I’m not here to dump all over Christmas, I’m certainly no Grinch, but I think everyone should understand the impact this day has on so many innocent animals. TW for this blog – it gets a little gruesome.
Probably the most obvious choice first – turkeys. Turkeys have it particularly rough this time of year with America celebrating Thanksgiving (affectionately named Turkey Day) in November, and Christmas right around the corner.
In the UK alone, an estimated 15 million turkeys are killed each year to be eaten, with approximately 10 million of those slaughtered in for Christmas dinners alone (metro.co.uk). These animals, who can live up to 10 years, are usually between 8 and 26 weeks old when they are carted off to the slaughterhouse. In this short period of time, they grow twice as large as they did 25 years ago due to selective breeding and drugs. Sometimes their legs won’t be able to carry their own weight, and these poor birds will die from lack of food and water.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, these animals are forced to spend their very short lives in crowded industrial sheds with little to no daylight. On many farms, the workers are allowed to treat the turkeys however they want, and sadly, they do. There has been footage taken by hidden cameras at a farm here in the UK which shows the workers playing a game of baseball with the animals, using them as the ball and hitting them with a pole.
I know it’s difficult to hear about, but their death is just as awful as their life. At the slaughterhouse the turkeys will be hung up by their feet, then their throats will be slit, they will be strangled or gassed.
Sounds pretty awful doesn’t it? They certainly don’t show you any of this on the glitzy supermarket Christmas adverts.
Source: Peta Kids
Pigs don’t favour much better at this time of year. The traditional dish ‘pigs in blankets’ has become a firm favourite on the Christmas plate, so it’s no surprise that these animals aren’t treated well either.
They are incredibly intelligent, some say even more so than dogs, dolphins and human toddlers! They are playful and emotional, quite the opposite of the dumb, dirty animals people seem to think they are.
Over 10 million pigs are slaughtered in the UK each year, and of course, these animals have been selectively bred so they are almost nothing like their ancestors. Now we have larger animals with leaner meat who produce many more piglets in a litter.
Like turkeys, pigs will spend most of their lives in overcrowded sheds before being slaughtered at 5-6 months old. Female pigs (sows) will be used for breeding until the age of 5 years when they are also slaughtered, and they will mother around 5 litters every 2 years. A week before giving birth, the sow will be put into a farrowing crate. This is basically a cage which is only a few centimeters larger than the pig so they are unable to move. They will remain in this crate for 4 weeks after the birth.
Before the piglets are a week old, part of their tail will be cut off in an effort to stop tail biting. They’ll also have their sharp teeth clipped, and they will be castrated – all without any anesthetic or pain relief. Castration is now uncommon in the UK, but it does still happen around the world.
If that wasn’t horrific enough, the pigs will then be sent to slaughter. They will be stunned before they are killed, 86% of them will be stunned using CO2 gas chambers. This is said to be the most humane way, but they will struggle to breathe for around 30 seconds before losing consciousness. The other 14% will be stunned using electronarcosis, where an electric current is passed through their brain. All are then killed in the same way – their throats being slit, and hung up to let all of the blood drain out of their body. It’s not uncommon for some pigs to be conscious when they are hung up by their hind legs.
I don’t know about you, but hearing how horrendous their short lives are makes the “but bacon though” argument for eating meat invalid.
And let’s be honest with ourselves – so much of the food we buy for this time of year goes in the bin because we overindulge and feel a bit rubbish. It’s bad enough these animals suffer this way to be eaten, but surely it’s even worse for them to be thrown away.
It’s not just the animals we eat that suffer at this time of year. Due to the huge number of grottos and events, many Reindeer have been imported into this country. Sadly, they are often overworked and treated poorly. In this article published by The Independent, an undercover investigation brought to light. some awful truths. Explaining the conditions these animals are kept in.
Those who work at reindeer centres in the UK were filmed kicking and shouting at the animals to get them to move. The animals were also shown as looking very thin, losing their fur and having sores on their skin. Many of them were said to be ill with diarrhoea, a clear sign of dehydration.
A spokesperson for the RSPCA recently urged for live animals, including reindeer, to stop being used as props at events in our country. Reindeers are completely different to the deer which are native to the UK. They are very difficult to look after correctly. They are taken from their natural environment, placed into captivity, and put under stress being expected to pull sleighs surrounded by huge crowds of people and very bright lights.
Whilst it’s understandable that to see “Santa’s Reindeer” adds to the Christmas magic for children, it feels unfair they have to suffer this way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Rudolph and the gang in the North Pole are treated much better than this – even if the rest do make fun of him for having a red nose.
We’ve all heard the saying “a dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. Unfortunately some people still haven’t got the message! Dogs, cats, guinea pigs, mice… you name it, they are given as Christmas presents and very sadly many are abandoned soon after. According to this RSPCA news article, during the 2018 festive period, more than 4000 animals were abandoned in England and Wales. Dogs take the top spot, accounting for over half of all abandoned animals.
The main reasons people get rid of their animal Christmas gifts is due to how much work goes into keeping them. These animals rely on their humans for everything – food, water, warmth, shelter and love. It seems not everyone can handle this, and therefore give them to a shelter, or worse… leave them outside to fend for themselves. Dogs Trust asked some owners their reasons behind giving their dogs away, and here were some of the most shocking:
- I won a free holiday and I couldn’t take my dogs with me
- I’m a vegetarian but he always wanted to eat meat
- I got him as a secret Santa present
- She was too friendly and wanted to greet every dog and human we met on a walk
- He was panting too much
- He didn’t like it when we played dress up
- She sleeps in her own bed all night – I thought she would want to sleep in my bed
Pets are a wonderful thing, they become a part of your family. However, they are a huge commitment. So please make sure you know what you are getting yourself into before you think about getting one.
Source: Dogs Trust
So, this has been a little doom and gloom, but we just felt it was important for everyone to understand the impact Christmas has on so many innocent lives. To finish on a positive note, we sincerely hope you have a wonderful Christmas full of love, happiness and compassion.