DO you know where your meat comes from or at least the condition of the farm in which animals are kept before they are slaughtered?

Meat consumption has certainly skyrocketed over the years.

As a result, large-scale livestock farming is widespread throughout the region, including in Malaysia.

There is, however, an increasing number of people raising concern over the way animals are treated.

According to Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM), the ideal form of animal farming is “free-range farming”, meaning animals are allowed to roam freely within the confinement of the farm and are well taken care before they are sent to the slaughterhouse.

“Nevertheless, with the ever-increasing demand for meat, free-range farming is not an option for most farmers as this method requires open pastures and greater land space.

“So most opt for factory farming where animals are kept in a cramped space with no room for movement,” says SAM president SM Mohamed Idris.

He adds that birds aren’t able to stand or spread their wings while other livestock continue to lie in their own faeces and urine without sunlight, are cruelly handled and injected with growth hormones and antibiotics.

Most have a short lifespan as they are slaughtered as soon as deemed “ready” for the market.

“Furthermore, they have the potential for exposure to various viruses and bacteria from the manure and urine in their environment.

“Such conditions severely affect the physiological and psychological state of the animals.

“Physically, they are prevented from exhibiting their natural behaviour such as walking, stretching their limbs and dust-bathing.

“Psychologically, they are frustrated, bored and distressed, as evidenced by their repetitive or self-destructive actions,” says Mohamed Idris.

This, he adds, clearly violates the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1953 (Revised 2006) which requires animals that are confined to cages to be provided with reasonable space for movement.

“Animals confined under such stressful conditions are prone to attack each other. So farmer de-beak, de-horn and dock their tails to prevent injuries.

“Piglets are bound to suffer from shock because painkillers are not administered during such operations.”

Bringing up issues concerning transportation of these animals, Mohamed Idris says animals are crowded into trucks while chickens are stuffed tightly into plastic crates that are stacked atop each other before being transported without food or water — some long distance — through extreme weather conditions.

“Animal welfare is a significant issue, but the sad reality is that Malaysia is still far behind when it comes to animal welfare as we are more focused on commercial profits.”

He says many other countries have started advocating change.

“The EU (European Union) has banned the battery hen cages on the basis of unacceptable cruelty since 2012.

“The law allows for a 12-year ‘phase out’ period — allowing egg farmers the time to transit from battery cages to something more feasible.

“Most farmers chose enriched cages with roomier enclosures that allow hens to stretch their wings and nest in designated area while others have barns or other forms of free-range systems in store.”

Mohamed Idris adds that cruelty towards farm animals is just a fraction of the gruesome reality.

He urges the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry to look into a “Farm Animal Welfare Act” to implement best practices and changes across the board.

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